In industrial coding spaces and beyond, laser marking technologies have become increasingly popular in recent decades. Known for their high-speed capabilities, quality coding results, and diverse material compatibility, CO2 and fiber laser systems are common fixtures in manufacturing and packaging sites all over the world.
Large-scale dairy facilities, pharmaceutical packaging groups, and breweries, in particular, have embraced laser technologies over the last few years to meet demanding production quotas. Makers of custom goods have also found value in laser systems, as they allow operators to personalize products with speed and precision. In these industries and others, experts predict that laser systems will continue to grow in popularity in the future as they become more cost-accessible.
However, despite laser’s growing popularity, many potential users do still have some reservations when it comes to implementing these systems into their operations. One of the most common concerns regarding laser systems that we hear pertains to safety precautions. To assure worker safety, companies that choose to use laser marking systems must add a few elements to their production lines, including:
Here, we focus on the last of the above-listed elements, the fume extractor. By the end of this article, you’ll understand basic concepts like:
Laser marking systems are highly valued for their industrial coding speeds, high levels of accuracy, and long-lasting results. They operate by directing concentrated beams of light toward materials made from glass, plastic, metal, and wood. As the beam lands on the material’s surface, it removes portions of the substrate in a controlled manner, leaving behind a stark, clearly-defined code/image.
However, this process doesn’t just produce lasting images—it frequently produces toxic fumes as well. Depending on the substrate being coded, laser marking systems can release dangerous emissions (including carcinogens) during operation, threatening worker safety.
Potentially toxic particles (e.g. lead, nitrogen dioxide, cresol, etc.) are likely to be produced when laser marking:
To protect workers from breathing in harmful materials, companies must take adequate safety precautions when using laser marking equipment. This is where fume extractors become essential.
Designed to draw in dangerous fumes as soon they are produced, fume extractors are production line devices that help isolate harmful particles as soon as they are released. One part vacuum and one part filtration system, a fume extractor is placed next to a laser’s marking point so it can inhale the released particles as marking is taking place.
Once noxious fumes are in the extraction system, they pass through a series of filters that extract all potentially harmful particles. These particles are collected in a storage drum where workers can safely dispose of them at a future time.
With the help of a properly installed fume extractor, line operators can stop harmful particles from entering their facilities and make the most of their laser marking hardware.
Even if you buy the best available fume extractor for your laser marking machine, it will effectively be useless unless you know how to properly use it. Key elements like proper airflow and correct nozzle placement must be accounted for to successfully filter the contaminants present in your workspace.
First and foremost, it’s important to place the nozzle of the fume extractor as close to the fume source as possible. While you want to leave room for the production line to move unabated, you also want to ensure the fume extractor can remove as many harmful particles as possible. This requires close positioning to the laser’s point of contact.
Along with proper nozzle positioning, companies should also follow these best practices to ensure worker safety:
Laser marking machines are used to code industrial amounts of products. As such, they can produce a significant amount of noxious fumes over time. To keep your fume extractor operating successfully, it’s important to continuously check that the filters are in working order by monitoring fume levels in the exhaust. All filters have different lifespans, so make sure to understand the expected life of your filters and monitor accordingly.
Any leak in your fume extractor will risk air contamination and likely render the entire system useless. As such, it’s important to periodically check for leaks and stop them as quickly as possible. The best way to detect leaks is to continuously keep an eye on your unit’s airflow pressure. If there’s a sudden change, leaks are likely to blame.
Dangerous fumes aren’t the only health risk associated with laser systems. If workers aren’t educated on the eye and skin risks that can occur from working with lasers, they can inadvertently injure themselves when near the system. Consequently, it’s important to provide adequate safety training to all relevant employees and have eye/skin protection available to those who need it.
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