These days, as laser engraving is becoming more and more popular, the need for proper ventilation and smoke removal is often overlooked. There are three main methods; the direct ventilation of buildings, by clicking on the large air handling system or a stand-alone filtration system. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, which will be discussed. It is important to note that the majority of flatbed lasers operate in a retail environment, a relatively small shops or even at home so not every method of ventilation is applied based on.
Laser engraving is very versatile and a wide range of materials can be processed with attractive results. Because of the variety of substrates it is important that dust, debris and vapors are efficiently removed from the laser housing. The need of ventilation is not unimportant. Concerns include safety, potential damage to the laser and work environment.
Safety for the operator and other personnel in the shop should be paramount for any employer. Generation is a thermal process, and as such material is burned, melted and evaporated. Some plastics are toxic even when heated and the fumes can be harmful if inhaled. To address this, all lasers are equipped with a fume removal port that allows external connections.
The air is “pulled” through the port with a vacuum unit and from the zone of generation. Making particle-Laden air-is what distinguishes the three methods of ventilation.
The easiest way is to use the system fan, which pulls air through the hose, which is then ported outside the building. This, of course, functional, but generally not to deal with the smell or fumes very well and often have a strong residual odor in the working area. In addition, in some parts of the country, the EPA (Agency for environmental protection) rules, which prohibit pumping toxic elements into the air. Blowers generally operate at a fairly high decibel level, so they can be quite loud. Blower motors themselves are cheap, but sometimes there are changes that need to be made in the building itself, which may control the overall installation costs up.
In industrial conditions sometimes existing air handlers that can be used with a laser exhaust port. These are very large devices are filtered such that the air they emit was “washed up” and not toxic. In most cases, they comply with local limits EPA and is perfectly safe. However they are physically large and expensive units that are designed for use on production plants and the excess, if purchased solely for work, which is the standard system of laser engraving. If such a system exists in your house, will certainly explore it as an alternative for your needs ventilation but make sure the system has the capacity to laser in the ventilation of other equipment at the facility at 100% volume.
The third option is a standalone, multi-level filter device. As with others, it attaches to the port on the laser, but then pulls the air through a series of filters which serve to remove large particles, gases and odors. The air that comes out of the unit, usually 99% odorless and safe to breathe. These devices have a relatively small, very quiet and portable. Filters are consumable products and have different terms of operation, based on use and dust filtration.
The filtration system consists of filter particles/or catch bag, HEPA filter and active chemical filter or activated charcoal reservoir. All the filter elements can be replaced by the user with very little effort. Unlike other configurations that are hard plumbed into the laser, separate units are mounted on wheels and can be easily moved to store at any convenient for the operator. This makes them the preferred solution for small shops and home based businesses.
There are a number of producers, such as Cuatro, household products, purex and others. If it seems to be the best alternative for you take the time to evaluate the system, including at the DB level and the cost of consumables.
Protection of the laser is also a consideration. Some plastics produce caustic and molten particles, which can penetrate the moving parts of the laser Gantry. In some cases, it may cause rust or unusual wear of components that can affect the life of motors, belts, nuts, and therefore may degrade the performance and productivity of the machine. Of gas and smoke, caused by the generation of plastic, wood or coated materials can adhere to the optical components of the device. Dirty mirrors or lenses lead to a decrease in the output or the previous reflections that could damage the system. All appropriate dimensions and exhaust systems for removal must have the capacity volume of air to protect the mechanical elements and optical components from these air born particles. All laser manufacturers must be able to provide the CFM requirements for laser models, which can then be used to size the proper exhaust unit.
Having comfortable work environment is the goal of most shop owners. Control odors caused by wood processing, leather, plastic or rubber, is part of efforts to keep employees happy and productive. If you ever had to sniff some of the materials mentioned burned clear how unpleasant it can be. If you take it another step and consider the customers in the store, you can see how the control of fumes and odours should be a priority. Some providers lasers work in shopping centres and other retail outlets, so kindly store near your, you should not discounted. The last thing you want to do is to drive your customers out of the store due to the very controlled situation.
If you have already purchased a laser engraver or you’re researching to add one to your shop, do your due diligence when choosing the method of ventilation. The laser is an investment in your business to get the most out of choosing the right exhaust system that will extend the service life of the machine and to ensure safe and comfortable working environment for you and your employees.
I’d be happy to give advice if someone wants to contact me.