Laser Cutting Dust Collection

Reducing the Risk of Laser Cutting Dust Exposure

Laser cutting is an industrial process growing in popularity. Its advantages are well known: increased production efficiency, lower consumable costs, lower direct labor costs through automation and so on. However, as any operator of this process knows, there are also challenges involved. Laser cutting produces a serious amount of dust, and that dust has numerous, sometimes unforeseen, consequences.

Improving air quality should be a high priority in today’s manufacturing environment. Dust can be very harmful to workers’ health and can threaten a company’s regulatory compliance. A visible haze can also limit the ability to recruit the best workers, a growing concern in the recent competitive hiring scene. There are also major process complications which can occur when a laser beam hits a cloud of dust. Fortunately, measures exist to mitigate all of these problems.

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Exposure Risks for Laser Cutting Dust

In some ways, laser cutting is a safer metalworking process than many others. Sure, there is a high-powered laser involved, but the process is fast and hands-off. However, the dust created by laser cutting is a serious inhalation hazard. The intense heat involved in the process creates particulates in the sub-micron size; the smaller the particulate, the easier it is inhaled and absorbed into the body.

Because metal cutting produces metallic dust, the process is especially dangerous. Dusts might include metals such as chromium, lead, nickel, cadmium and others. These dusts are so dangerous the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued separate worker exposure limits for each one. Some of these metals have been implicated in cases of cancer and other serious diseases.

Fine metallic dusts can be an ignition hazard, as well. If certain metallic dusts accumulate in an enclosed space and interact with water, they can produce hydrogen and lead to an explosion. Dust explosions injure or kill many workers, every year.

Laser cutting dust causes other problems, as well. While not a health issue, the impact of dust on cutting efficiency is a serious concern. Dust from laser cutting can be so thick that it can diffuse the beam. This reduces the intensity of the beam and can interfere with the process. Also, maintenance costs for these processes can rise if dust is not extracted properly.

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Regulations for Laser Cutting Dust

“Permissible exposure limits” (PEL’s) are set by OSHA to limit many individual toxic dusts. (A limit for nuisance dust exists, as well.) These limits are measurements of how much of a substance a worker can be exposed to over an 8-hour shift (using a time-weighted average). Here is a list of a few sample PEL’s that pertain to metals that might be found in metalworking dust:

  • Cadmium: 0.005 mg/m3
  • Hexavalent chromium: 0.005 mg/m3
  • Lead: 0.05 mg/m3
  • Nickel: 1.0 mg/m3
  • Manganese: 5.0 mg/m3

If you are unsure what substances your process is putting into the air, an air quality audit would be wise. This would tell you what kind of dangers are floating in your facility. If your dust is simple nuisance dust, your filtration needs will be quite simple and inexpensive. However, if your dust contains one or more dangerous metallic particulates, you will need a filtration system capable of filtering that out of the air. Certified, third-party services exist to perform these audits.

Complying with OSHA regulations is important for any business. Citations for violations can carry significant fines, even reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Violations can cause other legal liabilities, as well as cause reputational harm. Most importantly, however, complying with regulations is a good way to ensure that an employer is protecting the health of its employees.

Solutions for Laser Cutting Dust

RoboVent understands laser cutting and how to mitigate its harmful side effects. In particular, RoboVent’s Plaser Series of collectors is designed specifically for this process. These collectors are based on our decades of experience in the industry. Over 1,000 Plaser units deployed in manufacturing operations have demonstrated the many benefits of our filtration technology. The units provide a powerful, consistent airflow that draws air through our cutting-edge filters. The system is comprehensive and includes spark arrestance to stop sparks before they become a problem. The Plaser Series is a turnkey solution for laser cutting and carries the best warranty in the industry.

Whether it’s a source capture solution, such as a fume arm or custom hood, or an ambient capture solution that cleans the air of your entire facility, RoboVent has a solution for your laser cutting operation. If your situation is complex and requires consultation, RoboVent’s VentMapping process identifies the problem, models your facility’s airflow and allows our engineers to propose the ideal solution. In all of these cases, satisfaction and performance are guaranteed.

Configurations

Traditional Configuration

The traditional configuration maximizes performance with ductwork sized for optimal airflow for your specific applications.

Services

VentMapping® Engineering

VentMapping is a systematic engineering and design service. Our comprehensive approach helps us find the safest, most effective and most efficient way to meet your goals.

RoboVent Maintenance Program, Clean Air and Industrial Air Filtration Solutions

ClientCare Maintenance Program

ClientCare lets you leverage RoboVent's expertise so you can reduce the burden on your maintenance staff and stay focused on your core business.

Collectors

Plaser® Series

Designed for laser welding and laser and plasma cutting operations, the Plaser Series meets the air quality demands of these dust- and fume-intensive processes.

Fusion™ Series

A dust collector on the cutting edge of air filtration. The Fusion Series delivers exceptional performance and cost savings in a powerful, simple package.

Products

Endurex RMO Cartridge Filters, Dust & Fume Air Filters

Endurex RMO Cartridge Filters

RoboVent's premium filter engineered to provide the best filtration protection for your plant and employees. A widened pleat and proprietary filter media help deliver top performance.