Laser Cleaning Techniques in Industrial Applications

Laser technology is now replacing conventional abrasive and chemical processes in many applications, such as rust removal, depainting, degreasing, activation, restoration, pre-/post-welding joint cleaning, surface preparation, decontamination, and rejuvenation. As a cleaning technique, lasers are increasingly popular because they are precise, controllable, and efficient, and they generate low waste. Additionally, low waste and high efficiency are the primary reasons that laser cleaning is now considered the “greenest” or most environmentally friendly approach to surface cleaning. The only waste created is dust particles, which can be easily collected and removed.

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How Does Laser Cleaning Work?

Laser cleaning uses a focused beam of light to remove contaminants. The term “ablation” denotes the processes of removing material from surfaces and is accompanied by a shock wave that propagates outward, affecting surrounding surfaces. The laser’s energy is absorbed by the surface material, which results in the production of a plasma plume of ablation products. Various theoretical approaches have been developed to describe the ablation process, and a number of studies have been performed to measure ablation parameters at different conditions. Ablation thresholds have also been measured for a variety of metals ranging from 0.1 to 10 J/sq cm, and these values have been found to be dependent on the laser beam wavelength and pulse duration. The ablation rate, or the amount of material being removed, is proportional to the logarithm of a laser’s power. The efficiency of the laser beam absorption depends on the material reflectivity, the quality of the surface, and the properties of the contaminant on the surface.

When materials are processed with a laser beam, their surface properties can change. In some applications, a surface must remain fine-polished, while in others, the surface needs to be rough. Therefore, for a successful finish, laser cleaning techniques should take into account the properties of both the material being cleaned and the material the quality of the surface, and the properties of the contaminant on the surface. to be removed

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Industrial Applications Of Laser Cleaning

Laser Blasting Rust

Rust is caused by the oxidization of metal when exposed to water. This significantly reduces the lifespan and performance of the affected metal part. Traditionally, rust removal was achieved by grinding and cutting away affected areas. With a laser, rust is removed through sublimation, which means the physical state of the rust is changed from a solid to a gas, skipping the liquid state. The substrate is left untouched because once the laser reaches the metal, the laser beam is reflected. In addition to the end result, other factors that make laser-blasting surpass sandblasting include cost, safety, and reduced environmental impact.

Laser Surface Preparation

Another common industrial laser application is surface preparation. CFRP’s (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) are composite materials commonly used in assembling aerospace structures. To reduce weight and increase structural integrity, these components are often bonded together with adhesive. To ensure the reliability of bonded joints, the surface preparation method is critical. The surface prep stage must be highly controlled to create robust, predictable, and repeatable bonds. Laser ablation can provide an efficient and precise means of cleaning and texturing composite surfaces for adhesive bonding. By precisely focusing the laser, specific profiles can be produced to increase surface area for greater adhesion and added strength. Other advantages of using laser systems for surface prep include eliminating physical waste, such as abrasives, and their disposal, adding robotic automation capabilities, and ultimately reducing margins of error by introducing high levels of precision, control, and accuracy.

Advantages of laser surface preparation

  • Chemical-free
  • Contact-free
  • Minimal residue
  • Precision and control
  • Speed

Rust removal in metal manufacturing plants

Exposure to moisture causes metals to rust and lose quality. Metal with an oxide layer may not be suitable for use in another application unless the coat is scraped first. Laser machines help remove these layers without compromising the surface beneath or catalyzing further oxidation.

Selective paint stripping

Since laser beams can be focused on small areas on a surface, laser cleaning machines are pretty accurate in selective paint removal. This property can come in handy when there is a branding mistake that needs correcting or when only a section of a metal surface is damaged and needs to be cleaned and repainted.

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