Laser ablation is one of the safest and most effective methods for cleaning products and prepping surfaces for bonding, welding, and coating. But, there are still some safety precautions that must take place when operating your laser solution. This includes laser safety glasses, participating in training, and creating a designated optical hazard zone. The reason for these safety precautions and personal protective equipment is due to back reflection. But, what is it? And, how does it impact your laser solution?
WHAT IS LASER BACK REFLECTION?
When operating your laser solution, the light from the beam can reflect back to the optic. This is known as laser back reflection or optical return loss and can severely damage your equipment. Each laser solution is designed to minimize this issue, but some back reflection may still occur. Not only is this dangerous for the laser itself, but it puts your operators and employees at risk if they aren’t wearing the appropriate PPE. To mitigate the risk to the equipment, a protection window is used to block any light from returning to the source — keeping your laser safe.
HOW DOES BACK REFLECTION IMPACT YOUR LASER?
Typically, the light from your laser solution travels through the fibers and is pulsed to absorb into and remove contaminants from your product. But, in the case of back reflection, some of the laser light travels back to the optic. This can cause your optic to overheat, crack, or become damaged.
To prevent this from happening, a protection window is put into place to block any back reflection. After each use, you should inspect your protection window to ensure no cracks or damage have occurred — as this could cause some back reflection to return to the source.
MAINTAINING YOUR LASER TO MITIGATE RISKS
The key to preventing back reflection is by maintaining your laser solution. This includes monitoring parts for damage and addressing any errors that may be displayed by your sensor. Some parts that may be impacted by back reflection include:
1. PROTECTION WINDOW
After each use, you should inspect your protection window to ensure no cracks or damage have occurred — as this could cause some back reflection to return to the source. Should your protection window become cloudy, cracked, or damaged, you should replace the part. Contact our team about our quick-swap protection window options.
Failure to maintain the protection window may allow the light to return to the source — your optic. This can cause the optic to overheat. In a worst-case scenario, your optic may become damaged, and an entirely new laser will need to be built. As such, it’s imperative that you regularly monitor your protection window and optic for any signs of damage and address all error messages. In most cases, your sensor should alert you if overheating occurs.
How well your fibers connect to each other impacts how much back reflection your laser system may produce. In partnerships with cleanLASER, we’ve refined our custom-build process so that you experience as little gap as possible. But over time, back reflection — among other factors — may cause some fiber damage. These issues should be identified by your sensor, but you should inspect your fibers for cracking, bending, and other damage after operating your laser system.
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.