A before and after of laser cleaning on rotational equipment

Laser Ablation/Cleaning

Sonomatic RAIS’ expertise in laser ablation ensures quality and precision for your projects. Our advanced equipment, coupled with our experienced team, guarantees efficient and precise results every time. We provide solutions tailored to your unique needs, ensuring that every ablation process is optimised for your project.

Laser ablation refers to a unique method where laser energy is used to remove or alter the surface of a material at the microscopic level. RAIS leverages the high-power concentration of laser pulses to interact with a material’s surface. As these pulses strike the surface, they’re absorbed, leading to the ejection or evaporation of atoms, ions, and small particles – a phenomenon known as laser ablation.

This removal process is governed by the characteristics of the laser light, especially its wavelength. Different materials absorb different wavelengths of light more efficiently, which makes laser ablation a versatile technique adaptable to a wide variety of materials. The absorbed laser energy is converted into thermal energy, causing the material to heat up and vaporise, leaving a clean and smooth surface.

An image of laser cleaning in action

The laser ablation processes are highly precise, enabling the selective removal of minute layers or targeted areas of a material without damaging adjacent regions. Moreover, the speed and pulse length of the laser can be fine-tuned to achieve different ablation outcomes, further broadening its applications.

Notably, laser ablation is also used in chemical analysis. It can remove small quantities of material from the surface for inspection, creating opportunities for advanced material testing and analysis. This feature of laser ablation is incredibly beneficial in sectors such as material sciences, industrial manufacturing, and research, where understanding the composition and quality of materials is critical.

A before and after of laser cleaning on rotational equipment

In essence, laser ablation leverages the interplay between laser energy, laser pulses, and laser wavelength to manipulate and analyse surfaces, offering a non-contact, efficient, and precise method for surface alteration and evaluation.

Laser ablation requires precision, efficiency, and cleanliness. Sonomatic RAIS is proud to offer advanced laser ablation services tailored to your unique project needs.

Laser Ablation Equipment

A laser ablation machine is advanced equipment designed to deliver laser energy in the most efficient and precise way to the targeted area.

The laser system uses laser parameters such as wavelength, pulse duration, and power density that can be tailored to suit the specific application. It’s crucial to optimise these parameters to achieve the desired ablation effect without damaging the material unnecessarily.

Nanosecond laser ablation and ultrashort laser pulses are two critical aspects of the laser ablation machine. Nanosecond laser ablation, where the pulse duration is in the order of nanoseconds, is typically used for bulk material removal and deep drilling. On the other hand, ultrashort laser pulses, which have pulse durations in the picosecond or femtosecond range, are employed for precision micromachining where minimal heat impact is crucial.

During the laser ablation process, the material targeted by the laser light (referred to as the ‘laser ablated’ material) gets ejected from the surface, leaving a clean and precisely shaped area. The laser-ablated material is then collected and disposed of, or analysed for further insights, depending on the application.

Highly sophisticated and tailored to the job at hand, the laser ablation machine is key to harnessing the benefits of this cutting-edge process. It’s this equipment, in combination with the correct laser parameters and technique, that enables laser ablation to provide precise, efficient, and versatile solutions across a wide range of industries.

Laser Ablation Benefits

RAIS’ laser ablation services hold many significant advantages over traditional material processing and surface cleaning methods, making it an attractive choice across a wide range of industries.

  • Extremely Precise Process: Laser ablation can target very minute areas down to a microscopic scale, providing fine-detail work that’s typically impossible with conventional techniques. This high precision ensures there's minimal damage to surrounding materials, reducing waste and increasing the quality of the finished product.
  • Completely Contact Free: Being a non-contact process, laser ablation eliminates mechanical stress on the material. There's no physical wear and tear on the tools, reducing maintenance costs and extending their usable life.
  • Environmentally Friendly Option: Laser ablation produces less waste compared to traditional methods, and it uses no chemicals, making it an environmentally friendly choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Thicker scaling can usually be removed with higher laser power. Also, it is possible to do this with a lower power unit if you first remove loose scaling mechanically like with a brush and then use the laser to remove the remaining rust from the base metal surface. This is done in architectural cleaning where brushes are used to remove loose scaling corrosion and a laser is used to remove the remaining surface corrosion.

