Since industrial lasers appeared in the 1970s, one of the most promising application possibilities has been removal of coatings. A laser’s concentrated energy easily and cleanly strips paints, sealants, adhesives, corrosion, any coating really, from any kind of substrate.
The obstacle has been that any laser powerful enough to remove coatings quickly can also damage substrates, if it continues to “fire” after the coating has been removed. So, for applications where preserving a pristine substrate is important – say, the wing of an airplane, or the hull of a submarine – laser “ablation” has never been practical.
General Lasertronics Corporation (“GLC” or “Lasertronics”) was founded in 1996 to address this roadblock. The founders focused on pulsed lasers, with fiber optic beam delivery onto any work surface, and customized scanning optics to optimize efficiency and safety. The company introduced its first system in 1998 and quickly followed with development of real-time color-selective beam controls. This control system interrogates the coated surface before each pulse and permits the next pulse to fire only if preset conditions are met. One example condition is that the coating to be removed is still present; there are others. This closed-loop control prevents damage to substrates, enabling the use of high-powered industrial lasers to deliver concentrated laser energy to quickly ablate coatings.
Since 2001, GLC has developed an expanding patent portfolio based on its control and beam delivery technologies. In 2009, after passing a thorough test program monitored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the GLC closed-loop process received FAA endorsement for use on Boeing 737 “classic” aircraft. In 2010 the FAA further advised that it has no objections to use on the aluminum airframes of any commercial aircraft. Our ablation system is the only laser coating removal process to have earned this critical FAA qualification..
How Our System Works
To remove red paint from an aluminum fuselage, for example, the operator sets our system to search for red. Our color recognition system enables each laser pulse to fire only if red paint is found. As the laser ablates the red paint, exposing the fuselage underneath, the laser is suppressed until the moving workhead finds more red paint, at which time the laser is once again enabled. This detection and suppression is instantaneous, so that the uncoated substrate never receives direct laser power. The energy pulse directed onto the coating being removed is completely absorbed in the ablation process, with virtually none passed through to the substrate.
This patented color recognition capability is unique to Lasertronics systems.
Captures Toxic Ablated Materials
Our system can be combined with an air capture system to trap ablated material in a HEPA filter. This sequestration dramatically reduces the complexity and cost of disposal of the toxic substances often found in coatings.