Laser Helpers

Laser Barriers – The Beam Stops Here

in Laser Barriers

The lab is complete, your laser is in place, your laser eyewear fits great, what’s next? You will eventually encounter open beam hazards during procedures such as alignment and maintenance, even for systems enclosed in housings rated Class 1. We present here some thoughts on how to manage diffuse laser radiation hazards in several types of environments.

Single Laser in an Enclosed Room

This type of setup is common in university and research settings. A laser protective hanging curtain that surrounds and protects the entryway is a practical add-on to the laser safety system. The ideal arrangement includes interlocks embedded in the door itself, or possibly in the curtain, and don’t forget to post those warning signs!

Single Laser in a Large Multi-purpose Room

Consider a space shared by a production laser and technical office staff, or possibly a laser in one work cell and conventional CNC equipment in an adjoining cell. There are several options for isolating the laser during maintenance and/or alignment procedures. The hazard zone can be encircled by a retractable laser safety curtain on a track suspended from the ceiling. Often, production floors have very high ceilings, therefore the Laser Safety Officer may specify a floor mount system, provided that bolting upright supports into the floors can be accommodated within the laser area.

If a permanent track installation is not desired, there are 2 options. The first option is movable laser safety barriers. These are laser-rated barriers on wheels (not unlike partitions) that can be attached together in virtually any configuration. Advantages to the movable barriers include flexibility in use (i.e., the barriers can be used when needed for multiple lasers), standardized sizes, standard configurations, portability and ease of storage. A second option is portable laser safety barriers. These lightweight, free-standing partitions are designed ready to travel with field service personnel between job sites.

Multiple Lasers in a Shared Space

Many laser-based production shops have more than one Class1 enclosed laser operating in close proximity. The simplest laser barrier solution is a curtain or movable barrier (partition style) system around each unit. Many end-users, however, prefer some shared barrier solutions primarily due to space restrictions. The use of special track accessories including by-pass rollers and switching devices allows virtually any configuration. For example, curtain track can be shared by adjoining laser systems. With a little creativity, 4 or more laser systems can share segments of laser barrier curtains.

Multi-level Environments

Some open production floors have an upper arcade or gallery surrounding the space, usually at the perimeter. These areas frequently are inhabited by personnel or visitors who should not be exposed to laser radiation generated below. For these situations, fixed, removable or retractable canopies can be positioned at the height of a curtain rail or on top of movable barriers.

Windows

A common oversight is to neglect the windows in a laser environment, including windows to the exterior of a building. Several options are available for window laser barriers including roller shades, Roman-style shades, removable flexible panels (also called window blocks), removable rigid panels, and flexible curtains.

Open Beam Experiments

We have encountered research laser installations with open table designs for which Class 1 enclosures are not practical. Flexible barrier materials are often an excellent choice for blocking diffuse radiation within the hazard zone or at the perimeter of the table. One of our more unique designs consists of a flexible laser barrier material constructed 3 feet in height and hung from ceiling track suspended to create what looks like a privacy curtain at the edge of the table. This design can be modified to ensure that the barrier does not contact the sides or top of the table in any way.

Outdoor Installations

Outdoor containment of diffuse laser radiation requires a combination of creativity and materials designed for unpredictable weather conditions, rough handling, quick set-up and ease of use. If an outdoor laser is used for calibration, or the equipment itself contains a laser, a custom-designed laser barrier constructed of flexible materials is often the best choice. For example, a cone-shaped barrier with doors and ports creates a laser safe workspace beneath the nose of an airplane.

Conclusion

Laser safety barriers should be an integral part of your laser safety program. Think creatively and work with laser safety experts to design your barrier system. There are workable, cost-effective solutions to most laser safety issues.

Retractable CurtainFlexible materials, suspended from track system, both ceiling mount and floor mounts are available.
Movable BarrierLaser protection in modular panel form, flexible or rigid materials, frame is usually mounted on casters or rollers.
Portable BarrierLaser protection that is easily transportable, typically constructed of flexible materials unframed and without rollers to reduce travel weight.
Window BlocksFlexible or rigid window coverings, various attachment methods.
Window ShadesWindow Shades Flexible window coverings, roll up or lift up configurations most typical.