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Opportunities And Challenges Of Domestic Laser Cleaning Development In 2018
- Aug 08, 2018 -

As China's environmental protection regulations become more stringent, people's awareness of environmental protection is also increasing. Many shortcomings of the traditional cleaning  are becoming more and more obvious, especially pollution caused by air and water. Laser cleaning is one of the more modern versions of the cleaning process and has rapidly replaced more traditional methods such as dry-ice blasting or media blasting due to the numerous benefits that it provides..It is currently considered to be the most environmentally friendly and effective solution, and laser cleaning can solve the problems that cannot be solved by traditional cleaning methods. .

The laser cleaning technology mainly uses the characteristics of high energy, high repetition rate and high power of the laser to hit a high energy density beam on a small area of the surface of the object to be cleaned, and utilizes the difference in the absorption capacity of the substrate material and the attached object to make the object The attachment or coating of the surface "staining dirt" instantly "evaporates" or peels off.

Compared with traditional cleaning methods, laser cleaning has many advantages such as non-contact, no brushing, no pollutant emission and wide applicability. It is considered to be the most reliable and effective "cleaner". It has been cleaned in weapons and equipment. Cultural relics protection, precision parts maintenance, flying aircraft, orbital locomotives play an important role.

Practical application of laser cleaning technology

Laser cleaning can be used not only to clean organic contaminants, but also to clean inorganic materials, including metal rust, metal particles, dust, etc. General laser cleaning technology is applied to mold cleaning, aircraft old paint removal, building exterior wall cleaning, cleaning in the electronics industry, precision deesterification cleaning in the precision machinery industry, and pipeline cleaning in nuclear power plant reactors.

 Laser cleaning does not require the use of any chemicals, and the solid waste that is washed is easier to store and recycle. The “soft and invisible” light does not cause “secondary damage” such as mechanical effects on the surface of the equipment, and the cleanliness is high. At the same time, the laser cleaning efficiency is high, the use time is low, and the use cost is low. Although the laser cleaning system is relatively high in the previous period, the cleaning system can be used stably for a long time, and the running cost is low, and the operating cost per hour is only about 10 yuan. It is important to be able to automate operations easily.


Figure 1 Effect of laser cleaning of metal parts

Laser cleaning development abroad

Laser cleaning technology research started in the mid-1980s, but it was not until the early 1990s that it actually entered industrial production, and in many cases it gradually replaced traditional cleaning methods. As we all know, European countries generally retain a large number of historical relics and ancient buildings. Many churches, castles, universities, museums, sculptures, etc. have hundreds of years or even thousands of years of history. Europeans pay great attention to the protection and restoration of these "antiques" since the mid-1990s. Laser cleaning technology has begun to be used for cultural remediation and decontamination.

The decontamination range of laser cleaning in foreign countries is very wide. It can be removed from thick rust layer to fine particles on laser surface. There are many types of equipment used in laser cleaning experiments in decontamination. The wavelength range of laser used is wide, but laser cleaning The development of technology is not balanced, some have been industrialized, and some are still in the laboratory stage. At present, developed countries are no strangers to the application of laser cleaning, and have been used for nearly 30 years. It is worth mentioning that developed countries have experienced a century of modern industrial development history, and there have been serious environmental problems such as air, water and soil pollution. London was once known as the fog capital, and Los Angeles has also had "toxic fog." "Events, after nearly half a century of environmental remediation and industrial transfer, coupled with the use of laser processing, cleaning and other cleaning technologies, developed countries are currently doing very good environmental issues. It is worth mentioning that the development of environmental protection technology in developed countries has passed, the laser cleaning utilization rate is also high, and the industrial development has been integrated. The main suppliers include P-laser, CleanLaser, Adapt Laser Systems, General Lasertronics, etc. The country's laser cleaning market is stable, but due to limited market space, it has not shown explosive growth. The real big market is in China and some emerging industrial countries.


