Laser cleaning, which you may also see being referred to as laser surface cleaning, has become an important and crucial process for many industries around the world. This is by no means the only type of cleaning process, and there have been many other types of cleaning methods that have come before.
But laser cleaning was introduced to the market to solve some of the problems that these other processes presented and to offer a new set of advantages to their users. We’ve explored some of these advantages in greater detail below.
Why was there a need for a cleaning process using a laser?
As mentioned, there were other forms of cleaning process available to industries, such as dry-ice blasting, media blasting or cleaning using chemical solvents, which were perfectly adequate at completing the job at hand. The problem was that these processes came with many unwanted side effects too.
The biggest problem with these methods is that they are abrasive and potentially hazardous. Not only does this have environmental issues, but it also has safety issues too, as a significant amount of potentially harmful waste is often created from one of these more traditional cleaning methods.
The specific problems with the other three types of cleaning processes are:
- Cleaning with chemical solvents – A high amount of waste is created that needs to be disposed of safely. This waste consists of hazardous solvents that have been mixed with residue, and the vapours released can be dangerous to humans, hence the operator requires protection
- Cleaning using media blasting – Highly abrasive to substrates, and so can’t be used on delicate or intricate surfaces, such as artwork. It also produces a high level of waste in the form of blasting media such as sand or plastic, that also needs to be disposed of
- Cleaning using dry-ice blasting – Not efficient at cleaning delicate surfaces, and a noisy process. Also, potentially hazardous to
- Furthermore, both dry-ice blasting and chemical cleaning have low levels of automation, making them a process for which the user has to get heavily involved. Media blasting is slightly different, having a medium to high level of automation.
How is laser cleaning different?
Cleaning through lasers looked to solve the problems presented by other processes, and it has managed to do this to a large degree. Perhaps the biggest difference with using a laser to other processes is that it is a non-contact and non-abrasive process. Only the laser light will actually be touching and working with the surface of the material, and this heated energy essentially blasts off the material from the surface layer (e.g. paint).
This process can be repeated until the correct level of ablation depth has been reached, and fiber lasers, in particular, offer a great level of control to their users. This means that the desired depth can be achieved with a high degree of accuracy, on metal surfaces such as clearing rust or traffic film for example.
While the final result is similar to the other cleaning processes, the way in which the actual operation is completed is what makes laser cleaning different.
What benefits does this offer to the user?
So, how do these differences benefit the user? There are quite a few advantages of cleaning with lasers, and we have laid these out below.
Firstly, there is no problem when it comes to substrate wear, as no mechanical, chemical or thermal strain is placed on the substrate, and only organic substrates will be affected by the process.
Secondly, there is very little waste produced, and the waste that is left over is non-harmful substances such as dust.
Next, it is a highly automated process, meaning it requires little input from an operator. This obviously has efficiency and cost benefits, but also adds another element of safety by removing the worker from the operation as much as possible. This also means that operations can be completed in what would otherwise be dangerous or hazardous environments.
As mentioned above, lasers and fiber lasers, in particular, offer great levels of control to their users when it comes to output power, wavelengths, and pulse parameters. Operations can be conducted with a high degree of accuracy, and all of this together allows users to clean any surfaces with the exact specifications that they require.
Another advantage of the process, again with using fiber lasers, in particular, is its ability to complete micro applications. Many of the industries around the world have dramatically changed in recent years, and parts, pieces, and products have become smaller and more complex. This has seen an increased need for a process which can work at a micro level, either to complete small tasks or to work with small items.
For example, the electronics industry is one where the items involved have changed a great deal in nature. Each year consumer electronics get thinner, smaller and slightly more complex. It involves the working with items such as plugs, connectors, insulators, pads, cables, wiring, semi-conductors and more.
Not only can the cleaning process operate on these small items, but it offers additional benefits too. For example, when stripping the coating from conductors, it won’t affect the anti-corrosion layer, unlike mechanical stripping and cleaning processes.
Added benefits of using a fiber laser
Not only is laser cleaning already a highly advantageous process, but using a fiber laser has some added benefits:
- Smaller consumption of power
- Greater diode life
- One system can be used for multiple processes (e.g. laser cutting or laser marking)
- Less maintenance, using our ‘Fit & Forget Technology’
- Quick installation, setup and integration times
- A more compact solution
- For more information on our fiber lasers, please refer to our contact details below.