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26 Industrial Laser Solutions SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 www.industrial-lasers.com
cleaning, laser polishing has several intrinsic benefits: it can be
automated for both
Laser polishing is therefore ideally suited to restorative work on
surfaces and components that are failure-critical. The interesting
point with laser polishing is that it does not require high-power
lasers to produce results, and even standard 20–30W laser marking systems can be used to polish most metallic components. Many
studies have found that power levels in the 50–100W range are suitable for laser polishing with high repetition rates and scan speeds.
For pulsed laser usage, the melted layer is approximately 100nm
deep, whereas a continuous-wave (CW) laser can achieve a melted
zone of 100µm. FIGURE 5 shows an image of a laser-cleaned part
that has been partially polished with a 1mJ pulse at 30kHz. The
unpolished surface is matte in appearance, whereas the polished
surface is smooth and highly reflective.
As laser polishing can re-melt down to 100µm, the defects that
remain post-polishing are intrinsically large and may be poten-
tial sites for failures. Laser polishing makes the inspection of such
defects simpler and more amenable to automated vision systems.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of this process, an area on
a stainless-steel sheet was laser-engraved with the CE symbol
(FIGURE 6). Prior to laser polishing, the surface of the stainless steel
had multiple scratches and blemishes. Laser polishing of the area
with the CE symbol removes all but the deepest of scratches, but
the remaining defects are easier to visualize afterward. Also, as
laser polishing is automated, it produces consistent results and
the lighting parameters used in the vision system do not need to
be altered to suit the polishing.
With the current push for Industry 4.0, the ability to inspect parts
and gather data on defects allows models to be built up that can
predict when and where failures will occur. This allows for a reduction in downtime and for parts to be cleaned and repaired only
As laser average power continues to increase and laser cost
continues to fall, processes such as laser cleaning and laser polishing will become mainstream engineering processes. They provide significant benefits in terms of reduced consumable cost,
as well as being suitable for automation. Ongoing work with integrated vision systems are offering increased functionality not seen
in the current market and have the potential to greatly increase
their productivity. ✺
DAVID GILLEN ( email@example.com) is the CEO of Blueacre
Technology, Dundalk, Louth, Ireland; www.blueacretechnology.com.
FIGURE 5. An example of a laser-cleaned part that has been
partially polished with a 1mJ pulse at 30kHz.
FIGURE 6. The
remaining defects in
with the CE symbol
are easier to see after