Safety Guide: Laser Dust Collection and Disposal For Metal Cutting

What Is Fiber Laser Dust?

Fiber laser metal cutting machines are capable of manufacturing beautiful, functional, and customizable pieces of equipment from stainless steel, aluminum and much more. Unfortunately, this process generates a lot of dust, which can cause a host of problems. Fiber laser dust can contain particles of any material that can be fabricated with a fiber laser machine. Work that includes metals, plastics, or organic materials can all produce an incredible amount of dust. Also, because fiber laser machines work at such a rapid pace, especially in an industrial setting, this dust can accumulate faster than you'd think.

Dangers of Laser Dust

When not cleaned up and disposed of properly, laser dust can cause a lot of issues. The biggest ones:

Machine damage: Fiber laser metal cutting machines are a significant investment for most individuals and businesses. These pieces of equipment have many intricate moving parts, including their IPG laser heads, that are sensitive to any contaminant. Depending on the production rate of the facility, it doesn't take long for unchecked dust to accumulate to problem levels. The best-case scenario in this situation is that your machine runs slower than usual. More often than not, however, this can lead to damaged parts. In that case, not only do the repairs prove costly, but they also result in production downtime that businesses would generally strive to avoid. 

Air pollution: The intense heat generated by fiber machines has the potential to create massive amounts of dangerous sub-micron-sized particles in a short time. When inhaled over time, this debris can cause a serious health hazard. OSHA sets limits on the time an individual may be exposed to toxic workplace particulates. Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) were established in 1988 to protect workers from concentrated amounts of contaminants in the air or on the skin. Violations of OSHA standards can cost a business in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Personal safety hazards: A floor or work surface made slick by laser dust is an accident waiting to happen. Any debris that is allowed to collect on the work floor instead of being cleaned up properly could cause workers to slip, fall, or lose their balance and drop items. Laser dust that accumulates on work surfaces can stick to hands and other body parts, making it possible for the worker to ingest it. Another concern is that the dust from many of the materials used with fiber laser cutters is combustible. An unclean environment could result in explosion.

How To Clean Laser Dust

As a precaution, it is critical to clean your laser machine frequently and correctly. Doing so will allow your machine to work at optimal levels and your laser heads will have a longer lifespan. It also promotes a healthier work environment for you and your co-workers. In general, daily cleaning with proper material disposal is a must, with larger industries needing cleaning even more frequently. 

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to greatly reduce damaging your equipment, your workers, or yourself with laser dust. 

Manual cleaning

You probably already clean manually around your machines, which is a good start, but that may not be good enough. Especially for enclosed fiber metal cutter models, the laser dust may not be obvious to the immediate eye, and there is always the potential for human error. 

Dust collecting and extracting machines

These are an asset for anybody working with fiber laser machines. Dust collectors come in a range of sizes and can be customized to meet your specifications. 

It may be helpful to have an air quality engineer visit your facility to determine the proper sizing for your dust collector. Having the proper size dust collector and extractor is vital if you are looking for a system to both clean your air and dispose of the waste. If your collector is not strong enough, you run the risk of not fully cleaning your workspace. Alternatively, if your machine is too strong, you are wasting money on the energy to run a unit that isn't operating as efficiently as it should. 

Some examples of dust collectors include:

Senturion by RoboVent: These machines are modular, resilient, and built to operate in challenging environments.

Gold Series X-Flo by Camfil: These are available in three sizes and arrive at your workplace completely assembled.

LaserPack 6 by A.C.T. Dust Collectors: These units boast a contaminant removal percentage of 99.9%.

VARIO eco by Keller: These can save money and reduce your carbon footprint with their low energy usage.

Bescutter 4-6 Core Dust Collector: This model has a self-diagnosis feature that allows it to show any operational errors.

Preventative services

Many businesses that sell dust collecting machines also offer their services to perform preventative or emergency maintenance to your facility. These services can include mapping out your ventilation systems to optimize space, evaluating your current systems to maximize your filtration rate and energy usage, and suggesting ways to extend the life of your valuable equipment. 

Fiber Laser Cutting Machines

OMTech’s FC-series Fiber Cutter line allows you to take your metal cutting and metal fabrication needs in house. Whether you are interested in light or heavy metal fabrication, cutting stainless steel to aluminum materials, check out OMTech’s brand new line of Fiber Laser Cutting Machines today. The aerospace grade machines are able to etch and weld metal to the higher degree with machines ranging from 1-3kW. 

What are the main differences between a fiber laser marking machine like the MOPA fiber laser and a fiber laser cutting machine such as the FC-series? Read more to discover the key differences between them. 

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