So many different cleaning techniques are limited by one of two factors; either they require harsh chemicals to work, or they require direct physical contact with the object in question. Chemical cleaning is problematic for ecological reasons, while any approach which requires direct contact can cause damage to potentially fragile materials.
In terms of alleviating both of these issues, fiber laser cleaning is the obvious choice. It is no surprise to see it being adopted to restore and maintain a wide variety of objects, from mechanical components to works of art.
So how does fiber laser cleaning work and what useful applications can it achieve that chemical equivalents cannot?
Versatile cleaning capabilities
As fiber lasers can be precisely controlled for a variety of applications, it makes sense that they are similarly adaptable for cleaning purposes.
Secondly, if a deeper clean is necessary, a fiber laser can be used to completely ablate the top layer of the material itself, exposing the untainted layer beneath.
This versatility means that it can take on cleaning duties across a wide range of materials, including those with textured surfaces which could not withstand alternative methods involving chemicals or physical contact of any kind. Add to that the other advantages such as its speed, efficiency and repeatability and it quickly becomes obvious why this is preferable in a cavalcade of industrial and manufacturing settings.
Where it is used
As well as being able to clean objects which have developed surface corrosion that needs to be removed, such as metal tools, it is also possible to use laser cleaning as a means of preparing the surface of a material before it undergoes another form of processing. This might include priming prior to the application of paint, or the removal of excess debris in anticipation of welding.
Of course these are uses in which the precision of the fiber laser cleaning process is not really put to the test. To demonstrate the true extent of its abilities, it is worth looking at how it is applied in the context of cleaning silicon wavers in electronics manufacturing.
There are a number of ways in which pulsed fiber lasers can clean surfaces during semiconductor production, whether purely through photothermal ablation or by use of a type of steam cleaning that is still far more eco-friendly than any other method available.
Some of the perks of fiber laser cleaning have been touched on already but it is worth exploring the sustainability of this process in a little more depth.
Because no chemicals are required, there is effectively no waste created through fiber laser cleaning, save from the tiny amount of material which is removed from the surface of the object. This means no harmful substances need to be disposed of and so the environment suffers no penalties.
Furthermore the amount of energy required to power fiber laser machines is comparatively low, which is good for cutting the carbon footprint of cleaning and also for reducing the cost of producing and maintaining a variety of components and equipment.
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