Faster Laser Cutting With New 5-Axis System From Askias

In 2020, Senstech was able to commission a second ablation laser system, which provided more reliability and capacity for structuring thin films. This year, we have now also created redundancy for the cutting laser, as we now manufacture almost all sensor substrates ourselves and have only limited fallback options in the event of a system defect. The new machining center ASKIAS Precision expands our possibilities in the production of sensor substrates and prototypes. It allows CNC controlled simultaneous 5-axis processing of parts.

Several Processing Methods in One Setup

Thanks to interchangeable processing heads, various machining processes such as laser cutting, laser drilling, laser welding, laser soldering, laser marking, laser structuring and laser ablation can be combined. It is even possible to operate two lasers in parallel within the system, such as a fiber laser for cutting and a nanosecond laser for ablation/engraving. This allows two different machining processes to be carried out on a part with a single clamping setup.

Accelerated Series Production of Sensor Panels

Due to the higher dynamics of the machine, we can produce the substrate panels for our series products about 10% faster than with our existing cutting laser.

In addition to all the process-related advantages, this investment enables us to also carry out laser welding on customer-specific parts in larger quantities, as well as to offer our own products with laser-welded housings in the future.

Excerpt of Specifications

  • 2 independent zero-point clamping systems
  • Axis stroke: X axis 700 mm, Y axis 400 mm, Z axis 330 mm
  • Feed rate in rapid traverse: 54'000 mm/min
  • Repeatability: ±0.002mm
  • Fanuc B1i-B5 controller

Additional information on the Askias Precision is available in the manufacturer's video.

Meteorological Radiation Measurement: Precise and Robust Instruments Thanks to Thin-Film Technology

This is the title of an article published in the German magazine "MPK 4.0", which highlights an unusual application of our technology: Heating elements and measuring resistors are sputtered directly onto the detectors of the reference measuring instruments. This allows the high-precision radiometers to be manufactured more efficiently. 

>> Read the article (in German, on page 34)

Building Renovation: Increased Energy Efficiency and Additional Space

Through comprehensive remodeling, Senstech AG was able to reduce its energy requirements and create extra office space for the next growth step. From now on, the company will be able to cover more than half of its electricity needs with its own solar power.

The roof of our company building had to be renovated. Due to changes in local building regulations, we were able to add new office space to the top floor of the building in the course of this renovation. Work was carried out in accordance with the Minergie standard for energy-efficient construction.

Linked Heating and Cooling Systems

In parallel with this expansion, we replaced all the heating, cooling and ventilation systems in the building. The cooling circuit of the production facilities was made more flexible and equipped with additional control and monitoring systems. The oil tank with a volume of 20,000 liters is now used as a central cold water reservoir. A second tank with 3000 liters stores hot water. Heating and cooling is now provided exclusively by heat pumps. Fossil fuels are no longer used.

During the cold season, the excess heat from the production facilities can be used to heat the premises. This minimizes the necessary heat exchange with the ambient air and thus the energy consumption of the building. The system is ready to accommodate a possible expansion of the production machinery.

The existing apartment on the 2nd floor of the building was also completely renovated. It is to be rented out again in the future, but also serves as a long-term reserve of space for the company.

Potent Solar System With Intelligent Control

A photovoltaic system was installed on the roof and on the terrace railing. With an expected annual yield of 60 MWh, it will cover more than half of the electricity needs of our production.

Thanks to intelligent control and generous storage capacities for hot and cold water, the power consumption of the building services can be flexibly distributed throughout the day. This allows for the system to be optimized so that a large part of the solar power is used internally.

These conversions make Senstech AG more climate-friendly and open up additional space reserves for future growth. The investment volume for the overall project amounted to approx. 2 million Swiss francs.

New Femtosecond Laser Secures Laser-Based Production

In April 2020, Senstech AG commissioned a femtosecond ablation laser from the manufacturer LS Laser Systems. The system complements the existing picosecond laser from the same manufacturer. The main purpose of the acquisition was to increase the resilience of our sensor production.

Increasing Importance of Laser Ablation

For several years, Senstech AG has been using laser technology in the production of its thin-film strain gauges. By now, almost all of our sensor elements are structured and trimmed with laser ablation. This eliminates labor-intensive photolithography processes. Instead, the thin layers are sputtered over the entire surface. Ultra-short pulse lasers are then used to cut linear structures into them, while leaving the underlying insulation layer intact. Only the gold layers used for solder pads and low-impedance tracks continue to be structured using photolithographic methods.

Securing the Ability to Deliver

For us as a component manufacturer and medical technology supplier, the ability to deliver products on time is of utmost importance, even if one of our production facilities should fail. For certain process steps, we can rely on certified third-party suppliers who perform these steps on our behalf if required. However, this is not the case for the laser ablation and trimming processes, since no company in our region has comparable equipment available. With the gradual phase-out of photolithography and the development of new sensors that require the use of laser technology, the acquisition of a second system was therefore an urgent necessity.

More Space for Process and Product Development

The increased capacity for laser ablation and trimming processes has advantages for production, but also for our development department. Additional machine time is now available that can be used for process development, such as to further optimize the productivity of ablation processes or to automate recurring measurement tasks using computer vision. It will also be easier to coordinate series production and prototype manufacturing. This creates added value for both existing and new customers.

Senstech Now Offers Laser Services

For several years, we have been cutting out our sensor substrates on our own laser systems and are using a picolaser to extract the finest sensor structures from thin metal layers. Our know-how in the field of lasers is now also available for your own projects:

On the one hand, we hope that this new offering will be attractive to the medical device industry, which requires suppliers to be ISO 13485 certified; On the other hand, we would like to address industrial customers who can also benefit from our broad know-how in the laser sector.

We accept contract orders from prototypes to series production and carry out process development and feasibility studies for particularly demanding parts. Our experienced staff will be happy to advise you.

> More Information on Our Laser Services

> Request a Non-Binding Quote

Senstech Invests in New Production Technologies

In the last two years, Senstech AG has invested heavily in future-oriented production technologies. This has reduced production costs and improved quality. We are now able to respond more flexibly and faster to special customer needs.

Many Senstech sensors are cut out of high-quality spring plates with laser radiation.

Thanks to a newly-acquired Laser cutting machine with fiber laser we can now carry out the cutting processes internally. This results in significantly optimized processes and the ability to react even more flexibly to customer requirements.

In addition, the laser system can be used for tool manufacturing and for welding.

The quality of the cutting processes is assured using a likewise new and powerful digital measurement projector. Complex geometries can be verified and documented to 100% in the micrometer range.

The sputtering of thin layers is one of the main competences of Senstech AG. With these layers strain gauges are produced. New is Senstech AG with a Laser trimming system (picolaser) structure and trim these thin-film strain gauges (with laser ablation). This alternative to photolithographic processes is more efficient and flexible and greatly enhances Senstech's range of services.

Thanks to a high-resolution Digital Microscope the result of laser ablation in the sub-micron range can be checked well and corrected if necessary. The influence of humidity and temperature on the laser-structured strain gauges is tested during long-term measurements in a Climate Chamber .

During the trimming process, the strain gages are electrically contacted and with the help of a very fast and accurate measuring and control system, the properties can be trimmed to the desired values. Since the laser trimming system offers the possibility of individual labeling, complete traceability can be achieved.

The investments described above have reduced production costs and enhanced the product range of Senstech.