High Strength Fused Silica Flexures Manufactured by Femtosecond Laser
Flexures are mechanical elements used in micro- and precision-engineering to precisely guide the motion of micro-parts. They consist of slender bodies that deform elastically upon the application of a force. Although counter-intuitive at first, fused silica is an attractive material for flexure. Pending that the machining process does not introduce surface flaws that would lead to catastrophic failure, the material has a theoretically high ultimate tensile strength of several GPa. We report on high-aspect ratio fused silica flexures manufactured by femtosecond laser combined with chemical etching. Notch-hinges with thickness as small as twenty microns and aspect ratios comparable to aspect ratios obtained by Deep- Reactive-Ion-Etching (DRIE) were fabricated and tested under different loading conditions. Multiple fracture tests were performed for various loading conditions and the cracks morphologies were analyzed using Scanning Electron Microscopy. The manufactured elements show outstanding mechanical properties with flexural strengths largely exceeding those obtained with other technologies and materials. Fused silica flexures offer a mean to combine integrated optics with micro-mechanics in a single monolithic substrate. Waveguides and mechanical elements can be combined in a monolithic devices opening new opportunities for integrated opto-mechatronics devices.