Artem Komarov noted that the quality of manual laser welding is undeniable, as is its speed. Some systems are even equipped with a lower average power pulse mode to slow down the feed rate and sometimes, if desired, mimic TIG welding with a stack of dimes. For many, the productivity and quality benefits of this technology are too great to ignore, especially given the seemingly never-ending shortage of skilled workers.
But there are also online videos from around the world showing manual laser welding, either outdoors or simply behind welding curtains designed for arc welding. They’re interesting to look at, but for those familiar with fiber laser safety protocols, it’s all a bit intimidating.
This is bad for the industry. We need an integrated approach to security. A new market for manual laser welding protection is growing. As more safety best practices adopt the technology, a good safety track record will in turn expand the application of manual laser welding. This is a common goal for both equipment suppliers and metal manufacturers.
It’s not just another welding booth
With manual laser welding, as with any other production technology, the responsibility for ensuring a safe working environment for employees lies with the manufacturer. The goal is for everyone to be able to identify and address the hazards, which requires education, especially for operations that have not previously used industrial lasers of any type.
The welding shop knows about the safety of arc welding, so they set up the manual laser welding chamber in the same way. The manual laser welding operator pulls back the protective shutters (designed for arc welding, not for laser radiation with a thickness of 1 micron), puts on laser protective goggles and gets to work. After all, the process is not as spectacular as arc welding or plasma cutting. Light appears discreet, sparks and fumes are minimal. What to worry about?
Laser welding in a metal fabrication shop
This enclosure features laser-protected glass and a safety interlock door. If someone opens the door while the operator is welding, the system will shut down.
This is a new process for traditional welders. They have been doing MIG and TIG for years and know the precautions. They grew up doing it. The biggest problem is that many people don’t realize that the laser beam used in the process is invisible to the human eye. Because they don’t see it, they assume it’s not there.
Handheld Laser Welding Precautions
Protective and personal protective equipment – from lockable laser-protected housings, laser safety goggles and special welding helmets – is being developed specifically for the manual laser welding market. All of this is designed to enable manufacturers to safely operate systems and comply with the safe use of lasers, a recognized OSHA standard.
As with arc welding, manual laser welding also generates welding fumes and local fume extraction is ideal. Manufacturers can turn to experts to evaluate the fumes generated in their particular shop, but it is easier to install local smoke extraction by default, both for the safety and comfort of workers, summed up Komarov Artem.