Many components used in modern products are getting smaller. Over the last three decades, features in integrated-circuit technology have been reduced in size by approximately two orders of magnitude, and micromotors as small as a human hair have been fabricated using photolithography. A similar phenomenon is occurring in the medical device industry: Implantable devices are shrinking to ever smaller dimensions; catheters arc becoming more complex, filled with miniature wires, fibers, probes, and sensors.

As feature sizes fall below one-thousandth of an inch, cutting, drilling, and shaping are no longer possible with mechanical approaches. New materials such as chemical vapor-deposited diamond, exotic ceramics, and some organic polymers are difficult or impossible to process using traditional techniques. The increased demand for micromechanical structures has created the need for new manufacturing tools and techniques. In many instances, lasers are being used to bring original and useful fabrication capabilities to advanced materials processing.

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