Use of protective eyewear is of prime importance when working with lasers. The correct type of eyewear must be chosen and worn in accordance with all applicable safety rules and regulations. Protective eyewear is rated according to optical density (OD) and visible light transmission (VLT). OD is a rating of how much of the laser light (at a given wavelength) is attenuated by the protective material, given as a power of 10. For example, an OD of 4 attenuates the laser energy by a factor of 104 (10,000). CO2 wavelengths produced by ULS are 9.3 μ and 10.6 μ. Common protective materials at these wavelengths are glass (OD of 7+) and polycarbonate (OD of 5+).
The potential for fire and damage to surrounding equipment is another safety concern that must be addressed. The wavelengths of energy emitted by ULS lasers are readily absorbed by organic materials. These materials are flammable and tend to be abundant in any given location; examples include clothes, drywall, computer equipment, lab equipment, cardboard, paper and wood. Accordingly, great care must be taken when working with CO2 lasers and optical systems.
During CO2 laser processing, various compounds can be released in the form of particulates, vapor and gas. It is important to design ventilation into your laser system to evacuate these compounds as they may be flammable and harmful to human health.
Universal Laser Systems' lasers operate at 48 V DC, which is below the voltage limit considered dangerous by most safety standards. However, the lasers draw large amounts of current and the power supplies needed to provide the 48 V DC usually require 90-240 V AC to operate. For these reasons, proper safety precautions should be taken with every portion of the electrical system.
An interlock circuit is incorporated into the laser that can be combined with external switches to satisfy safety requirements for Class 1 laser equipment. At least two redundant switches must be used for each panel providing access to a Class 1 enclosure. Please refer to your region's relevant safety regulations for more information on Class 1 laser equipment design. The interlock circuit is self-sourced using a 12 volt output supplied by the laser. Closing the interlock allows the laser to operate, and any break in this connection will cause the laser to stop operating. Switches can be placed in series with these pins to create a safety interlock circuit.
Universal Laser Systems' OEM lasers are sold as components and therefore are not required to conform to all U.S. or European safety regulations regarding electromagnetic interference (EMI). It is the responsibility of the customer to design and certify any equipment incorporating a laser to ensure it meets all local safety regulations prior to sale to the public. However, testing by Universal has demonstrated that with a properly selected power supply and line filtering, all Universal lasers will pass the relevant U.S. and European EMI standards for Class A equipment.
Universal's OEM lasers are sold as components and are not certified by any regulatory body for end-user use. Certifying the final, finished product will be the sole responsibility of the integrator, and will depend on an evaluation of the entire finished product.
The laser safety class of the OEM laser component will not necessarily determine the laser safety class of the finished product. An OEM laser from Universal Laser Systems can be integrated into a device that is classified as Class 1 or Class 4, depending on the housing, beam control mechanism, and other factors.
Our lasers are also available in a Class 4 version, intended for laboratory use. This is a self-contained, CE certified laser with a keyswitch interlock and a physical shutter to protect against inadvertent laser discharge. It is not commonly used for OEM applications.
For more information on obtaining certification for your finished product, consult the regulatory body for your area listed below.
OEM integration lasers do not contain the above safety features required for Class 4 operation as these features are either not required or more appropriately located outside the laser when lasers are integrated as components in laser systems. It is the responsibility of the laser integrator to assess the safety classification and requirements for the laser system the laser is integrated into and design in the appropriate safety features.
It is the responsibility of the integrator to meet all applicable safety standards required by the authorities of the region that the unit will be operating in. Below is a list of useful contacts for information on safety regulations in the U.S., Canada, and Europe:
Food and Drug Administration – Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), 1-800-638-2041.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), (301) 362-3000.
Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL), Illinois (708) 272-8800, New York (516) 271-6200, California (408) 985-2400.
Laser Safety Institute of America, (407) 380-1553. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, (202) 693-2300.