Laser Cutting

Environmental Filter | December 9th, 2020

 

The application of laser cutting has been around since the 1960s making it a relatively new technological innovation. However, during this process harmful dust is generated.


What is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is exactly what it sounds like. The use of a laser to cut, slice, engrave, mark, and etch materials such as metal, wood, cork, aluminum, steel, plastics, etc. If it sounds like something out of science fiction, it is amazing to see a laser cutter in action! The process uses a focused laser and thermodynamics to melt through the material. There are different types of lasers that use different wavelengths such as:


• CO2 Laser – This uses infrared light and amounts of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen, and xenon at the source of the laser. It is mainly used in wood, paper, plastics, fabrics, etc. (These use gas.) This method was invented by Kumar Patel in 1964. [1]

• Nd Laser – This uses neodymium (Nd), a laser that uses crystals. It is used for military, manufacturing, medical, and other applications.


The Future of Laser Cutting

The laser cutting industry grows more and more every day and is projected to reach over 5 billion dollars by the year 2022. Markets expect the biggest growth involving laser cutting include electronics, automotive, and industrial applications. We are just beginning to see it has uses for other areas as well including packaging, fashion, art, and architecture. [2] As stated earlier, laser cutting is relatively new. It will be interesting to see where this industry goes next.


The Role of Dust Collection

Like welding, there is a concern for the health and safety of workers in this industry from harmful particulate and fumes. Because laser cutting involves the gases and other elements, it actually produces dust as well. This dust can lead to health and safety risks for the workers involved in the process. Like welding, laser cutting generates metallic dusts and fumes such as:


• Nickel – Another carcinogen that can cause heart problems, and even allergic reactions.

• Manganese - Long term exposure to this metal can lead to damage of the brain and nervous system. According to a study, the exposure may cause Parkinson’s Disease. [3]

• Hexavalent Chromium - Like welding, this toxic carcinogenic compound is generated which can lead to cancer from long-term exposure, nose and eye irritation, and lung damage. Usually, HEPA filtration is recommended for hexavalent chrome.

• Zinc - Can lead to metal fume fever.

 

Particle type depends on what type of material is being cut. Like welding, small particulate can be absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs. Over time, workers who are exposed to fumes and dust particles can develop long-lasting health effects. Dust collection technology is needed to protect the workers, improve air quality, and create a safer working environment.

 

At Environmental Filter, we manufacture dust collector cartridge filters for many applications including laser cutting.