Laser Cleaning System

As a company constantly striving for the newest technology to improve our industries, Sonomatic RAIS have invested in a multitude of laser cleaning systems. When submicron pollution particles adhere to a workpiece surface, they often stick very tightly, making it impossible to remove them with conventional cleaning methods.

However, cleaning the workpiece surface with lasers is very effective. Laser cleaning is a non-contact method of cleaning, making it very safe to clean precision workpieces or their fine parts and ensure their accuracy. Therefore, laser cleaning has unique advantages in the cleaning industry.

How it works

Laser cleaning is the removal of contaminants from a surface by vaporising them into dust and fumes through laser ablation. The laser fires pulses at a surface utilising the fourth state of matter, plasma, which will remove contaminants from the surface resulting in a sanitised, clean surface. The contaminants then go into a fume extractor which allows for no cleanup after completing a job.

Whether it’s for rust, paint, oxide, or coating removal, lasers can remove contaminants without damaging the substrate. As a non-contact process, laser cleaning is a low-maintenance method that can save money over other methods over long periods of time.

The pulse itself is hotter than the sun for a billionth of a second. Each pulse excites the molecules clinging on to the surface of the material to the point where they must split off the material. The reason that laser cleaning will not affect the surface is due to the flexibility in the control of the settings on the unit and the fact that corrosion/paint is not as strongly bonded as the metal or surface itself,  means for a way to input the settings so that no wall loss occurs.

Due to the settings being so flexible, it is also possible to provide a laser etch on metal surfaces for preparation for paint.

The Benefits

An image of laser cleaning in action
Advantages of Sonomatic RAIS Laser Cleaning:
  • No chemicals
  • No abrasive components
  • Clean disposal
  • Energy savings (up to eight times lower than with conventional processes)
  • Safe for any kind of substrate, even very delicate surfaces
  • Saving costs by not requiring a full ensemble of protective gear
  • Reduces risk of base material damage
  • Addresses worldwide EPA and chemical containment issues

Laser Machines

We currently have three units available for work, the 100Watt machine, the 300Watt machine and the 500Watt machine. These three units are all great for different uses. The 100Watt is best for light rusted surfaces, the 300Watt is a midground capable of removing heavy coatings and heavy corrosion but also lightly rusted surfaces, and the 500Watt is a heavy removal unit, this is to be used to remove heavy thick coatings, or very deep heavy corrosion. The trade off you give for the more power with the 500Watt is a less portable unit and heavier gun. The 100Watt and 300Watt are the same exact size and very similar in weight.

The 100Watt and 300Watt run off a standard 120V plug you would find in every building.Whereas the 500Watt runs off a 220V single phase 30A plug which are on most generators.

There is a multitude of laser lenses which changes how intense the beam is. The smaller the lens size, the smaller the surface area covered is but the more intense the laser is. The larger the lens size, the larger the surface area covered is, but the weaker the laser is.

Key Features:
  • Blue painter’s tape can be used to cover up areas that aren’t required to be cleaned
  • Maintenance free
  • Meets OSHA compliance regulations
  • Versatile uses
  • High power – low cost
  • Eco friendly technology
  • Multitude of lenses which change how the laser performs
  • Incredibly safe if done by certified staff
  • Consumable free
  • Non-contact process
  • Circular pulse that means for no heat spots
  • Laser etching

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!

Laser Cleaning Videos

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