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Blog on laser marking & traceability, laser cleaning and safety standards

Laser Cleaning, a Realistic Alternative to Sandblasting

Sandblasting is extensively used in some many industry that it is pointless to list them all here. At Laserax, we firmly believe that for many application, especially those that are repetitive and require localized contaminants removal, the advantages of laser cleaning will renders sandblasting obsolete.

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.

Shotblasting a metal parts with closed cabinet

Figure 1 - Inside a typical shotblasting cabinet (2)

Disadvantages of sandblasting

  • Costs may become prohibitive for large installations

  • Blastin 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 effect a material is called the ablation threshold.

Laser ablation used for laser cleaning

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 equipments (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

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 mobile 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 mobile laser cleaning system. It shows our ergonomic laser cleaning system removing rust, oxidation, paint and other such contaminants. A zero gravity articulated arm provides the support required for a full day of work without excessive strain on the operator’s musculoskeletal system.

 

Video 3 - Demonstration of Laserax's on-ste laser cleaning

Conclusion

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.

Request a Quote

References:

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

Posted by Normand Lemieux, BBA

Normand Lemieux

Normand is a well-rounded and autonomous marketing professional with a recent specialization in web marketing. He thrives to share experiences, to apply knowledge, to learn new things and get stuff done.

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