Laser cleaning is a safer, non-abrasive alternative to sandblasting for various applications. This innovative technique effectively cleans surfaces, prepares them for coating or welding, removes rust, and strips paint, all while minimizing damage to the material, ensuring an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective solution for diverse industries.
What is Sandblasting?
Sandblasting, or abrasive blasting, is the material processing that results from the propulsion of an abrasive material under high pressure to a surface. The abrasive material is propelled by compressed air or by water.(1) It can serve different purposes; however, its most popular use is the removal of surface contaminants. Rust, different oxides, oil, grease, and paint are commonly removed by sandblasting.
Figure 1 - Inside a typical shotblasting cabinet (2)
Disadvantages of sandblasting
Costs may become prohibitive for large installations
Blasting media need to be recycled and replaced from time to time
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for large sandblasting installation is cumbersome
Hard to automate
Advantages of sandblasting
It is a known technology that dates back to the 1910s
Environment, health and safety risks are easy to manage
Simple and flexible
Laser Cleaning as an Alternative to Sandblasting
Laser cleaning may serve a similar purpose than sandblasting: removing rust, different oxides, oil, grease and paint. However, it uses laser ablation to remove the contaminants with little to no impact on the underlying material.
Laser ablation vaporizes the contaminants through the emission of short pulses of high levels of energy to very small surfaces. The power that is transmitted increases the temperature of the contaminants to the point that they are vaporized.
It so happens that contaminants usually require less energy per unit surface to be vaporized than the surfaces they reside on. The minimum intensity required to affect a material is called the ablation threshold.
Figure 2 - Illustration of laser cleaning
If the intensity of the laser is above the ablation threshold of the material, it will have an impact on the material. Otherwise, nothing happens to the material, except for a slight localized temperature increase. This is true even when you pass several times on a material at intensities below its ablation threshold.
Laser Safety Management
As far as safety goes, Laserax specializes in automated industrial laser solutions that use Class 1 laser safety enclosures. These enclosures prevent exposure to harmful laser beams. They serve the same purpose as the shotblast cabinets shown in the images above. Since workers are not exposed to harmful laser beams, there is no need for personal protective equipment (PPE), special training and other user control measures.
Laser Cleaning Demonstration
Watch a laser cleaning compilation. You will see, in the following video, Laserax’s lasers removing rust on steel and cleaning heat stain on stainless steel weld. The video also illustrates the ability of our laser systems to manage complex surfaces (round, inclined and V-shaped). Click the image below to start the video demonstrating Laserax’s laser cleaning systems.
Video 1 - Laser cleaning compilation
Disadvantages of Laser Cleaning
Relatively high initial capital expenditure is required
Advantages of Laser Cleaning
Easy to automate
Great repeatability and reproducibility
Requires no consumables
Most applications require no PPE and no training
It is possible to affect very localized area without taping
A range of handheld, manual and automated solutions
Laserax Laser Cleaning Machines
Modularized Laser Cleaning Solutions for Industrial Applications
Laserax has developed laser cleaning machines that require very little effort on the part of users. Our automated laser cleaning solutions require no training and no PPE. These solutions are built using a modular approach. They are composed of a laser, options and enclosures. Such an approach reduces the price and risks usually associated with highly adapted laser systems. Get worry-free solutions designed and installed by Laserax’s team of laser technology experts.
Video 2 - Laserax's Modular ApproachTM
On-site Laser Cleaning for Repair and Maintenance
Laserax also offers a handheld laser cleaning system. It provides unprecedented flexibility for different on-site laser cleaning operations. It is ideal for maintenance and repair purposes. Especially in areas that are access controlled.
Watch a video demonstration of Laserax’s handheld laser cleaning system. It shows our ergonomic laser cleaning system removing rust, oxidation, paint and other such contaminants.
For small batches of parts that can fit in a sandblasting cabinet, laser cleaning might be harder to justify financially. Nevertheless, for repetitive industrial parts of any size, the advantages of laser cleaning outweigh the initial capital expenditure.
Laserax’s ability to combine field-tested modules to provide automated solutions that are adapted to your needs at an attractive price makes it the laser cleaning system supplier of choice.
Get in touch with our laser technology experts for more information on our offering.
1- Abrasive blasting. (2018, November 13). Retrieved November 28, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrasive_blasting
2- "painel de Harvard Mk II" by Ricardo Reis used under license CC BY-SA 2.0