The illustration shows the effects of laser cleaning. The grey layer on top of the base material is the contamination. This layer will absorb the laser energy very well, whereas the base material (steel, aluminum, wood, plastics...) will reflect most of the energy.
The laser is short pulsed, this means that the laser beam is comparable to small bullets of light, shooting at a frequency of around 200.000 pulses/second!
When a bullet hits the absorbing layer, two things can happen:
The base material stays cold, while the absorbing layer heats up.The heat-expansion difference will cause the contaminant to crimp off the base material.
The contaminant heats up that much, a plasma is created around the working area. This will cause evaporation.
Cleaning with laser has gained so much interest because of the amount of advantages compared to traditional cleaning methods.
The most popular methods of industrial cleaning known today are Chemical, Thermochemical, Thermal, Grinding and Blasting. In many cases, laser cleaning can overcome the downsides of these traditional methods and even improve the production process in general. For every application where laser cleaning is used to replace older techniques, unforeseen advantages came up. It is impossible to list everything, but these are the most common advantages of laser cleaning:
Nowadays, laser cleaning is taking big leaps forward. New markets approach us every day, asking for a solution for their business. Companies are convinced laser cleaning is 'proven-technology' where an investment can easily return itself within 1 or 2 years with ease!
New production lines are often equipped with lasers for cleaning continuously. No more block-ups, less maintenance interventions, better and consistent product quality... you name it.
In the future laser cleaning will be more and more adopted as a standard technique for optimizing new and old production lines. The market will grow significantly within 2-5 years, increasing the demand for cleaning lasers. This will get the competition going to develop higher power lasers, increasing the cleaning speed which can be reached.