Figure 2 Laser cleaning equipment by Maxphotonics

China laser cleaning development

China is recognized as a manufacturing power and the world's largest processing country, and the industrial volume is also the world's number one. For industrial modernization and solving a large number of labor problems, China has spent more than 20 years in the 1990s and from the introduction of foreign companies to endogenous enterprises. It took 25 years to complete the industrialization process in Europe and the United States for 100 years, and then bring about the environment. Deterioration and industrial pollution, uncontrolled emissions of waste water, waste gas and waste products. The blue sky is covered by smog, the smell of drinking water, the heavy metal in the soil exceeds the standard, and all kinds of abandoned garbage besieged the city, which are all prominent problems in the current environment. The Chinese government has long been aware of the problem, and has also vigorously built sewage treatment plants, exhaust gas adsorption and filtration facilities, etc. However, this measure is only post-discharge treatment, and the cost is also very high. In this context, changing the processes in some production processes and upgrading the more environmentally friendly cleaning processes becomes a very urgent and necessary task. Laser cleaning / descaling is a very potential choice.

I have always believed that laser cleaning technology can not be counted as a laser processing. It is a kind of workpiece surface treatment technology that is different from laser processing. It is different from previous laser cutting, welding, drilling, marking, cladding, etc. The use of laser high energy and material to change the shape, properties or relationship between the components to achieve processing results, while laser cleaning does not change the material matrix, only the surface of the stain, rust, dust or residue Clean, is a surface "washing" process, not a laser processing technology. However, it does not mean that laser cleaning is a technology-free process. On the contrary, its application must take into account the material of the material, the thickness of the stain, the power of the laser and the moderate energy, etc. A wide range of different materials require laser cleaning systems with different parameters, so there are still many articles on process exploration, research, and testing.

The research of laser cleaning technology and the development of equipment in China started late, basically tracking the development of foreign countries. Although some achievements were made in a relatively short period of time, there is a clear gap compared with foreign countries. Since 2004, there have been some research articles on laser cleaning in China's academic circles. By 2010, the Laser Fusion Center of China Academy of Engineering Physics had tried to develop laser cleaning equipment in China and successfully applied it to Yungang Grottoes, Stone Walls and Stone Statues. Cultural relics such as murals. In the following years, the papers on laser cleaning processes in various domestic research institutions have gradually increased, and the degree of attention has also been quite high.

Until 2015, domestic and international laser cleaning applications were mainly solid-state lasers. In 2016, foreign laser giant IPG Photonics introduced high-frequency fiber lasers for laser cleaning, which attracted widespread attention. The domestic laser manufacturer Maxphotonics first followed up, and in the second half of 2016, the first 100W pulsed fiber laser for laser cleaning was introduced in China. In October 2016, Ming Lei Laser in Shenzhen launched the first industrial laser cleaners of 200W and 500W in China. In March 2017, several major fiber laser manufacturers in China introduced laser products that can be used for laser cleaning, and companies engaged in the development of laser cleaning equipment are also emerging. Laser cleaning has gradually emerged from a “black technology”. For more people, people in all walks of life, such as automobiles, molds, home appliances, electronics manufacturing, painting, metal products, etc., know that the magical efficiency of laser cleaning and environmental protection "efficiency" have expressed their interest in trial use. In September 2017, “Laser Manufacturing Business” held the first “China Laser Cleaning Application Technology Forum” during the Jiangmen Zhibo Fair, and timely responded to the needs of the industry to organize this event, effectively exploring the different technical processes of laser cleaning and Direction of development.

Due to the high technology content and high laser procurement cost, the early laser cleaning machine was also expensive, and there were over one million machines. Many potential users, despite expressing their willingness to use, faced millions of Purchasing costs are still hesitant. Since more than a year has passed, manufacturers engaged in similar laser production have also had more manufacturers of laser cleaning machines, and the overall price has dropped. Now a medium-power laser cleaning machine is from 300,000 to 700,000. All of them, of course, the quality of the products is also uneven, and must be carefully screened when purchasing.

