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Fiber Laser Cleaners - The Machines Taking Over Metal Cleaning

authorIcon By Guillaume Jobin on January 10, 2023 topicIcon Laser Cleaning

A fiber laser cleaner is a tool used to clean a variety of materials such metals and ceramics. It uses a highly focused beam of light to remove contaminants like oil, dust, rust, and paint. Because of its precision and efficiency, it is commonly used in the automotive, aerospace, and medical industries.

Fiber laser cleaners are becoming increasingly popular to clean metal surfaces due to their many advantages over traditional cleaning methods like sandblasting and chemical cleaning.

Industrial Applications

1. Laser Rust Removal

 

Fiber lasers are highly effective at removing rust. However, they are typically only used in high-volume production lines since they are not cost-effective for small scale rust removal projects like refurbishing or cleaning stored parts affected by corrosion. The laser cleaning speed is affected by the rust grade, but a higher power laser can speed up the process.

2. Laser Oxide Removal

 

Fiber lasers can remove all types of oxides from metal surfaces. Laser oxide removal is widely used to prepare surfaces for laser welding, coatings, or adhesives. For coating and adhesive surface preparation, single-mode fiber lasers are ideal, as they can both remove oxides and texture the surface at the same time, improving the coating’s adhesion in the process.

3. Laser Coating Removal

 

Laser coating removal, also known as laser paint stripping or laser paint removal, is a popular choice for removing coatings such as e-coating, powder coating, and phosphate coating.

Fiber lasers offer the precision needed to eliminate masking operations in production lines. Instead of masking and coating parts, parts are fully coated and the laser removes the coating from the areas that would have been masked otherwise. This eliminates masking errors, improves precision and repeatability, and speeds up the coating process.

Examples of Fiber Laser Cleaning Machines

Robot Laser Cleaning Machine

 

The fiber laser cleaning head can be mounted on robot arms to clean complex surfaces that have, for example, several cleaning areas or curved surfaces. The laser is moved as needed over the cleaning areas, and the parts can be fixed into position or rotated on itself.

Conveyor Laser Cleaning Machine

 

Fiber lasers can be installed above conveyor lines to clean moving or stopped parts on conveyors. Conveyor laser cleaning machines are used, for example, in battery production lines to clean cylindrical cells in battery packs.

Manually Loaded Laser Cleaning Machine

 

For low production volumes, manually loaded workstations are often preferred over fully automated solutions. Workstations can still achieve a high throughput when equipped with a rotary table, as operators can load parts onto the table while other parts are being cleaned on the other side.

High-Power Fiber Laser Cleaners

High-power fiber lasers can be installed in machines when the speed of the cleaning process is of the utmost importance. At Laserax, high power lasers systems offer up to 1,000W of laser power, while our ultra-high power systems offer up to 3,000W of power.

Handheld Laser Cleaning Systems

Handheld laser systems are designed to be portable. The operator holds a “gun” that can be positioned to access any area on complex workpieces. These systems are well-suited for low-volume production environments where multiple parts of various shapes and sizes need to be cleaned. The laser system is mounted on wheels so it can be moved around.

Advantages of Fiber Laser Cleaning

Fiber lasers offer competitive advantages in manufacturing. They are especially useful in high-volume production lines to improve efficiency and part quality.

Precision

One major advantage of fiber laser cleaners is their precision and repeatability. Because the laser beam is focused on a very small area, it can effectively clean specific areas without touching the rest (selective paint stripping). This allows manufacturers to clean delicate components like EV batteries or fuel cells without the risk of damaging their surface, their structure, or other components.

High Speed

Another advantage of fiber laser cleaners is their speed. Traditional cleaning methods like sandblasting and chemical cleaning require multiple steps and can be slow and labor-intensive to clean precise areas. This leads to production bottlenecks and low cleaning efficiency.

Fiber laser cleaners, on the other hand, quickly and effectively clean surfaces in automated production lines. High-power multimode fiber lasers can even clean large surfaces in a single pass, allowing manufacturers to keep their production lines running smoothly and efficiently.

No Consumables

Unlike sandblasting and chemical cleaning, fiber laser cleaners operate without consumables and waste products, as the laser source used to generate the laser beam is an optical fiber cable. This leads to lower operating costs as well as a more reliable process, as consumables typically deteriorate over time and affect quality.

Non-Contact Cleaning

Fiber lasers clean surfaces without physically touching them and without applying any force on the surface. The main advantage of this is that it is much more precise and selective than other cleaning methods. This allows for the removal of specific contaminants without damaging the substrate or the surrounding material, especially if it is thin or delicate.

It also avoids the risk of damage to the cleaning device and the surface being cleaned. As a non-contact process, laser cleaning is much faster and efficient than other cleaning methods, as there are fewer mechanical movements involved.

Up-and-Coming Surface Cleaning Applications with Fiber Lasers

Fiber laser cleaning technology is important for many up-and-coming surface-cleaning applications like in EV battery and fuel cell manufacturing. Because fiber lasers can handle a wide range of tasks with ease and efficiency, they are increasingly popular among manufacturers and the industrial world in general.

 

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Guillaume Jobin's picture

Guillaume Jobin

Trained as a Mechanical Engineer, Guillaume Jobin has more than 10 years of experience in automation and control. He is Supervisor of Application Specialists at Laserax, where he oversees the team that analyzes clients' needs and that designs the right laser solutions for them. He is also a member of the Corporate Sustainability Committee.