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- The use of focussed femtosecond laser pulses to fundamentally change materials through the interaction of the pulse and material offers new opportunities in device design. This is especially true for fabrication of intricate microstructures within the bulk volume of optically transparent glassy or polymeric materials. But it also can give significant advantages for the micromachining of surface structures in opaque materials in terms of feature size and aspect ratio. Although femtosecond laser micromachining and inscription has been studied for several decades recent significant improvements in the range of lasers available have accelerated the technology into a range of diverse fields. The lasers available today offer vastly improved peak powers and reliability making commercial exploitation more viable. The advantages of using the nonlinear interaction of light with solid materials are being explored in a number of exciting ways, both in science and engineering, with new avenues opening up as new materials, sources and techniques are developed. The capacity for making use of the short pulse durations, nonlinear absorption and other characteristics discussed above to create complex three dimensional structures both on the surface and within materials has attracted much recent research effort. However, there is much more potential through the combination of techniques and the development of further knowledge, simulation and modelling that will likely lead to future applications and fields that are only in their infancy at present. The unique capabilities of femtosecond micromachining make it preferential in a great number of applications. The capacity to locally modify and create permanent change in a range of both transparent and non-transparent materials is of fundamental importance not only to photonics but to a growing number of manufacturing processes. The industrialisation of micromachining processes will be of great significance in the future success of solar cell and flexible organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) in the manufacture of large sheets that need highly localised and complex machining patterns cut at speed. The most prominent current technology that will be able to facilitate this is the use of femtosecond lasers. The reliability of the current generation of femtosecond sources compared to earlier models means that these lasers are rapidly being accepted as an option for commercial fabrication. With the continued development in the supporting technologies associated with femtosecond lasers such as the improvement in pump sources, development and commercialisation of more efficient glass compounds, the pulse-material interaction being more fully understood and the delivery systems and techniques being refined, there is a promising future for femtosecond micromachining to expand into more fields and become a common part of manufacturing and photonics industries.
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