Development of hybrid micro machining approaches and test-bed
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High precision miniature and micro products which possess 3D complex structures or free-form surfaces are now being widely used in industry. These micro products require to be fabricated by several machining processes and the integration of these various machining processes onto one machine becomes necessary since this will help reduce realignment errors and also increase the machining efficiency. This thesis describes the development and testing of several hybrid machining approaches for machines which are typically used to produce micro products such as micro fluidic moulds, solar concentrator moulds, micro grooves in brittle materials and micro structured milling cutters. These are: (a) micro milling and laser deburring; (b) micro grinding involving laser pre-heating; (c) micro milling and laser polishing. The hybrid micro milling/ laser deburring process was tested during the fabrication of a micro fluidic injection mould. Micro burrs on the channel of micro fluidic mould generated during micro milling were completely removed by developed laser deburring process. This approach can achieve a good surface finish on a micro fluidic mould. The hybrid laser assisted micro grinding process was investigated by fabricating a set of micro grooves on brittle materials, including Al2O3 and Si3N4. The workpiece was pre-heated by laser to increase its temperature above that of the brittle to ductile transition phase interface. It was found that lower cutting forces were apparent in the grinding process when used to machine brittle materials. It was also found that laser assisted grinding helped achieve a very good surface finish and reduced subsurface damage. The final hybrid machining approach tested involved micro milling and laser polishing to fabricate solar concentrator moulds. Such a mould requires a good surface finish in order to accurately guide light focusing on a target. The laser polishing process was successfully used to remove any unwanted cutting marks generated by a previous micro milling process. Abstract iii As a novel extension to this hybrid machine world, a focussed ion beam (FIB) fabrication approach was researched regarding the generation of microstructures on the rake faces of milling cutters with the aim of reducing cutter cutting forces and increasing tool life. The tool wear resistance performance of these microstructured tools was evaluated through three sets of slot milling trials on a NAK80 specimen with the results indicating that micro structured micro milling cutters of this kind can effectively improve the tool wear resistance performance. A microstructure in a direction perpendicular to the cutting edge was found to be the best structure for deferring tool wear and obtaining prolonged tool life. This approach can potentially be further integrated into a hybrid precision machine such that micro structure cutters can be fabricated in-situ using a laser machining process. The conceptual design of a 5-axis hybrid machine which incorporates micro milling, grinding and laser machining has been proposed as a test-bed for the above hybrid micro machining approach. Through finite element analysis, the best configuration was found to be a closed-loop vertical machine which has one rotary stage on the worktable and another on machining head. In this thesis, the effectiveness of these novel hybrid machining approaches have been fully demonstrated through machining several microproducts. Recommendations for future work are suggested to focus on further scientific understanding of hybrid machining processes, the development of a laser repairing approach and the integration of a controller for the proposed hybrid machine.