How to Troubleshoot Your Laser System

How to Troubleshoot Your Laser System

Laser ablation is one of the safest methods of removing contaminants from your products. But, to ensure the laser system is working properly, routine maintenance must take place — from maintenance after each use to bi-annual and annual upkeep. While some troubleshooting is easy to do on your own, other maintenance may need assistance from a laser system professional. What aspects of your laser solution needs maintenance, and what are the steps to troubleshooting common issues?

5 COMMON ISSUES FOR YOUR LASER SYSTEM

1. OPTICS

Your optics play a pivotal role in the cleaning process. But, with use, the optic window or lens can become dirty and — in some severe cases — can crack. This can make your laser system inefficient and inoperable. In fact, a dirty optic can decrease your output power by an average of 20%. To ensure you’re getting the most from your laser solution, you’ll need to maintain your optics to prevent overheating and system failure. This includes:

  1. Cleaning the protection window and assessing for damages before each use. If the window is cracked, dirty beyond cleaning, or no longer has the anti-reflective coating, it will need to be replaced immediately. Further damage could impact your optic and may require a full rebuild.
  2. Monitoring and identifying the warning signs of optic heating. Optic heating can occur from a dirty protection window or back reflection from your process.
  3. Safely testing your optic power to ensure your laser solution is optimized for your needs. This can be done through the external laser power measurement process. Inspect and clean the optics as needed, or replace them if necessary.

2. PROTECTION WINDOW

The protection window is important for identifying issues before they become problems during the laser cleaning process. That’s why maintenance is not only important for the sake of the window but for your other laser parts as well. A dirty or damaged window can extremely impact your optics. The cause is sometimes overheating, but the window can also become dirty from use. To ensure your protection window is prepared for each project, you should:

  1. Monitor the protection window before and after each use to assess any possible damage.
  2. Clean the window after each use to prevent cracking and further damage.
  3. Replace the protection window if a crack occurs to mitigate potential damage to the optic.

3. FIBER CARE

The fibers on our laser systems are what carry the laser beam from the resonator to the optic. It’s protected by a protective hose, which safeguards the water, air, and electrical lines. The protective hose is encased in a polyurethane cover to prevent environmental contamination — including most oils, liquids, and solvents. While normal wear and tear can occur with use, it’s important to maintain your fibers and protective covering to keep your system in good working condition. This includes:

  1. Checking the protective hose for wear and tear. If tears exist, tape any rips and re-enforce any structural damage.
  2. Examining the hose connections at the resonator and optic in case they’ve loosened, stretched, twisted, and bent. If they’ve become loosened, tighten them as needed.
  3. Inspecting that the hose is not compressed, kinked, or damaged. Repair or replace the hose as needed.
  4. Monitoring fiber temperatures during use and assuring adequate cooling at optic and fiber. Overheating can cause system failure or damage your product.
  5. Minimizing possible fiber damage by preventing optical back reflection. To ensure optimal performance, operate the laser system at the suggested 10–15-degree working angle.

4. CHILLER SYSTEM

Similar to an AC system, coolant is used to cool down your laser system. This keeps your solution from overheating. While this issue is often connected to the protection window and the optics, overheating can impact your entire system. That’s why every six months you should maintain your chiller system, including:

  1. Draining the old laser coolant.
  2. Replacing the water filter.
  3. Wiping out the filter housing.
  4. Replacing the laser coolant.

5. FILTER

Filters — along with the vacuum attached to the laser solution — are crucial for the environmental safety of your laser cleaning system. That’s because the filters prevent dirt, grease, and other gunk from blocking up your laser. This means your protection window won’t get dirty as quickly, and your optics will be safer. Water filters can also keep your chiller system operating for longer. To prevent filter issues, you should:

  1. Check the filters before use for damage or buildup. If they’re damaged, replace them before operating.
  2. Replace the filters every three months to ensure they’re working properly and catching any and all debris during use.
  3. Wipe out the filter housing every six months to prevent buildup and filter damage.

COMMON MAINTENANCE QUESTIONS

WHAT IS LASER MAINTENANCE LIKE? HOW OFTEN DO I NEED IT? HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

It depends on the laser. Low-powered systems are very robust, air-cooled, and easy to maintain. With low-powered lasers, it’s only the optic which needs to be cleaned typically — and this is a daily occurrence. Our team can also inspect, maintain, and measure the internal components of the laser yearly to ensure a lifetime of cleaning ability.

The mid- and high-powered lasers, meanwhile, are water-cooled systems. While these lasers also require the same daily optics maintenance, each has additional needs when it comes to upkeep. Both laser types require humidity control packets, water filters, protective lenses, and water services every six months — which our team can perform on your behalf as needed.

CAN I DO THE MAINTENANCE MYSELF?

Yes, you can do some of the basic day-to-day maintenance yourself — optic cleaning, water chiller maintenance, desiccant packet swapping, and protective window swapping for example. Anything more advanced will require training or assistance from our Adapt Laser team.

DOES THE LASER REQUIRE ANY CONSUMABLES?

The primary consumables will be either optic wipes or swabs, specialized cleaning wipes/swabs designed to not leave contaminants behinds, dehydrated alcohol — which won’t streak and is quick-drying — desiccant packs, and water filters. The consumables will depend on your specific needs, but in general, these are the most common.

DO YOU OFFER SERVICE CONTRACTS/PLANS?

A typical service contract includes two planned service trips per year with a discount on consumables. However, each contract is tailored to specific customers’ needs. Want to include a 24-hour, 48-hour, or 96-hour response time? Call us to discuss what might be best for you and how we can provide the solution.

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 1,600 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 Airforce and Navy — and hundreds of organizations trust our state-of-the-art laser cleaning solutions.

Contact us today or call (816) 466-5855 to find the right laser cleaning solution for you.

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