In the present times, materials such as metal, plastic, textile and so on are now commonly cut using laser because it is capable of making fast and accurate clean cuts, eliminating the need for additional finishing. However, laser cutting or laser engraving can produce toxic fumes, which are officially referred to as the Laser Generated Air Contaminants (LGAC). LGACs can pose risks to your workers if exposed for a prolonged period of time. This is where a laser fume extractor comes in.
Laser fume extractors are able to capture toxic fumes and particulate before they get close enough to be inhaled by workers. In fact, laser fume extraction systems are necessary for maintaining a productive and pollution-free workplace. As a shop owner, you always want to look out for the wellbeing of your workers relative to the working environment. Keeping your workers safe and happy by complying to the regulations will lead to positive production output in your shop.
Laser fume extraction systems can come in different configurations, including exhaust port connection, multiple exhaust port connection, or free-standing source capture. The laser system of a laser fume extractor is directly mounted on the exhaust pot connection with a flame-retardant flexible hose.
Multiple exhaust port connection models have multiple ports, all which are connected to one unit, or it could be a one port on two nearby systems setup. Free-standing source capture extraction units do not mount, but are instead placed next to the unit for fume extraction with a flexible arm. All of these configurations are able to provide superb fume control for laser systems used in industrial, medical, commercial and laboratory application.
1. Locate the Source of Fume: Fume extraction is most effective when the nozzle of a laser fume extractor is placed near the source of fumes. If this is not possible due to any type of constraints, you should position the fume extraction nozzle as close as possible nonetheless. Keep in mind that the nozzle should always follow the laser beam if it moves during the operation in order to improve the efficiency of fume extraction.
2. Monitor the Filtration System: Filtration systems are required to be connected to the PLC of the laser fume extractors to allow enough time for the laser to shut down should a problem with fume filtration arise. A couple of the common problems with fume filtration and how they can be prevented are illustrated below:
● Filter life: Filters of any kind regardless of the machine are bound to be replaced at some point. As the filters for laser fume extractors can become saturated over time, they will need to be changed eventually. To detect saturation, you need to monitor the pressure difference between the air output and air input in the filtration systems. When the pressure difference is indicative of saturated filter, maintenance reminders will be displayed and the relative action should be undertaken.
3. Identify contaminants: To choose the right filter and laser fume extractor, you need to know what kind of contaminants are being created. Not only that, you also need to know the potential risks that these contaminants can pose. Contaminants that are released into air may come from two sources: the materials removed and the gases released.● Removed materials: All removed materials will turn into dust and fumes that are released into the air. Check with your material suppliers pertaining to what kind of byproducts are being produced and released into the air. It should give you a better understanding of what kind of particulate you are dealing with and what type of laser fume extractors you should acquire.
● Gases: Many laser cutting and welding operations involve the use of assist or shield gases. These gases may contain oxygen, nitrogen, helium and argon, all of which lead to byproducts that need to be removed from the workplace. On a note, laser cleaning and marking systems do not use gases.
With the right laser fume extractors, you can keep the dust and fumes away from the workers, ensuring them with a safe environment to work in. You should not encounter any safety issues as long as you perform source capture, replace saturate filters as well as implement automated safety measures.
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