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A day in the life of a Laser Physicist

I work as a Senior Laser Engineer in a company that designs and builds laser machining tools.

9.00am – My typical day starts with a project planning meeting to ensure that my team and I are clear on what we need to do for the day. We discuss problems or issues encountered in the previous day and talk about the work plan for the current day.

My job is to investigate new laser processes for our existing and potential customers. This involves determining what type of laser, and laser conditions, to use on different types of customer wafers. Our customers typically manufacture computer chips and memory devices. Amongst other work we machine small features such as holes, trenches and slots on such device wafers.

10.00am, the engineers working for me start processing work in the lab. It involves a series of experimental tests to determine the optimum laser conditions for machining a particular customer sample. We change parameters such as laser beam size, laser focus, laser repetition frequency, laser wavelength and laser pulse energy in order to determine the optimum machining conditions. After machining we conduct tests using an optical microscope in order to assess the quality of the laser machined features.

Throughout the day I pop in and out of the lab to see how things are going, discuss progress and analyse samples that have been machined. Once we have decided on a suitable process I will write a report for our customer that details our experimental results and provides a detailed analysis of the features we have machined.

Other aspects of my job include visiting customers to see how their laser tool is performing and assist in their process development work on-site if required. This involves travelling within Europe, the US and Asia for a short visit, or sometimes several weeks, depending on the customer requirements.

A few times a year I visit laser vendors to perform sample testing with some of their new prototype systems to assess if we can expand our customer base by integrating a new laser with different performance characteristics onto a new version of our machine.

The day draws to a close with most problems ironed out and I start to think about tomorrow, which includes a visit to a potential customer to assess their application. I’ll have to decide if technically our machines can perform to their conditions or if we need to alter our tool/laser process in order to meet their requirements.

Oonagh Meighan ~ www.iopireland.org


Article by: Oonagh Meighan ~ Institute of Physicists Ireland