Laser Rust Removal: All You Need to Know
Corrosion or rusting of metals is a natural process, but it is the deterioration and loss of the actual metal. At first, the surface of the metal is oxidized and changed into an unwanted substance (oxide, sulfide, or hydroxide). If the rusting is not removed or controlled, it deteriorates the metal as time passes. For instance, if you have a rusted plier, it won’t work as it should. The rust will create resistance in the movement and damage the surface.
There are various methods used to remove rust from the metals. Laser rust removal is an advanced, latest, and incredible way to remove rust from metals. It has made the removal of unwanted layers easier than ever before, which is why it is preferred in industries over other methods.
In this article, we will discuss laser rust removal in detail. We will see how it works, its benefits, its applications, and how to choose a laser rust removal machine.
How Does Laser Rust Removal Work?
Laser rust removal is a non-contact process of removing the layer of rust formed on the metal surface. The powerful laser beams remove the rust particles at an exceptional speed without harming the metal underneath.
This process is known as Laser Ablation, which refers to the removal of material from the surface of a solid by using powerful and intense laser beams. Basically, every material has a unique Ablation Threshold. When the energy provided is greater than this threshold, the material is removed from the surface.
For instance, if you want to remove rust from the surface of iron, the laser beams should offer energy more than the Ablation Threshold. Otherwise, nothing will happen to the rust, no matter how many times you try.
The energy is used to break the bond of the rust from the surface of the iron. Therefore, if the energy is less, it cannot break the bond. It is a must to adjust the power and speed of the laser machine accordingly to remove the layer of unwanted material.
The laser machines produce powerful laser beams. These can increase the temperature of the material instantly. When they fall over the rusty surface, the temperature of the molecules increases in no time. It goes over the ablation threshold and the bond between the molecules and the metal breaks. Thus, the rust is removed from the surface.
The energy provided by the laser beams is more than enough. Some materials also get vaporized when the temperature reaches the boiling point. The phenomena on each material can be a bit different, but the unwanted layer is removed without any hassle.
In laser rust removal, the laser beams are applied in the form of pulses or continuous waves, but intense energy is supplied at very short intervals. The layer of rust is removed quickly due to intense energy, and the metal is unharmed.
Laser beams can remove rust, i.e., oxides, sulfides, and hydroxides, and different layers, such as paint and oil. However, the ablation threshold for each surface is different. So, it is possible that one layer is removed and the other is not. The energy provided by the laser beams should be more than the highest ablation threshold, so it will remove multiple layers in one go.
What are the Benefits of Laser Rust Removal?
Speedy and Efficient
The first benefit of a laser rust remover is that it does the job at an exceptional speed. The laser beams only need to touch the object to increase its temperature, and the layer is removed. It hardly takes a few seconds or minutes, depending on the size of the object.
It is the fastest method of removing rust compared to other methods, such as sanding, grinding, and chemical treatment. It is not only the fastest but also the simplest of all. Thus, it saves a lot of time, so you can be more productive. It is incredibly fast and efficient.
Removes Multiple Contaminants
Laser machines can remove different types of contaminants from the surface of the metal. When metals reach the atmosphere, the layer created on the surface can be of oxide, sulfide, or hydroxide. It depends on the metal and the contaminants in the air.
For instance, in the case of iron, rust or iron oxide is formed. This oxide can be easily removed by laser treatment. Similarly, different metals react distinctively but laser machines can cover all of them.
Moreover, they can remove multiple layers of contaminants from the surface of the metal. If there is rust or anything else, everything can be removed. These machines can also remove paint, oil, and other types of coatings from the metal surface. Thus, it is an all-in-one solution for cleaning different types of metals.
Safe and Green
If you grind the surface of the metal for the removal of rust, the particles that leave the surface of the metal get mixed into the air. It contaminates the air and makes it hazardous. The particles in the air can damage the lungs and cause other health issues.
Similarly, if you treat the metal with chemicals, there are tons of hazards involved. Firstly, the handling of chemicals should be done carefully. The common chemicals used are dangerous acids, such as hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and phosphoric acid. These are used in diluted forms, but they are still dangerous. After the treatment, the leftover chemical should be disposed of properly.
On the other hand, laser rust removal is quite safe. There is no involvement of chemicals or any hazardous substance. The laser beams break the bond of the rust by giving enough energy to the molecules.
The exhaust air from the laser machines is purified, so it does not harm the environment in any way. These machines can be used indoors without any hassle.
The operators and employees are also safe during the laser treatment. They can only need to wear protective glasses while using the laser machine, and if the machine is completely enclosed, there is no need to wear them.
No Harm to the Metal
While removing the rust layer, the surface metal is also rubbed. So, there is a chance of damaging metal, removing metal particles, and other damages. The same goes for chemical treatment because harsh chemicals can also react with the metal surface.
In laser treatment, there is no harm to metal because it is a non-contact process. All you need to do is select the right power and speed of the laser. Since the energy provided to the metal is according to the ablation threshold, the metal underneath remains the same. It takes care of metal at the micro level. After removing rust, the metal is just like in its brand-new form.
The cost of removing rust using laser technology is much less as compared to traditional methods. Firstly, it does not require any chemicals or consumables that may increase the cost. All you need to do is plug in the machine, and you are ready to remove the rust.
The cost of electricity is also minimal because the machine does its job at an incredible speed. It takes less time, so the overall running cost is also low. However, the laser machine is expensive. The upfront cost depends on the size, features, and other specifications.
Laser cleaning eliminates the massive manual labor required to operate the machine. Only one or two operators are enough. Once the object is placed under the machine, everything is automated. Thus, it saves money.
Applications of Laser Rust Removal
For excellent welding results, metals must be cleaned. The layer of oxides, sulfides, and hydroxides causes porosities and decreases the strength of the welding joint. Thus, it is necessary to treat the metal surface before welding.
Laser rust removal is an excellent option for this. It removes dirt, grease, and rust from the surface and makes the metal perfectly clean.
Post Welding Treatments
After welding, there are some layers of rust around the joints. Therefore, it must be cleaned with a rust removing laser before applying paint. Otherwise, the paint will not have a good finish, and it will come off too quickly from the affected surface.
Metals form an oxide layer on the surface. If you have stored metals for a long time, you might have noticed that. Before any procedure, it is better to remove the oxide layer. That is where laser rust removal comes into play.
Cleaning of Expensive Parts
If any part of the machine has been affected by corrosion or rust, it can be treated with a laser. There is no need to get a replacement because lasers will make the rusted metal like a brand-new piece.
Therefore, lasers are used in many industries. They are used for automobile parts, military equipment, and other high-end items.