Laser Processing of Solvay Udel P-1700 Polysulfone (PSU)


Solvay Udel® P-1700 Polysulfone (PSU) is a rigid, high-temperature thermoplastic with excellent thermal stability, high strength and toughness, high heat deflection temperature, combustion resistivity, and good environmental stress resistivity properties. Udel P-1700 PSU is used in various medical, electronics, food and water, and other industrial applications. Udel P-1700 PSU is available in a variety of transparent and opaque grades. Udel P-1700 PSU was selected for laser compatibility testing. A diagram depicting Udel P-1700 PSU is shown in Figure 1.
Solvay Udel P-1700 Polysulfone (PSU) Layers

Figure 1. Udel P-1700 PSU diagram showing the consistent nature of the sheet at 127mm thick.

Solvay Udel P-1700 Polysulfone is suitable for laser cutting. The non-contact nature of laser cutting allows applications to be processed with small features and fine geometry, which might be difficult to achieve with traditional mechanical methods. Processes other than laser cutting are not indicated as they are not conducive to the intended use of Udel P-1700 PSU. Universal Laser Systems (ULS) makes it possible to consistently and repeatedly process this material to a high degree of dimensional accuracy, with virtually no material deformation during processing.

Laser Processing Notes

Solvay Udel P-1700 Polysulfone was tested to assess laser processing compatibility and determine the best system configuration of laser peak power and wavelength. Udel P-1700 PSU readily absorbs the 9.3µm energy more efficiently than other laser wavelengths available from ULS. With the configuration of 75 watts of 9.3μm laser energy, laser processing of Udel P-1700 PSU produces a consistent edge along the processed path. Laser cutting of Udel P-1700 PSU results in a small amount of debris along the edge, requiring some cleaning by wiping the edge with a solvent such as isopropyl alcohol after laser cutting. A microscopy image taken at 300x magnification of the edge of Udel P-1700 PSU is shown in Figure 2. The 3D image in Figure 3 depicts how the film responds to laser cutting with the recommended system configuration of a single 75 watt 9.3μm CO2 laser source.
Solvay Udel P-1700 Polysulfone (PSU) Figure 2

Figure 2. Microscopy image (300x) of the edge after laser cutting Udel P-1700 PSU. The heat-affected zone measures 75μm.

Solvay Udel P-1700 Polysulfone (PSU) Figure 3

Figure 3. 3D Microscopy image (300x) of the edge of Solvay Udel P-1700 PSU.

Solvay Udel P-1700 PSU was also tested with an alternate system configuration of 10.6μm laser energy at an equivalent laser wattage. The results of these tests were compared by analyzing the heat effects, edge quality, and post-processing requirements. The results of the comparison of these system configurations are listed in tabular form in Table 1 and shown photographically in Figure 4. The 9.3μm configuration produces a noticeably better edge when laser cutting this material and is the recommended configuration.

Table 1. System Configuration Comparison

System ConfigurationHeat-Affected ZoneProcess CharacteristicsPost-Processing Requirements
9.3µm (Recommended)Minimal heat-affected zone of approximately 75μm The 9.3μm laser energy has the advantage of better absorption by the material resulting in a consistent edge along the process path with a reduced heat-affected zone Post-processing requirements include the removal of slight deposition from the surface using light abrasion and a solvent such as isopropyl alcohol
10.6µmIncreased heat-affected zone of approximately 150μmThis configuration results in an increased heat-affected zone and less consistency in the edge along the processed path
Solvay Udel P-1700 Polysulfone (PSU) Figure 3

Figure 4. Comparison microscopy images (300x) of the edge of Solvay Udel P-1700 PSU after laser cutting using the 9.3μm wavelength (left), and 10.6μm wavelength (right).

Processing Example

Solvay Udel P-1700 PSU applications requiring fine geometry and intricate detail without degrading the physical properties of the material can be accomplished with technology from ULS. An example demonstrating the results of laser cutting Solvay Udel P-1700 PSU is shown in Figure 5.
Solvay Udel P-1700 Polysulfone (PSU) Figure 5

Figure 5. Example of geometry possible when laser cutting Solvay Udel P-1700 PSU.


Solvay Udel P-1700 PSU is suitable for laser processing and was extensively tested to determine the optimal processing configuration. Through this testing, it was determined that laser cutting is a viable process, and a 75 watt 9.3μm CO2 laser source is ideal for this material. The Solvay Udel P-1700 PSU absorbs the 9.3μm wavelength laser energy efficiently to produce a smooth edge that has a minimal heat-affected zone and discoloration. Additionally, acceptable results can be achieved by processing this material with a 10.6μm laser source.