Based on general experience from surface prep for a variety of applications,  the laser should be able to give the clean and rust-free surface prep that is needed.

For internal inspection removing all the product and other nasty things from the process would still be required, but likley to a much less standard than current cleaning methods.

Yes the technology works well on corrosion and coating removal. Paint requires more energy than surface rust but it is generally fully removable via either the laser ablation process or the laser spallation process.

This is exactly what we see the laser undertaking.  Our system has lifting points that allow us to use it via rope access.  Our system is portable and can operate with a 5-metre or 20-metre lead that will allow it to be kept on the ground or out in confined spaces. 

It works on alloys, brick, plastic etc.  To allow us to validate a particular type, we usually ask for a sample to be sent over to us where we video the entire scene and validate that the laser is the correct method for the job and confirm there was no damage done to the product while attaining the correct surface.

Our laser can remove all paint (including lead with the correct safety measures in place), rust, scabs, growth and scale. 

Our extraction system collects all the vaporised excess.  Practically eliminating all risk to neighbouring operating machinery which is commonly damaged by grit being shed by the blasting method. It also allows us to work in close proximity to other people and their equipment, including rotating equipment which again, is often damaged by debris from other methods. The extraction system itself has HEPA and Active carbon filters, the HEPA filter traps extremely small, micron-sized particles system and extracts 99.97 per cent of all airborne particles larger than 0.3 microns.

Our laser has the potential to cause a spark, as does our NDT equipment.  But the measures we instil to ensure it is safe for us to include the fact the spark potential on the surface never comes further than 1” from the point being cleaned. Of course, our specifically developed RAMS, gas monitors and highly specialised training our Technicians hold all contribute to our ability to deliver the laser service in a safe and professional manner at all times.

The laser can ignite flammable materials, however the spark potential is generally less than grinding as grinding sends sparks flying far, while laser cleaning creates a localised plasma reaction. For this reason laser cleaning has been chosen over grinding in many other applications.

The rate of cleaning always varies depending on the conditions. Surface rust is easy to remove, paint requires more energy and time. Mill scale requires a lot of energy to remove so this would usually involve higher powered units.

The lasers are in the Class 4 Category - to comply with this category - operators wear 1064nm laser goggles for eye protection and must also wear a respirator so as not to breathe in material that is being removed. Good ventilation/fume extraction is also important.

100% opaque shielding materials need to be used to prevent anyone not wearing laser goggles from seeing the laser beam. No other sheeting or habitat is required.

There is no temperature restrictions to the surface preparation, we perform a detailed risk assessment on each location to ensure the risk is kept as low as is reasonably practible.

As the laser requires a line of sight we would still need access but this is no different to the current mechanical prep that is used on sites across the world. There are different tricks that can be used to get into harder areas to see: Spray the area that has restricted access for the laser to reach with water, and the laser will bounce about still cleaning the area.

Surface temperature change is minimal. With a portable 100W system, for example, the surface temperature typically does not change by more than 5 degrees Celcius.

The system is splash proof so habitats will be required to protect the system if working in rain, the habitats would allow us to hang the laser shielding within. The optics cannot get wet. Also, the machine should be kept as dry as possible. It is water resistant but not waterproof.

Yes, it will - it depends on the wattage of the system selected. For more complex or large projects, a higher-wattage machine would be required. This can be determined on a case-by-case basis and priced accordingly.

Laser cleaning will cover these methods with ease! It is also ideal for corrosion loops where the lagging has come off for example and one area is covered in surfaces scale. For turnarounds and shut-downs, getting the correct wattage which comes with the longest cable length, will prep and clean all internals in one run. The extraction system fitted to the machine will clean as it goes, again saving time and reducing costs - removing the need for special waste disposal!

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