Laser cutting is the process of cutting metal using a very hot and concentrated laser beam that melts the metal. Because it is such a concentrated beam over a small target area, this process is very precise and is most effective against mild steel, stainless steel and aluminium plates. It is a very popular and fast way of cutting sheet metal but can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here are some safety procedures to follow and look out for the next time you plan on using a laser cutter.
Making sure the machine is clean
Before you begin cutting anything you should thoroughly check that the machine is clean, and everything is in working order. Because the laser produces such high levels of heat through its concentrated beam, there is always a big fire risk when working the machine. Unwanted dirt and grime built up in the machine can contribute to accidental fires breaking out.
This also applies to the materials being cut. Sometimes the extremely high temperatures can cause unwanted fires. It is because of this that the operator should never leave the machine during operation in case something like this happens. It is important to standby at the ready in case a fire needs extinguishing or in case of any other emergency.
If you use a laser cutter then toxic fumes will be released during the cutting process. You should make sure your laser cutting machine has an air filtration/exhaust system fitted. The filter will need to be changed regularly depending on how often the machine itself is used. If the filtration system is damaged, clogged or not working for any reason, then stop immediately and notify your supervisor. Never attempt to work a laser cutting machine when parts are not working.
This being said, the air filter/exhaust can only do so much against the external forces of the system – such as the plastic/metal/material you’re actually cutting – so extra precautions will need to be taken. You must always make sure you cut materials that have been approved by the manufacturer and are not hazardous. Fumes from hazardous plastics can be harmful to the machine and to your own health.
The light from the laser
As well as emitting high temperatures, the laser beam also emits a very bright light which can cause severe damage to your retinas, resulting in serious damage to your eyesight or even blindness. Skin burns are another symptom that can be a result of exposure to the laser beam light. This is why the light is always contained within the safety glass and shut together with interlocks.
Laser cutting machines come with a standard safety feature where the beam cannot operate if the interlocking mechanism is not closed and locked into place. This is why it is important to never change the safety features. As long as the beam is properly contained, it is less likely to escape and cause you any light-related injuries. In Australia (and other countries), laser beams are categorised into seven different classes: 1, 1M, 2, 2M, 3R, 3B and 4 – where 1 is the least hazardous and 4 is the most.
Cleaning the machine
As mentioned earlier, dirt and debris can cause fires and also damage the machine if not cleaned away, so it is important to make sure the machine is clear of these things on a regular basis. It is recommended you use a vacuum for this sort of thing. If you need to use liquid cleaning materials, do not spray them directly onto the machine. Spray them onto a cloth away from the machine and then gently use the cloth to clean the outside and inside of the machine. The operations manual for the machine should outline which cleaning products are appropriate to use.
The mirrors and lens should be cleaned once a week at the minimum, if there appears to be more dust than usual then more frequent cleaning may be required. Optics of the machine should be visually inspected once a day. If the optics appear to be cloudy or if there are small amounts of dirt found on them then again, refer to the manual – or your supervisor – on how to best clean them. The optics should be cleaned very carefully and gently as they can be damaged if done in excess.
Quality laser cutters
If you need any assistance with laser cutters or any other machines, please contact us on 0397 946 675 or through our website.