Although Microlution Inc. has been based in multiple locations since the builder of micromachining centers was founded in 2005, the company held its first grand opening event June 28 as part of GF Solutions Days USA 2019. GF Solutions Days also took place June 27 at GF Machining Solutions LLC's headquarters in Lincolnshire, Illinois. The first location for Chicago-based Microlution, which has operated as a subsidiary of GF Machining Solutions since 2016, was in Andy Phillip’s apartment in Champaign, Phillip said. He is one of the company’s founders and now head of laser micromachining.
Andy Phillip, head of laser micromachining, presents the welcoming remarks and introduction to Microlution at GF Solutions Days. Photos by Alan Richter
After Phillip provided a company overview, the event included a ribbon cutting ceremony, a tour of the production facility, machine demonstrations and a customer experience presentation, as well as lunch. During the presentation, Matthew Lewis, diffusion bonding engineer for Agilent Technologies Inc.’s Folsom, California, facility, described the processes for producing metal microfluidic devices and the issues created when EDMing the sheet metal to make the devices. Those issues included cut errors, contamination from the wire and dielectric fluid, corrosion caused by spark erosion and the need for a high level of operator skill.
From left to right: Andrew Honegger, vice president laser micromachining; Soctt Fosdick, president of North America; Stefan Dahl, head of advanced manufacturing; Andy Phillip, head of laser micromachining; Onik Bhattacharyya, director of sales and business development laser micromachining; and Nicholas Sposato, alderman of the 38th Ward of Chicago.
Agilent sought a solution and contacted 27 laser companies, Lewis said. Unlike Microlution, he added that some companies wouldn’t run samples, some didn’t respond to Agilent’s inquiries, some offered equipment that performed poorly or didn’t have a vision system and some treated lasers as highly specialized machines.
“It’s a machine tool that happens to cut with photons,” Lewis said, noting a laser offers clean, smooth and flat cutting without burrs or a heat-affected zone.
Matthew Lewis, diffusion bonding engineer for Agilent Technologies, describes working with Microlution during the customer experience presentation.
Microlution has four main product lines. The ML-5 is a 3- or 5-axis micromachining platform that’s optimized for producing small parts, according to the company. The ML-10 is a larger 5-axis laser machine that is suitable for producing small features on big aerospace parts. The MLDS dual-station/dual-part machining center uses a femtosecond laser, and the auto industry is one of its targeted markets. The MLTC targets the medical industry and uses an ultrafast laser and offers microscale tube-cutting capabilities. Microlution introduced the MLTC and ML-10 at the event.
The Microlution ML-10 laser micromachining platform can process parts up to 1' tall and has a repeatability of +/-0.5µm.
Related Glossary Terms
Cone-shaped pins that support a workpiece by one or two ends during machining. The centers fit into holes drilled in the workpiece ends. Centers that turn with the workpiece are called “live” centers; those that do not are called “dead” centers.
1. Spreading of a constituent in a gas, liquid or solid, tending to make the composition of all parts uniform. 2. Spontaneous movement of atoms or molecules to new sites within a material.
- flat ( screw flat)
flat ( screw flat)
Flat surface machined into the shank of a cutting tool for enhanced holding of the tool.
- heat-affected zone
That portion of the base metal that was not melted during brazing, cutting or welding, but whose microstructure and mechanical properties were altered by the heat.
- machining center
CNC machine tool capable of drilling, reaming, tapping, milling and boring. Normally comes with an automatic toolchanger. See automatic toolchanger.
- vision system
System in which information is extracted from visual sensors to allow machines to react to changes in the manufacturing process.