A flexible workstation equipped with a solid state laser operating at 266 mu wavelength was used to machine holes in polyethylene terephthalate, polyimide and polycarbonate. An optical pulse picker was employed to reduce the high repetition rates of the laser, while a breakthrough sensor was used to avoid over-drilling of through holes. For each material, different repetition rates and designed pulse trains were tested to improve feature quality and process efficiency. Although the three polymers had very different reactions at this wavelength they all showed an improvement in feature quality with decreasing repetition rate due to a reduction in thermal effects. Up to 10 kHz the average depth per pulse remained unchanged and afterwards a slight increase was observed but this was accompanied by large uncertainties. Bursts of pulses at 40 kHz inserted inside the low repetition rate pulse train reduced the drilling time and the amount of debris redeposited without affecting the feature quality. It was found that a number of cleaning pulses after perforation eliminates the heat affected zone around exits. Holes with entrance diameters below 20 mu m and exit diameters as small as 2 mu m were obtained with high repeatability. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.