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Industrial Laser Trends

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

The Basics of Laser Safety... for Sealed Enclosures

One of the most common uses of lasers is, you guessed it, office laser printing. As a matter of fact, laser diodes can be found in your regular run-of-the-mill office printer. You probably never thought about it, because laser labeling is not required for laser sources encased in a properly designed enclosure: the printer’s body. Thanks to this housing, you don’t have to run around the office with laser safety glasses either!

Lasers in Industrial Applications

Laserax has developed similar enclosures for the most demanding industrial applications. But before reviewing the details regarding industrial sealed safety enclosures, let’s review what the American standard has to say about laser safety classes.

Laser Safety Classes

According to ANSI Z136.1 - American Standard for Safe Use of Lasers, lasers can be categorized into seven safety classes: Class 1, Class 1M, Class 2, Class 2M, Class 3R, Class 3B and Class 4. The standard recommends specific actions that must be taken for each laser safety class to ensure safe usage. Only Laser Safety Classes 1 and 4 are relevant for applications that are covered by Laserax’s industrial lasers.

High-power Laser: 

Lasers that may cause harm to eye and skin not only from direct exposure but also through specular and diffuse reflections (Rockwell, p.10).

Laser Safety Class 1: 

Lasers or laser systems that do not, under normal operating conditions, pose a hazard (Rockwell, p. 9).

Laser Safety Class 4: 

Lasers or laser systems that produce a hazard from not only direct or specular reflections but may also produce hazardous diffuse reflections. Such lasers may produce significant skin hazards as well as fire hazards (Rockwell, p. 10).

The Benefits of  Sealed Enclosures

The laser beam found inside your office printer could harm you. But since it is encased in the body of the printer there are no danger. Your office laser printer is a Class 1 laser system, it is perfectly safe under normal operations.

The same is true for Laserax’s industrial lasers that are embedded in laser safety enclosures for conveyors, in freestanding laser safety enclosures and in open-air enclosures.

What Are the Requirements of a Sealed Enclosure

An enclosure designed to turn a high-power Class 4 laser into a totally safe Class 1 laser system has to prevent access to the area where the laser beam intensity may be hazardous to eyes and skin.

That requirement extend to removable protective housings. If the removal of protective housings or service panels, for maintenance or otherwise, exposes people to hazardous laser radiation then special labeling has to warn users of the impending increased risk. Interlocks can also be used to prevent the laser from shooting when such access panels or protective housings is removed.

Click the image below to view a laser system with a sealed enclosure

Hyperlink to Video of Laser Marking with Rotary Table


If there are windows, such as featured in the video above, they have to prevent hazardous level of radiation.

Key-switch master control mechanisms are preferable as they prevent unauthorized personnel from operating the laser.

Special Circumstances

Because of your newfound curiosity for this staple of every office around the world, you may decide to take your laser printer apart to see what’s inside. You unscrew, unsnap and probably break some of the housing. You will stumble upon labels warning you of the increased risk. You shouldn’t take these warnings lightly, because you are no longer using the printer as it was intended.

Click the image below to view another laser system with a sealed enclosure

Video: laser marking of lead bundle on a conveyor with class 1 enclosure

 

The safety enclosure of an industrial laser should not be modified or tampered with. However, if access panels or parts of the housing are removed and the interlocks are bypassed for maintenance purpose, then a temporary laser controlled area (LCA) needs to be created. Warning signs will have to be added. Personnel entering the temporary LCA will have to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Other administrative controls will also have to be put in place.

If that seems like a lot of troubles to you, consider our preventive maintenance plan. And know that your laser will be taken care of by trained professionals who take the security of your staff to heart.

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Conclusion

High-power industrial lasers embedded in safety enclosures can be used safely without any special precautions or personal protective equipment, just like your office laser printer. Should you like to keep reading about laser safety, check this blog.

Laserax has developed lasers that can be used to do direct part marking on metals, plastics and other materials. Our laser solutions provide individualized markings adapted to your specific needs. We have developed a modular approach that provides unique laser marking solutions at an affordable price.

Our lasers can also be used for cleaning, derusting and preparing surfaces for welding and for many other post-treatment processes. Check our blog for more information on Laserax's laser cleaner.

 

Contact a Laser Expert

 


Laserax
is a laser system manufacturer that provides efficient, innovative and safe solutions for the most demanding industrial applications. We rely on a team of laser technology experts to offer a complete range of products for laser marking and laser cleaning.

Sources:
Rockwell, Benjamin. (Ed.). (2015). Laser Safety Guide (12th ed.). Orlando, FL: Laser Institute of America, 50 p.
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