Have you heard the news? There’s a new method of removing rust that is catching on quickly, and that is Laser Rust Removal. In this article we’re going to give you the full run-down on laser rust removal so you will be up to speed on this new method of removing rust.
Rust is a general term used to describe the various oxides of iron. When a metal has rusted, it means water has found its way to the metal, and as a result, the oxidation process took place. This leaves the surface of a metallic item rusty. This can be unsightly, and on tools and equipment it is the first sign that leads to compromise of the structural integrity of the metal. Definitely not a good thing when you’re talking about tractor equipment, but how much concern you should give rust really depends on what part or equipment is rusting. A rusted blade or bucket is usually just a cosmetic issue, whereas a rusting control lever that might not function the same, or stick as a result.
Until recently, removing rust was a manual process involving a mixture of solvents and sanding or grinding. But now, there’s a new kid in town, and it’s called Laser Rust Removal.
Laser Rust Removal
Laser cleaning is one of the most effective methods of removing materials (including rust) from objects by irradiating them with a laser beam. At higher flux levels, the material is converted to plasma. At low levels, the material is subjected to heat from the absorbed laser energy, and it sublimates. This happens because the pulsed laser converts the material from solid to gaseous form, making it easy to evaporate.
Most people understand the density, melting points, electrical conductivity, and ductility of different materials. But, there are also lesser-known characteristics of metal such as ablation threshold. Focusing a laser beam on a metal at an intensity that is lower than its ablation threshold will cause the energy of the laser beam to spread as heat. The heat has no major permanent impact on the metal. But, if the laser beam is shone at an intensity higher than the ablation threshold, the heat will have a permanent effect on the integrity of the metal.
Wait, what? Okay, we’ll take a step back.
How Laser Cleaning Technology Works
Most rusts have ablation threshold that is lower than that of most metals. So, one can clean the rust by setting the laser parameter to produce laser beams of intensity that is just above the ablation of rust and other contaminants but below the ablation threshold of the metal that is being cleaned. The rapid heating will cause the melting and vaporization of the rust layers without affecting the structural integrity of the metal.
Some rust will explode on a smaller scale or crumble as it expands as a result of the heating. If the laser pulses don’t produce enough energy per pulse, then the rust might just melt. The major benefit of the process is that it suits a variety of projects. It can be used to remove rust from a small portion of a metal or to restore the quality of the whole metallic structure such as an old bridge. It is also possible to remove rust from tools and small items using laser rust removal.
While one may need to pulse several times in each spot to achieve the results, especially for thick layers of rust, the results are worth the effort. The rust removal process can be effectively done using handheld laser devices such as mobile laser cleaning system from Laserax. The video below demonstrates how to remove rust from mild steel using redENERGY G4 70W EP-Z laser .
Can you do Laser Rust Removal Yourself?
Generally, laser technology is environmentally friendly. Since it doesn’t use any solvents or any harmful chemicas, but just laser beams, there are no consumables. So the bottom line is it comes down to the cost. Right now, finding a good laser rust removal unit is costly, but in time we expect the cost of the laser rust removal technology to come down and maybe in the future DIY laser rust removal will be a reality.
This video shows how P-Laser QF-1000 can remove rust within minutes:
As with anything, technical skills in working with laser technology will put professional laser rust removal at an advantage over any DIY option that becomes available in the near future. The laser rust removal machine operator needs to understand the ablation threshold of different metals and how to set laser parameters of various laser machines. So unless you have those skills, we’d say it’s probably better to hire a trained professional than invest in the equipment yourself. Occasional laser rust removal is probably not going to support investing in the equipment.
Laser rust removal is a relatively new technology. It offers a fast, ‘set and forget’ solution that solves most of the rust removal challenges in homes and industrial settings. This game changer technology is fast gaining popularity within industrial cleaning circles. Laser cleaning equipment is a dream tool for any mechanic intending to start offering rust cleaning services to clients. The only challenge right now is that the technology is out of reach for a majority of average DIY enthusiasts.