Buying a laser cleaning solution means learning all new terminology. From optics and window protection to comparing COTS and developed solutions, understanding complex terms are the first step toward making an informed decision when it comes to building and operating your laser system. That’s why we’ve created a comprehensive list of the most common laser cleaning terminology that you’ll need to know when considering the purchase of a laser system.
THE BASIC TERMINOLOGY
Laser ablation is the process of removing contaminants from a product, tool, or other surface using laser cleaning technology. We commonly compare laser ablation to other abrasive cleaning methods — such as sandblasting, dry ice blasting, and more.
Pulse is a short burst of light. It often refers to the method of distribution from the laser cleaning solution. While some laser providers offer systems that use continuous-waves, our systems use thousands of laser pulses per second to help safely and effectively remove contaminants.
Continuous-wave lasers are solutions that don’t offer focused pulsed laser light. These lasers are commonly used in cutting and welding applications. As such, they are not suitable for laser cleaning because the light hits the top surface for longer periods of time and can be damaging.
Intensity is a mathematical relationship between power per pulse and the beam spot size. In laser ablation, intensity relates to the energy needed to remove contaminants while considering the damage threshold.
The substrate is the bare surface of your product, tool, or other items. The surface is what’s typically covered by contaminants — including rust, grease, and other sticky or hazardous agents. If damaged, the substrate can impact the integrity and lifespan of your product.
Damage is the physical harm caused to something in such a way as to impair its value, usefulness, or normal function. When talking about laser cleaning, this often means the intensity at which the energy of the laser can alter the structure in some way, and is dependent on each application. Steel has a different threshold than aluminum, which impacts the intensity required to remove the contaminants. If the intensity is lower than the damage threshold, no damage will take place.
Beam shape is the output of the laser light on your product. It’s typically either gaussian or flat-top. But, the beam shape is determined by the laser source. The right solution for your problem is determined during the custom-build process and is based on your needs.
Contaminants are the products impeding a manufacturing or maintenance process from occurring correctly. Contaminants range from oxides to mold release agents, grease, oils, and more.
Handheld laser cleaning solutions are options that can be held and manually used without the need for robotics. Some options are available as a backpack that can be carried and used for specific targeted areas.
Automated laser cleaning solutions are options that have been integrated into a robot or gantry process — such as a manufacturing line. They are used for cleaning tasks that require repetitive movements.
OPTICAL HAZARD ZONE
The designated space where eyes can potentially be damaged and requires eyesight mitigation within that distance. This zone requires a sign and a locking mechanism to ensure that employees cannot enter the space while the laser is in use. This zone must also be able to prevent people from experiencing direct laser light while they are not in the area.
PURCHASING A LASER TERMINOLOGY
Also known as commercial-off-the-shelf laser options. These laser solutions don’t take into consideration all of your environmental or operational requirements. They’re typically cheaper options that produce poor quality cleanings, often break, offer the wrong beam shape, use continuous-wave lasers instead of pulsed, are far too intense, and/or damage your product.
These laser solutions have been designed and developed with special considerations in mind — including technical, operational, and environmental factors. Developed solutions are also known as customized or custom-built laser solutions.
Integrated chillers are cooling systems that have been included in the build of a laser cleaning solution. Integrated chillers prevent the laser system from overheating by providing a signal to the sensor that there is an issue.
Integrated suction refers to the channel built into the optic and is connected to the filter unit. This prevents hazardous particles from entering the air and makes our laser cleaning solutions safer than other methods.
READY FOR PRODUCTION
Also known as production-ready, this refers to a laser cleaning solution being ready to use as-is without any modifications. Our custom-built laser cleaning solutions are designed to be ready for production.
MADE IN AMERICA
This phrase is often a term used by competitors to make it appear that their laser solutions are locally made. However, these products are typically made from cheap offshore parts and may feature a continuous-wave laser.
Abrasives refer to the type of material used during blasting cleaning methods. In sandblasting, it uses sand to forcibly remove contaminants. These abrasives can impact the integrity of your substrate, causing damage.
Consumables are materials used during the cleaning process. With blasting options, this includes abrasives such as sand, dry-ice, and more. Our laser cleaning solutions require no-consumables — making operating costs less than $1.
MAINTAINING YOUR LASER TERMINOLOGY
The protection window is a clear screen that protects your laser system from back reflection. This window needs cleaning daily to prevent damage to the laser solution.
The beam switch allows your laser system to change between emitting from one of two optics — typically one automated and one handheld. Maximize your functionality and improve your operations by switching up your laser cleaning process.
Laser fibers are a component found in your laser solution that transports the laser beam from the resonator to the optic. They are coated in polyurethane to protect the fibers during operations and are stored in the umbilical (a green hose on our systems that also contain electronic/communication wires and cooling lines).
Also known as the laser cooling system, the water chiller is integrated into your mobile laser solution to prevent the system from overheating. The chiller draws excess heat from the laser — maintaining efficiency and stabilizing laser output. It needs to be routinely maintained every six and 12-months. For stationary systems, external chillers are available if facility cooling water is not.
The laser optic is an element and system which are used with laser cleaning technology. It’s primarily used to transmit and manipulate the laser beam and can impact beam spot size.
When operating your laser solution, the light from the beam can reflect back to your laser. The protection window prevents this light from damaging your laser solution, but this can be dangerous to your operator and passerby’s if safety glasses aren’t worn and an optical hazard zone isn’t used.
Quick-swap or quick change solutions are components that can replace previous parts more quickly than traditional parts. We offer quick-swap fibers and protection windows to minimize downtime and keep you operational.
Each laser solution is equipped with an emergency stop that prevents your laser from operating. This eliminates the risk of further damage when your sensor is giving an error message.
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.