Laser cleaning systems are used to remove contaminants from a metallic surface. Among the most popular laser cleaning applications are rust removal and paint removal prior to welding or material assembly and weld cleaning (oxide removal) to increase the corrosion resistance of metallic surfaces.
The laser cleaning process is contact-free meaning the contaminant is removed without affecting part integrity. It also requires no consumable and is almost maintenance free.
With laser modules ranging from 100W up to 500W, we have the cleaning system to fit your cycle time and your budget. Our laser solutions are designed to be either integrated into a production line or used as a standalone workstation.
The LXQ 3D Series allows for laser cleaning on various part geometries. From curvy to tilted, or multi-level surfaces, this industrial system will perform fast and reliable laser cleaning.
Common Applications for Laser Cleaning
The most common applications for laser cleaning are weld cleaning as well as paint and rust removal. Laser cleaning can also be used to remove glue and adhesives or to clean plastic injection molds, rubber molds, and other manufacturing tools. Lasers are often used in the food industry for the maintenance and cleaning of stainless steel tanks and pipes to increase corrosion resistance. In these types of cleaning processes, lasers can also be used for surface preparation prior to applying other treatments, such as stainless steel passivation, chroming or anodization.
Another emerging application is surface texturing. As the name suggests, this process aims at creating a specific texture on an object by using laser ablation to modify the surface finish. Such laser application allows increasing surface adherence when dealing with glued assemblies.
Here is a list of popular applications for laser cleaning:
- Rust and oxidation cleaning
- Surface preparation
- Weld cleaning
- Mold cleaning
- Surface texturing
- Paint stripping and removal
Industries that Can Benefit Greatly from this Technology
Laser cleaning has rapidly replaced more traditional methods such as shot blasting, sand blasting or dry ice blasting that require a great amount of consumables. Since it relies on a highly reliable laser source, laser cleaning also represent a minimal maintenance solution when compared to other media blasting alternatives. The consistency of the cleaning process also represents a great advantage compared to the poor consistency that manual grinding offers.
The laser cleaning process can benefit many industries. Here are some processes that we often discuss with our customers:
- Aerospace manufacturers: surface preparation before joining or welding two parts
- Aluminum producers: clean the cathode and anodes to maintain their efficiency over time
- Steel producers: surface preparation before applying a protective coating
- Transportation maintenance (train): rust removal on wheel systems
- Forge and foundries: clean casted parts
What is the Cleaning Speed?
The cleaning speed is calculated in cm²/seconds. The laser cleaning speed is influenced by three factors: the laser output power, the type of contaminant and the thickness of the contaminant to be removed over the surface.
Laser output power
As a rule of thumb, more power equals more speed. Concretely, this means that a 200W laser cleaner will remove a contaminant twice as fast as a 100W laser.
The type of contaminant to be removed
Cleaning speed will also be influenced by the type of contaminant to be removed since some materials have a lower ablation threshold than others. As such, some contaminants require more power or more time to be vaporized.
The thickness of the contaminant
Finally, the thickness of the material to be removed affects the cleaning time. The thicker the contaminant, the more power or time is required.
Of course, each of these factors has an impact on the process speed. Contact our application specialists to learn more about the time required for your laser cleaning application.
Laserax offers laser cleaning machines reaching from 100W to 500W designed to be integrated inline or used as a manual workstation.
Can You Remove Different Layers?
Since there is an ablation threshold for each material, it is possible to discriminate between two or more materials when trying to remove an undesired layer from a metal substrate. Given a sufficiently large ablation threshold difference between the materials, it is possible to select one material to be removed (the one with the lower ablation threshold), leaving the other material untouched.
Is Laser Cleaning an Environmental Process?
With no consumable media such as abrasives, chemicals, solvents or liquids needed, laser cleaning is an environmentally friendly process. It allows for a huge reduction in the amount of waste that is created by other traditional methods. The energy consumed by the system is also very low compared to other industrial machinery and processes.
How Does a Laser Cleaning Machine Work?
Laser cleaning machines use a powerful pulsed laser beam to precisely irradiate and vaporize the layer of contaminants until the desired depth of ablation has been reached. Every material has a specific ablation threshold. Set just above that ablation threshold, the laser beam can remove the surface material without affecting the base material, even after several passes. The laser output power and pulse duration can be configured to optimize the cleaning process efficiency.