Ultrafast laser micromachining provides many advantages for precision micromachining. One challenging problem, however, particularly for multilayer and heterogeneous materials, is how to prevent a given material from being ablated, as ultrafast laser micromachining is generally material insensitive. We present a real-time feedback control system for an ultrafast laser micromachining system based on laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). The characteristics of ultrafast LIBS are reviewed and discussed so as to demonstrate the feasibility of the technique. Comparison methods to identify the material emission patterns are developed, and several of the resulting algorithms were implemented into a real-time computer control system. LIBS-controlled micromachining is demonstrated for the fabrication of microheater structures on thermal sprayed materials. Compared with a strictly passive machining process without any such feedback control, the LIBS-based system provides several advantages including less damage to the substrate layer, reduced machining time, and more-uniform machining features.
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