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Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering

Front. Mech. Eng.    2019, Vol. 14 Issue (3) : 299-319
Review on mechanism and process of surface polishing using lasers
Arun KRISHNAN1, Fengzhou FANG1,2()
1. Centre of Micro/Nano Manufacturing Technology (MNMT-Dublin), University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland
2. State Key Laboratory of Precision Measuring Technology and Instruments, Centre of Micro/Nano Manufacturing Technology (MNMT), Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China
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Laser polishing is a technology of smoothening the surface of various materials with highly intense laser beams. When these beams impact on the material surface to be polished, the surface starts to be melted due to the high temperature. The melted material is then relocated from the ‘peaks to valleys’ under the multidirectional action of surface tension. By varying the process parameters such as beam intensity, energy density, spot diameter, and feed rate, different rates of surface roughness can be achieved. High precision polishing of surfaces can be done using laser process. Currently, laser polishing has extended its applications from photonics to molds as well as bio-medical sectors. Conventional polishing techniques have many drawbacks such as less capability of polishing freeform surfaces, environmental pollution, long processing time, and health hazards for the operators. Laser polishing on the other hand eliminates all the mentioned drawbacks and comes as a promising technology that can be relied for smoothening of initial topography of the surfaces irrespective of the complexity of the surface. Majority of the researchers performed laser polishing on materials such as steel, titanium, and its alloys because of its low cost and reliability. This article gives a detailed overview of the laser polishing mechanism by explaining various process parameters briefly to get a better understanding about the entire polishing process. The advantages and applications are also explained clearly to have a good knowledge about the importance of laser polishing in the future.

Keywords laser polishing      surface roughness      process parameters      mechanism     
Corresponding Author(s): Fengzhou FANG   
Just Accepted Date: 20 February 2019   Online First Date: 29 March 2019    Issue Date: 24 July 2019
 Cite this article:   
Arun KRISHNAN,Fengzhou FANG. Review on mechanism and process of surface polishing using lasers[J]. Front. Mech. Eng., 2019, 14(3): 299-319.
Fig.1  Laser polishing working principle [3]
Fig.2  Principle of laser polishing by melting
Metals Subvariant Initial roughness, Ra/mm Roughness after laser polishing, Ra/mm Processing time/(s·cm2)
Tool steels Macro 1.0–4.0 0.07–0.15 60–180
Micro 0.5–1.0 0.30 3
Titanium, Ti-6Al-4V Macro 3.0 0.50 10
Micro 0.3–0.5 0.10 3
Bronze Macro 10.0 1.00 10
Stainless steel Macro 1.0–3.0 0.20–1.00 60–120
Tab.1  Polishing results with subvariants macro and micro [2]
Fig.3  Micro scale polishing
Fig.4  Surface periodic formation during SOM mechanism [17]
Fig.5  Laser polishing using pulsed radiation [23]
Fig.6  Spectral roughness in dependence on laser power and scanning velocity as a miscoloured isoplethic diagram for micro- and macro-roughness for combined polishing with continuous wave and pulsed laser radiation [23]
Fig.7  Laser beam incident on metal surface on particular area [23]
Fig.8  Spatial intensity distribution modes for (a) TEM00 and (b) TEM01 [35]
Fig.9  Relation between roughness reduction and energy density [15]
Fig.10  Spatial frequency plot using 300ns pulse duration [12]
Fig.11  Spatial frequency plot using 600ns pulse duration [12]
Fig.12  Relation between surface roughness and feed rate [48]
Fig.13  Effect of overlap on material ratio functions of initial and polished surface [49]. (a) Sample 1 (80% overlap); (b) Sample 2 (90% overlap); (c) Sample 3 (95% overlap); (d) Sample 4 (97.5% overlap)
Fig.14  Focal offset distance [50]
Overlap percentage Initial line profiling roughness/mm Polished line profiling roughness/mm
80.0% 1.18 0.190
90.0% 1.16 0.160
95.0% 1.21 0.130
97.5% 1.21 0.040
Tab.2  Initial vs. final roughness comparison using laser polishing on H13 tool steel [28]
Fig.15  Initial and polished surface profile of H13 steel with Sa and Ra values [49]
Fig.16  SEM image of laser polished DF2 (AISI 01) steel surface [60]
Author Time horizon Number of papers reviewed Type of laser used Proposed theory
Lamikiz et al. [31] 1995–2006 16 CO2 & Nd:Yag Laser A method for surface finish for the parts made using SLS method where 80.1% surface reduction is achieved
Jang et al. [8] N/A 14 UV Pulsed Laser A technique for stability of laser energy density in the laser micro-polishing using UV pulse laser on the material surface [8]
Pfefferkorn et al. [62] N/A 16 200 W Fiber Laser A two-pass process is introduced where the first pass thermocapillary flow is made use to reduce the surface roughness whereas in the second pass the unconsumed process features are discarded
Brinksmeier et al. [63] 1927–2003 9 Nd:Yag Laser (wavelength 1064 nm) Polishing of V grooves (structured steel and electroless nickel plated steel molds) done by abrasive polishing, laser polishing and abrasive flow machining
Martan et al. [64] N/A 19 Nanosecond pulsed laser (KrF excimer laser with wavelength 248 nm and pulse duration 27 ns) Using the combination of a two-reflection based system, a surface temperature measurement system is developed
Rosa et al. [65] 1997–2014 15 Fiber laser (800 W power and 1070 nm wavelength) Focused on laser polishing of ALM surfaces along with an experimental investigation to hone ALM surfaces based on laser polishing strategies and parameters.
Bhaduri et al. [66] N/A 52 MOPA-based ytterbium-doped fiber nanosecond (ns) laser (50 W power and 1060 nm wavelength) Analysis of the oxidation on metal surface using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and glow discharge optical emission spectroscopy. A surface reduction rate of 94% is obtained using laser polishing
Chang et al. [51] N/A 34 Micro second ytterbium-doped single-mode fiber laser (20–500 W varying power and 1060 nm wavelength) Proposed that the melting zone and heat affected zone thickness can be expressed as function of deposited energy. Also, when the polishing process carried out in argon atmosphere there are no evidence of crack formation
Tab.3  Overview of the recent development in laser polishing
Fig.17  Relation between spot size and focal offset distance [15]
Fig.18  Laser polished spherical cap (on left) and initial surface (right) [94]
Fig.19  Schematic diagram showing laser polishing of hub and hub cap [103]
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