From the US military to automotive manufacturing plants, laser ablation technology is trusted to deliver effective cleaning results. Most of the time, these projects involve cleaning rust, coating, and other contaminants from hard metal substrates. What you may not realize, however, is that laser cleaning can also be used for some non-metal surfaces as well. But what non-metals are lasers suited to clean? And, what materials should you avoid?
NON-METAL PRODUCTS SUITED FOR LASER CLEANING
Just as with cleaning metals, laser ablation for ceramics works by irradiating the surface contaminants with thousands of laser pulses per second. The process is safe for the substrate ceramic layer and creates little waste — which is typically captured by the laser’s built-in suction nozzle.
As with any laser cleaning application, the key to success for ceramic cleaning is a properly calibrated laser solution. You want a laser system that can reach the ablation threshold necessary for cleaning the contaminant layers without damaging the products you’re cleaning. Therefore, choosing a laser with the right power level, settings, optics, and delivery system is critical. Thankfully, our laser experts have the knowledge to ensure you always have the right laser for the job.
COMMON LASER CLEANING USE CASES FOR CERAMICS:
Cleaning lasers are powerful enough to remove layers of rust from warships, but can also be designed for more gentle cleanings that require great precision — like removing grime and bacteria from natural stone. This includes marble, granite, limestone, concrete, and more. Our laser solutions have been used for extremely delicate projects like restoration of statuary, figures, and ornaments as well as larger surfaces such as building facades.
One of the greatest benefits of using laser ablation for cleaning natural stone is its ability to gently remove contaminant layers without damaging the underlying substrate. In fact, cleaning lasers were used on the Royal Tombs in Egypt to remove thousands of years of residue when even hand-cleaning methods were too abrasive. With mobility, power, and precision, laser cleaning systems can be an effective solution for many stone cleaning projects.
COMMON LASER CLEANING USE CASES FOR NATURAL STONE:
- Restoring stone statuary, ornaments, and other small historical surfaces
- Restoring historic architectural surfaces
- Cleaning stone building facades
- Specialized conservation and restoration
LIMITED USE CASE — PLASTICS
In many cases, laser ablation is not suitable for plastics. This is due to many factors, including the activation potential of the type of plastic in question. However, in certain instances, laser ablation can be used in bonding preparation involving plastic parts. They work by removing any adhesion blockers and the top layer of the plastics. Industrial use has proven the effectiveness of lasers for cleaning fiber-reinforced polyurethane and pre-treatment of CFRP, but they may not be as effective for many other plastics. If you have a cleaning project involving plastics, it’s best to speak with one of our laser experts in order to determine the viability of laser cleaning technology for your application.
LIMITED USE CASE — RUBBER
Our partner, cleanLASER has developed a new process for tire manufacturers. Now, our laser cleaning solutions can be automated to clean the inside of the tire for bonding sensors and other materials to it. Since this process requires automation, handheld laser solutions are not suitable for this process. Talk to our sales team to learn more about cleaning tires.
MATERIALS NOT USUALLY SUITABLE FOR LASER CLEANING
While lasers are extremely customizable for many applications, there are some materials that simply aren’t ideal for laser cleaning. These often include:
- Wood: Even finely-tuned lasers with expert operators will have a difficult time consistently cleaning wood surfaces without singing or otherwise damaging the wood sublayer. This is due to the threshold for damage and absorbency of wooden materials.
- Certain glass surfaces: Cleaning glass with lasers is possible but depends on the composition of the glass and a laser system configured especially for those surfaces. If you have a glass-cleaning project and are interested in laser technology, speak with an expert to see if a suitable laser cleaning system is available.
- Some rubber and other elastomerics: Aside from the automated process used for tire manufacturing, our handheld laser solution is not suitable for use on most rubber and elastomeric materials. That’s because cleaning rubber requires extreme precision — something not guaranteed with manual cleaning.
- Many plastics: As previously mentioned, laser cleaning for plastics is completely dependent on the type of plastic in question. The best way to determine if our lasers will work on your plastic products is to test them in our on-site in Kansas City, Missouri. Talk to one of our laser experts to determine if a laser cleaner will work for your plastic cleaning application.
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.