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A laser beam is transmitted through a drill bit comprising diamond or other suitable light-transmitting material having sufficient hardness. The laser beam exits a tip of the drill bit, thereby heating and softening the material being drilled at and/or near the interface of the drill with the material being drilled. The process may be utilized to drill hard and brittle materials such as ceramics and semiconductors, composites and ceramic matrix composites. The process may cause high pressure phase transformation, resulting in a more ductile and plastic material near the drill point/tip. The process provides more rapid drilling, improved surface quality in drilled holes, and less tool wear.