SME Tour of Photomachining

By Ronald D. Schaeffer
CEO, PhotoMachining, Inc.


Follow up to New Hampshire Machining Association and Society of Manufacturing Engineers Local 327 Tour of PhotoMachining, Inc.

On Thursday May 22, the local SME chapter #327 in conjunction with the NHMA held a meeting at PhotoMachining, Inc. in Pelham, NH.  PhotoMachining is a small, high tech, precision laser micromachining service and systems provider.  Over 40 attendees were rotated between 5 stations, each station demonstrating some aspect of precision laser micromachining.  These attendees came from a number of different local companies and included mostly engineers.  There were also a number of current students as well as former students who have benefited from the SME tours in the past and are now active as full members themselves.  It is gratifying to see the industry perpetuating itself!

  Stations included an overhead presentation on basics of laser micromanufacturing technology as well as live demonstrations using excimer, nanosecond DPSS (Figure 1), picosecond (Figure 2) and femtosecond lasers.  These lasers are all used for very high precision manufacturing.  PhotoMachining has available three wavelengths (fundamental – 1064 nm, doubled – 532 nm and tripled – 355 nm) at each of three different pulse lengths, 20 nanoseconds, 10 picoseconds and 300 femtoseconds as well as a variety of other lasers that allow the processing of pretty much any material. 

The USP, or Ultra Short Pulse lasers have only been used in manufacturing for a few years and PhotoMachining has been a pioneer in their use for making products such as disposable medical devices, aerospace and defense items, microelectronics and semiconductors.  In addition to the actual demos, high power microscopes were set up so that participants could look at some actual parts being made.  These lasers are high precision, but low power, so the parts made are usually on the very small side and in most instances cannot be made by any other process.  Therefore, it is extremely important to be able to ‘see’ and ‘measure’ what is done in the lab, and to document metrology. 

SME provides a great venue to educate engineers about different aspects of production machining.  In addition, SME has a very strong mandate for educating young students who are interested in pursuing a career in manufacturing.  It is particularly relevant since this local chapter happens to be one of the most active in the country and has regular meetings at different companies in the greater southern New Hampshire area.  In fact, PhotoMachining recently hired two students (Figure 3) through contact with the executive Director of the NHMA, Sally Monroe.  They will start with Summer Internships and potentially continued employment over the next few years while attending the local University, UMASS-Lowell, which has one of the most recognized Plastics Engineering programs in the country.  PhotoMachining has a number of current employees who started their employment as High School Seniors or College Freshmen.

The next event will probably be scheduled in the Fall in order to accommodate Summer vacation schedules, and other commitments.

SME tour of Photomachining
Figure 1 – Applications Engineer, Roy Sargent, explains laser processing with UV lasers.

SME tour of USP lasers
Figure 2 – Senior Applications Engineer, David Grossman, discusses picosecond lasers and laser control software.

SME interns
Figure 3 – Local Students Nolan Hansen and Trevor Naro.  Both have joined the PhotoMachining staff as part time workers through the local SME chapter.  Both are also enrolled at UMASS- Lowell in the Engineering Program starting Fall 2014.


I am always interested in hearing your thoughts concerning laser micromachining, the laser industry, comments on entrepreneurial endeavors, etc. AND … we are always looking for fresh, publishable material. Please feel free to contact me at rschaeffer@photomachining.com.


— R. Schaeffer