When it comes to removing layers of contaminant or coatings from parts and equipment, effectiveness is often the primary determining factor. Questions of efficiency, cost, and ease-of-use often come later. If you can find a solution that gets the job done and provides added benefits, it can be a game changer for your entire operation. One of the more popular cleaning options today for industrial applications is needle gun cleaning. It’s a low-cost, easy-to-use cleaning option that can definitely chip away layers of paint, rust, and other buildup. But are needle guns really a good cleaning option? And how do they stack up against laser cleaning?
WHAT IS A NEEDLE GUN?
Needle guns are handheld cleaning devices that work by rotating several thin metal chisels at a high velocity to break through layers of coating or contaminants and strip a part down to the bare materials. Most often they are air-powered, though electric models are also available. The size, power level, and even the needle type is variable based on the requirements of a project. Because these devices are inexpensive and easy to operate, they are widely used for decoating, rust removal, and other intensive parts cleanings.
ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES OF NEEDLE GUN CLEANING
Needle guns offer several benefits for parts cleaning. The most common include:
- Quickly and effectively removing layers of deposit/coatings
- Reducing amount of sand or materials needed for media blasting
- Inexpensive initial cost
- Can clean irregular surfaces since needles change position based on surface contours
- Easy to operate
- Options available for both small area and large area cleanings
- Can clean materials with deep coating/deposit layers
While needle guns can be an effective cleaning solution for many applications, they do come with considerable drawbacks to consider before use. Some of these include:
- Incredibly noisy — somewhere between a handsaw and a bulldozer, depending on device (≈ 90-115 decibels)
- Often require some media blasting or sanding to finish the job
- Extensive cleanup
- Dangerous to use for hazardous coatings because of waste produced
- Leave a rough texture on metal afterwards
- Heavily impacts the substrate
- Can be uncomfortable to operate for long periods of time
- No automation options available
WHAT IS LASER CLEANING?
Laser cleaning, also known as laser ablation, works by sending thousands of nanosecond laser pulses onto contaminant/coating layers. The force and intensity of the laser light vaporizes or otherwise dislodges the contaminant/coating particles from the surface without damaging the substrate. Since surfaces and cleaning requirements differ from job to job, the right laser will depend on the needs of a specific application. Cleaning lasers range between low-, mid- and high-power laser solutions and can be outfitted as either handheld or automated options. The most common laser cleaning applications include:
- Bonding preparation
- Coating preparation
- Nuclear decontamination
- Surface prep for NDI
- Welding/brazing preparation
- Welding post-treatment
BENEFITS OF LASER CLEANING
Unlike needle gun cleaning, laser cleaning provides a more precise cleaning solution that’s much easier on both operators and the environment. It’s also gentler on parts and equipment. Even while vaporizing tough layers of coating or contaminants, the substrate remains safe from harm. Laser cleaning is also highly customizable for a particular project. Our laser experts work with you to understand your cleaning needs and operational requirements in order to configure the ideal cleaning laser for your specific application. Some of the most notable benefits of laser cleaning include:
- Minimal safety equipment required
- Easy setup/teardown
- Low maintenance
- Low operating costs
- User-friendly operation
- Quiet (no ear protection required)
- Can be automated for repeated cleaning processes
- Built-in filtration reduces environmental waste
LASER CLEANING: AN ALTERNATIVE TO NEEDLE GUN CLEANING
Needle gun cleaning can be an inexpensive and effective way to clean many surfaces, but the shortcomings leave a lot to be desired. Especially when working in a collective environment (e.g. a naval warship), noise pollution and environmental hazards can render whole areas out of commission for extended periods of time while parts and equipment are cleaned and maintained.
Unlike cleaning with needle guns, laser cleaning allows for more precision and minimal operational interference. It’s also much safer for operators, since coating/contaminant particles are absorbed using built-in vacuums and filtration rather than blasted into the environment. Unless you’re cleaning in a flammable environment, the laser cleaning is a much safer and more reliable cleaning option than needle gun cleaning.
WHATEVER YOUR NEEDS, ADAPT LASER HAS A SOLUTION FOR IT
Adapt Laser specializes in the know-how and application of laser cleaning solutions. We offer products with a range between 20 and 2,000 watts and provide training to ensure your employees can get the most from their laser cleaning solutions. We’ve equipped a variety of industries and companies with laser cleaning solutions — including military and defense for the US Air Force and Navy — and hundreds of organizations trust our state-of-the-art laser cleaning solutions.