Nowadays, the domestic research institutes engaged in laser cleaning include the Laser Fusion Center of China Academy of Engineering Physics, the Remanufacturing Center of the PLA Armored Force Engineering College, Harbin Institute of Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Nankai University, etc. The related laser manufacturers  Maxphotonics  and Ricoh Laser. , Haifu Photonics, Feibo Laser, Zhongke Sixiang, Guoke Laser, etc., and more companies engaged in the development of laser cleaning equipment, Hans Laser Smart Equipment Group, HG Laser, Ming Laser, Di Laser, Ai Silan, Newfoundland Electromechanical, WISCO Huagong, Jiaxin Laser, Aohua Laser, Huize Laser, Ruifeng Optoelectronics, Xiangming Laser, etc., some of which can provide up to 1000W washing machine. At present, the highest power level of fiber lasers for laser cleaning in China is going to 800W, which is produced by Haifu Photonics. Maxphotonics is developing; while the power level of 1000W is only provided by IPG. Due to the power limitations of pulsed fiber lasers, higher power laser cleaning applications currently use solid-state lasers, and Powerlase from the UK offers 1600W solid-state lasers for laser cleaning. Some companies engaged in supporting products have also launched laser cleaning heads, such as Jinhai Chuang Technology. The laser cleaners developed earlier are mainly hand-held, but due to the high brightness and high energy of the laser, the use of high-power lasers may not be suitable for handheld applications. Some companies have gradually developed robotic laser cleaning systems, including Ming Radium, Jiaxin and Huize have realized automatic cleaning control, which greatly improved the cleaning efficiency and human safety.

Although the industrial application of laser cleaning has attracted widespread attention from all walks of life from 2016 to 2017, it will take some time for market growth and user acceptance. Until the end of 2017, the author estimates that there are more than 40 companies and research institutions across the country. Engaged in the research and development of laser cleaning systems, the total revenue of laser cleaning related products does not exceed 500 million yuan. Because the industrial application of laser cleaning is relatively new in China, some of them are start-ups, and their performance is less than 10 million. The products like the Han'S Laser, HG Laser, Minglu Laser, etc. can also rely on the original accumulated brands. The effect is to win some orders. It is reported that all laser cleaning equipment companies have achieved good growth in 2018. It is conservatively estimated that sales in the first half of the year have increased by more than 40% compared with last year. Part of the reason is that the number of companies engaged in laser cleaning equipment has increased, various types of machines have emerged in an endless stream, and prices have dropped. In addition, some potential users in the past have been determined to purchase laser cleaning after this year.

Laser cleaning challenges and know-how

Nowadays, the continuous development of laser cleaning technology has opened up many new opportunities for laser technology in industrial applications. This technology is in the ascendant in the fields of microelectronics, construction, automobile manufacturing, medical treatment, ship cleaning and maintenance, etc., and the application market is extremely promising. . In the current era of increasing awareness of environmental protection and safety, how to find a cleaner, non-damaging cleaning method is an issue that needs to be considered.

The emergence of laser cleaning technology has opened up a new field of laser technology in industrial applications. Its development in the fields of microelectronics, construction, nuclear power plants, automobile manufacturing, medical care, cultural relics protection, etc. is in the ascendant, and the application market has broad prospects. After more than 20 years of development, the application of laser processing in China has begun to take shape. The laser processing equipment has not only entered some large-scale enterprise production lines, but also covered with large and small front-facing laser processing stations, which have made important contributions to the promotion of laser processing. Laser cleaning has very little application in metal descaling and mold decontamination, and laser cleaning technology is still under development in the fields of automobile manufacturing and construction, and it is not seen in the street-processing stores. Therefore, laser cleaning still has a long way to go.

According to market research reports, the value of the global laser cleaning market will reach 589 million US dollars in 2018. By 2023, this value is expected to reach 724 million US dollars. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2018 and 2023 is 4.22%. Many of the above-mentioned fields belong to the pillar industries of the national economy. After the laser cleaning technology is added to it, the economic and social benefits are considerable. Using the existing laser technology conditions in China, we will develop supporting laser cleaning equipment and make it It is entirely possible to be practical and industrialized in a short period of time, and it is also of great significance to promoting the development of high-tech industries.

Another problem is that some potential users believe that the price of laser cleaning equipment is too high, and the process development of various cleaning requirements is not enough, resulting in hesitant to purchase. The author believes that with the promotion and development of laser cleaning applications, there will still be some room for decline in the price of equipment in the future. However, the price of mechanical equipment cannot be reduced indefinitely, just like the laser marking machine. After several years of fierce price wars, it has now disappeared. 

The continued development of laser cleaning will inevitably bring more styles of products. This is not just an industrial application technology. I believe it can also be combined with life applications. Although stainless steel and aluminum products are widely used, every household has Metal supplies and tools, many people will throw away a tool because it rusts. If the laser processing shops in the street are equipped with laser cleaning machines, the farm tools, knives, pliers, etc. are rusted. After they are cleaned and repaired, they will be completely renewed, just like those who went into the village 20 years ago to provide sharpening.  Imagine how big the laser cleaning market is!