If you’re familiar with using sandblasting or other media options when cleaning your products, then you know what to expect — a surface mostly void of contaminants, some slight damage creating a near-white finish, and secondary waste that you need to safely dispose of. The truth is that different media options impact your substrate and coatings differently. While abrasive options tend to blast coatings into the air or media, laser ablation absorbs those particles safely. But, how does it work? And, what exactly happens to the product’s substrate?
HOW DOES LASER CLEANING WORK?
Laser cleaning — also known as laser ablation — used thousands of pulses per second to absorb into and remove contaminants. The laser light penetrates and removes the contaminants on the surface of your product, and a vacuum is used to absorb those particles so that no secondary cleaning process is needed.
Laser cleaning is typically used for removing rust, grease, oil, hazardous paint, and other contaminants that can impact your product. But, laser solutions can be used for more than eliminating corrosion. Other common uses include:
- Bonding preparation
- Coating preparation
- Nuclear decontamination
- Surface prep for NDI
- Welding/brazing preparation
- Welding post-treatment
THE IMPACT ON THE SUBSTRATE
Unlike other media options which can damage the substrate or leave behind a thin layer, laser cleaning removes coatings down to the surface material without impacting the substrate — unless otherwise desired. This makes it the ideal solution for pre- and post-welding treatment. Due to the clean surface area, your products will hold a stronger bond, which strengthens the quality of your weld.
On some occasions — such as surface roughening — you may want to impact the substrate enough to create a specific texture. By adjusting the laser solution, we can account for these specific use-cases. This works best on materials such as:
- Lightweight metals — like aluminum and magnesium
- Glass fiber composites
THE IMPACT ON COATINGS
Whether the contaminants are thick, like rust and grease, or hazardous, such as chemical agent resistant coatings (CARC) and lead-based paints, the result is the same. The coatings are safely absorbed and removed by the laser solution. Difficult to remove coatings often result in inefficiencies, downtime, and multiple treatments. But, with laser ablation, you can automate the solution — making it up to 15 times faster than some other media options.
COMMON LASER SOLUTION QUESTIONS
WHAT’S IN THE FUMES GENERATED? WHERE DO THE FUME PARTICLES GO?
Whatever is on the surface poses the potential to be in the air. Fume particles with handheld and automated cleaning lasers have either filtration built into the optic or come with a separate channel so that the gas can safely be captured by our Teka laser ablation and filter units.
DOES ANYTHING SPECIAL NEED TO BE DONE AFTER A LASER CLEANING APPLICATION?
No. One of the most convenient benefits of laser cleaning is that your team is good to go as soon as the laser cleaning is complete. Our solutions require no secondary cleaning process.
CAN THE LASERS REMOVE COATINGS FROM PLASTIC?
Yes and no. Other forms of media cleaning work better for plastic substrates. It is most likely to melt with traditional plastics, however, we have tested several unique plastic combinations for specific cleaning applications and had limited success. Depending on your item, we can offer testing at our lab or onsite at your facility to determine if our laser solutions are the best solution for cleaning your plastic.
HOW FAST WILL THE LASER CLEAN?
This depends on the laser system and settings, the contaminant, the part geometry, and thickness. The maximum cleaning rate would be approximately up to four square feet per minute per mil (.001”) of coating thickness is the general pace.
WILL IT WORK ON A ROBOT? DO YOU WORK WITH A SPECIFIC ROBOT OR INTEGRATOR?
All of our laser systems can be mounted to a robot if you’re looking to automate. This is a key part of our custom build. We’re happy to work with everybody — connect us with your provider.
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.