Laser cleaning, while not as widely used as some other laser processes, is still an important and crucial function in its own right, helping users to create clean and pure surfaces on their materials.
Aside from these benefits, one less well-known fact is that this process, if completed using a fiber laser, can have great environmental benefits too. Why is this? We explored this in more detail below.
What is laser cleaning?
This is the removal of impurities from the surface layer of a material (such as metal). These contaminants, which could be something like carbon, silicon, rubber, paint or rust, may need to be removed for a number of reasons.
The removal of paint from a surface, the stripping of insulation from conductors or the engraving of surfaces using ablation can all be categorised as a form of laser cleaning. Laser engraving and laser ablation do fall into their own categories, but many of these processes are closely interlinked.
Other applications for this useful process include preparation treatment for adhesive bonding and coating, cleaning intricate and textured surfaces, labelling and marking and mould cleaning and de-oiling.
The problem with past cleaning methods
Despite the wide number of uses that cleaning methods offered their users, traditionally it has been a somewhat environmentally damaging process, and it was by no means a perfect solution.
Traditional methods were either abrasive in nature or used chemical solvents, which meant they were impractical for artwork and stone restoration. Abrasive methods left too much waste over, while chemical methods involved liquid waste and sometimes hazardous
The creation of cleaning using a laser set out to solve these problems. As well as being a non-contact and non-abrasive process (which doesn’t use any kind of chemicals or blasting). there is also a huge reduction in the amount of waste that was created.
The further environmental benefits
A fiber laser however also offers further environmental benefits over other types of laser based cleaning processes. Firstly, it has a much smaller power consumption rate. A fiber laser is roughly twenty times more efficient than its crystal or gas laser counterparts.
Secondly, they enjoy much longer diode lives. For crystal or gas lasers, the average diode life is usually between 10,000 and 20,000 hours. Some systems, on the other hand, have a much, much longer service life, sitting in at around 50,000 to 100,000 hours.
Finally, both of the other two processes use consumable gases in their operation. Fiber lasers, however, don’t.