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Understanding the Hazards: Exploring the Side Effects of Laser Cutting

Understanding the Hazards: Exploring the Side Effects of Laser Cutting

Since 1965, laser cutting has been used by many industries to cut materials from diamonds to wood. As the application continues to be used for many industrial purposes, it is also growing in popularity among schools, small businesses, and even hobbyists.

Laser cutting not only allows users to DIY but also enables precise measurement, allowing users to get the exact size they want. But the process can also be hazardous to personal health due to the harmful fumes emitted. If the workplace does not have the necessary air filtration system, the situation becomes even more dangerous.

What is Laser Cutting?

According to Cut Laser Cut, laser cutting involves the use of computer-aided design to help with the cutting process for precision. The process evolved after it was first used to cut diamonds.

In the early 1970s, CO2 lasers were introduced that made it easier to cut materials that were not metal, such as fabrics. Since then, three different types of lasers have become common:

  • Fiber lasers
  • CO2 lasers
  • Nd and Nd-YAG

CO2 lasers are the most popular type because of the versatility it provides. These machines can cut or engrave steel, titanium, stainless steel, wood, plastic, and much more. Trotec, another laser cutting operator, explained how CO2 cutting machines incorporate a carbon dioxide gas mixture.

Laser-cutting machines are classified by the American National Standards Institute, with most being designated as a Class 1 laser. These machines are not overly hazardous because they don’t emit high levels of energy. However, Class 3B or 4 lasers are the opposite, as these machines are more powerful and therefore more harmful.

Personnel operating machines must protect their skin and eyes, but they must not forget about the surrounding air.

Laser Fumes

According to Carnegie Mellon University, laser beams are hazardous during the cutting or engraving process because Laser-Generated Air Contaminants are released. Harmful emissions are typically associated with Class 3B or 4 lasers. Essentially, chemical vapors, aerosols, or smoke can be emitted when a laser beam is interacting with various materials.

The Board of Laser Safety explained how, during the cutting process, high temperatures cause the surrounding air to expand. Once materials are being treated by the laser beam, they’ll emit gases that rapidly expand and release dangerous particles.

Carnegie Mellon noted that the particles released depend on the type of material being drilled, cut, or engraved. The following is a list of some materials and the associated emissions, as highlighted by The Board of Laser Safety:

The Board of Laser Safety explained how, during the cutting process, high temperatures cause the surrounding air to expand. Once materials are being treated by the laser beam, they’ll emit gases that rapidly expand and release dangerous particles.

Carnegie Mellon noted that the particles released depend on the type of material being drilled, cut, or engraved. The following is a list of some materials and the associated emissions, as highlighted by The Board of Laser Safety:

 

Because of these toxic fumes, worksites need to ensure personal space and larger areas follow ventilation requirements and are equipped with the appropriate filtration and laser fume extraction systems. Even school administration and building managers have to ensure students are protected at all times.

Laser Fume Extraction and Air Filtration

Buildings where laser cutting occurs may require some different filtration options to capture harmful smoke and air particles.

For filtration systems, multiple filters are required and replaced when appropriate. There are three types of filters that will come in handy: activated carbon, fiberglass, and HEPA.

Activated carbon filters that utilize chemical absorption methods are very useful as they help filter vapors and chemical gases. However, in order to contain all harmful substances, a HEPA filter is also required. By utilizing HEPA filters, metal and dust fumes will also be captured. With both types of filters working together, emissions from all types of materials can potentially be captured.

But if it is a large factory. HVAC exhaust systems are needed to remove pollutants. In addition, laser smoke extraction is mainly used in smaller spaces, such as classrooms or small businesses.

Individual DIY enthusiasts and independent artists may find laser smoke extraction systems more beneficial because they take up less space and filter out harmful particles, eliminating the need to order an extensive HVAC system. Plus, they are portable and can be moved around easily.

Businesses of all sizes, schools, and even small artists who specialize in laser cutting must protect themselves from the harmful particles and fumes emitted during the laser cutting process. A high-power smoke exhauster is a must.

With the help of air impurity removal systems, everyone can ensure that they have the necessary air filtration, laser fume extraction systems, and more.

In the Fumeclear® product series, there are medium and large Fume Extractor specially designed for laser cutting. You can click to view our laser cutting Fume Extractor, or consult us via email

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