By Dan Davis
The phrase “cleaning metal surfaces” might mean different things to different metal fabricators, but in the end, all know it’s a
Metal fabricators that have painting and powder coating lines have to deal with the headaches
of large pretreatment systems that require intense
oversight to ensure the chemicals create a surface
to which the paint or powder can properly adhere.
Other fabricators might have to worry about preparing metal surfaces for welding, which requires the
right power tool, abrasive, and a lot of elbow grease.
Some shops might have to degrease metal or remove anodized surfaces prior to further processing.
All of these fabricators know that resources and expertise are needed to obtain the clean surface necessary for the next step in the fabrication process.
Laser Photonics™, an Orlando, Fla.-based brand
that specializes in laser-based R&D and machinery
development, hopes to change the way that fabricators look at surface cleaning. It has launched its
CleanTech™ product line for applications such as
surface conditioning of metal for better adhesion
and weld preparation (see Figure 1).
The CleanTech laser systems remove coatings,
contaminants, and residues with the use of high-energy fiber laser sources, the same type of power
source found in the company’s laser cutting and
marking systems. The actual power of the laser
power source is dependent on the application, but
it can reach the kilowatt range if necessary.
“By further expanding our line of laser material
processing systems, Laser Photonics creates opportunity not only for the industrial giants but also for
small manufacturers to take advantage of the most
advanced industrial-grade Class 1 laser cleaning
and surface treatment equipment available,” said
Dmitriy Nikitin, CEO.
The process is meant to replace the use of chemi-
cals and abrasives to clean these metal surfaces.
The fabricator places the part to be cleaned in the
Class 1 enclosure and initiates a cleaning program.
The equipment operator can choose to use a pre-
installed cleaning pattern or develop a custom
pattern to meet a certain surface specification or
throughput requirement. The operator can also
adjust a program to include multiple passes using
different values for power, frequency, and speed
on each laser pass. A database can store thou-
sands of different cleaning jobs so that the opera-
tor doesn’t have to remember a cleaning job that
was done previously.
The laser can be used to clean a variety of met-
als, including steel, aluminum, stainless steel, and
galvanized. It can even work with reflective metals,
such as brass and copper, and nonmetallic materi-
als, such as plastics and rubber.
This laser cleaning capability is not limited to flat
surfaces, according to company officials. Most laser
systems have statically positioned cleaning heads,
which limits the laser cleaning ability to only the
static path of the trajectory beam. It’s similar to a
noon-time sun’s rays hitting an object directly over
the top and not making contact with other areas
hidden from the sun’s 90-degree positioning over
the object. Clean Tech stationary cleaning units are
designed to clean those areas on 3-D objects that
are hard to reach.
Nikitin said the company’s Flexion™ system
moves a stage, on which the parts sit, in both the X
and Y axis inside the cleaning chamber. The move-
ment ensures the parts are fully exposed to the laser
This laser cleaning technology is not limited to
a stand-alone, midsized unit. It is available in a
handheld unit where the metal surface acts as the
bottom of the laser chamber. A laser removes the
contaminants as the operator runs the hand held
unit over the metal surface. This type of a device
can have a working envelope up to 4 by 4 inches.
The laser cleaning technology also can be found
on the company’s Titan flatbed platform, which can
be as large as 6 by 13 feet. The large space can be
used to clean objects such as multiple tire rims, large
flanges used in the oil and gas industry, or even a
sheet used for hull construction in shipbuilding.
The stationary parts can be designed to be part
of a production line. An integrated dust and residue
collection system can be incorporated as well to
minimize manual cleaning.
Editor-in-Chief Dan Davis can be reached at dand@
Laser Photonics, 407-804-1000, www.laserphotonics.com
Cleaning metal surfaces with a laser
Fiber laser technology is not just for cutting and marking
The laser can be used to clean
a variety of metals, including
steel, aluminum, stainless steel,
and galvanized. It can even
work with reflective metals,
such as brass and copper,
and nonmetallic materials,
such as plastics and rubber.
A fiber laser was used to clean the surface of these metal parts to prepare them for downstream processing.