Fibre Lasers can be dangerous if not operated correctly and with the right safety equipment installed.
Fibre lasers are impressive industrial manufacturing tools that are becoming more and more popular within the industry. With the costs of the technology falling, more and more suppliers have started to supply customers with these high-powered laser cutters.
However, with this influx of new suppliers and manufacturers, there has also been a lax in things like basic safety implementation. Whether this is due to a supplier’s lack of understanding or a plain lack of care when it comes to the end user, many companies out there are willing to supply machines without these basic safety protocols in place.
Basic Safety Protocols & Risks
You should be aware that all Fibre Laser Cutters are classed as industrial class 4 lasers, meaning these can be extremely hazardous to health and or cause serious injury to the operator or personnel within the working vicinity. What risks are involved when operating a fibre laser without basic safety implementation?
Severe risk to eyesight
There is a real risk that you or another member of your team could end up damaging your eyesight. As a fibre laser uses a high-powered class 4 laser source, when activated and used for cutting metals there is a risk that the beam could reflect off materials and therefore should be fully enclosed within a safety enclosure. The enclosure should use correctly rated laser safety viewing panels that prevent the laser beam from passing through the window, a machine without this would not meet UKCA/CE regulations.
When cutting materials such as metals, they physically get vaporised by the laser passing through the material. This vapour can contain large amounts of carcinogenic particulate that MUST be extracted away from the machine. This is another reason why fibre laser cutters need to be fully enclosed as an open-topped system (which many suppliers are happy to install) will not be efficient enough to remove these relatively heavy particulates from the surrounding atmosphere.
Research shows that many metals when in dust form can be carcinogenic when inhaled into the body. Ensuring the correct extraction is used and tested every year will help to mitigate exposure (LEV testing).
Whilst the fire risk on fibre lasers is thankfully low, this has mainly been due to the thoughtful design and safety measures put in place by manufacturers. As these precautions start to be glossed over by newer suppliers, it is important to also consider the role extraction and enclosures have in reducing the risk of fire.
Primarily the risk of fire comes from iron oxide and aluminium powder created when cutting steel and aluminium but other materials can also pose a fire risk. This risk is heavily reduced when this powder is contained and correctly extracted. When also used in conjunction with regular maintenance and cleaning, the risk of fire is almost completely eliminated.
What should you look out for when purchasing a new fibre laser cutter?
There are several basic safety aspects that you should be looking at when purchasing a fibre laser cutter, to ensure that you and your staff remain safe in the production environment.
As mentioned all fibre laser cutters should be shrouded with a full safety enclosure to eliminate the risk of stray beams being reflected from materials, especially when cutting stainless and aluminium or any other reflective materials (brass is another). The safety enclosure also helps to prevent particulates from being held into the surrounding atmosphere.
Laser Safety Viewing Glass
Any visible glass needs to be of the correctly rated safety glass that prevents any beam from passing through, therefore protecting anyone in the vicinity and looking directly through the panels.
As mentioned in the article earlier, cutting metal with a high-powered laser cutter will cause the material to vaporise and therefore able to be cut. These vapours can cause small metal particulates to circulate within the surrounding atmosphere. Cutting metals with a laser can create particles in the sub-micron size range, making them very easy for the body to absorb.
This dust can be extremely harmful to health and needs to be extracted away from the operator safely and effectively. Look for a machine that offers an industrial-grade extraction/filtration unit that can safely remove metal dust. We offer our Cyclone extraction to all customers who do not already have a suitable industrial extraction system available for the machine.
Removing dust particles can also extend the life of your machine. A dirty/dusty machine is harmful to health and could increase the risk of machine breakdowns/beam quality degradation.
All of our Titan Fibre Lasers come with safety interlocks, preventing the use of the machine when the safety enclosure doors are open. These interlocks help to prevent unsafe operations whereby the operator and or other people in the vicinity could be injured by a stray beam or material vapour.
With many companies willing to cut corners to get a sale, it’s imperative to your health that you choose the right machine for you and your business. Ensuring machines come with the above basic safety protocols will help you minimise the risk of serious injury and or prolonged exposure to it.
Whether you choose Mantech to be your machinery partner or not we hope to promote the safe use of industrial laser cutters within the UK industry. To find out more about our range of Titan Fibre Laser Cutters and our Cyclone Extraction Systems, navigate to our Fibre Laser section.