Slate is a natural rock usually used in roofs, façades, and for tiling. In spite of this broad use, the production process of slate tiles requires substantial improvements. An important quantity of slate from the quarry is wasted during the manufacturing of the final product. Furthermore, processes are not automatized and the production lead times can be considerably shortened. Therefore, new processing methods to increase productivity, reduce costs and to provide added value to the final slate product are required. Drilling is an important part of these manufacturing processes. Conventional drilling processes usually cause the breaking of the slate tiles; then, even a higher quantity of material is wasted. To overcome these problems, lasers emerge as a feasible tool to produce holes in this material, since mechanical stresses are not induced on the workpiece. In this work, we have studied the CO₂ laser microdrilling of slate tiles. We used a Design of Experiments (DOE) methodology to determine the influence of the laser processing parameters on the hole quality. This work demonstrates the capability of a CO₂ laser to produce holes in slate with less than 100 microns in diameter, avoiding any fracture, and with a processing time of less than 50 ms per hole. Finally, this process demonstrates the viability of the production of high-density micron-sized holes in a slate tile for water draining purposes.
Keywords: CO2 laser; drilling; slate tiles.