By Cassandra Balentine
The September issue of Digital Output looks at laser cutting systems used in textile printing environments. Several benefits stand out when it comes to laser cutting technology for fabric applications, including precision cutting, sealing and welding capabilities, as well as maintenance considerations.
“These digital systems are extremely easy to use, highly automated, and require very little operator interaction,” shares Uli Kretzschmar, VP of SEI Laser sales, Matik, Inc.
Here, we look at safety requirements.
“Any large piece of equipment is going to have safety precautions that will need to be considered during operation, but as long as the equipment is operated as intended there shouldn’t be any major safety concerns,” notes David Stevens, technical development manager, Trotec Laser. Trotec’s midsize and large format laser machines are laser safety Class 2, which means that the machine is safe to operate without the need for any additional protective equipment. In addition, the midsize laser engravers and cutters are completely enclosed and will stop operating when the lid is opened.
Mark Bibo, director, global field marketing, packaging, sign, and graphics, Lectra, admits there is a natural fear of using a laser. “However, once our customers see how the system is designed and how safe the operation is, this fear is relaxed. Laser cutting textiles is actually a simple process as you are almost always cutting all the way through thin materials. You don’t have to worry about handling and changing sharp knife blades.”
Summa doesn’t take safety lightly. “Therefore, all Summa laser cutters include a closed cover system—and are Class 1 classified—to ensure full safety for the operator. In the market, there are several brands of laser cutting systems that are not Class 1 certified and thus do not have a closed cover,” explains Daphne Mertens, marketing and communication, Summa. She says this can lead to dangerous situations when laser cutting. “Any customer who values safety highly will not take anything for granted and will choose a Class 1 certified laser cutting system.”
Christina Lefebvre, area sales manager, North America, Matic, says both knife and laser are safe cutting solutions. “There are many security measures on both types of technologies to protect the operator, or anyone nearby.”
Tong Li, Ph.D., CEO, AP Lazer, points out that laser cutting and engraving does generate fumes, which need to be filtered, especially with materials like PVC, while drag knife cutters do not have the problem. However, solutions like the AP Lazer drag knife attachment, allows for both with the same machine.
“How safe a machine is really comes down to the individuals using the machines,” say Katlyn Dykhoff, marketing coordinator, and Adam Voigt, sales representative, Kern Laser Systems. “Both standard cutting machines and lasers have safety measures in place that, when followed, allow these machines to be very safe options. A well-trained operator will be safe with either option. Now, one of the safety advantages that lasers have is that they are non-contact, which means there is no potential for the textile being processed to get caught in the head of the machine, or in any moving parts.”
To expand on the safety of lasers, Dykhoff and Voigt point out that CO2 lasers are very safe. “They are at a wavelength that isn’t harmful to the human body. CO2 lasers require laser safety glasses while in use to protect the user’s eyes incase the beam reflects off the table. Our lasers, like many other cutting systems, can be equipped with advanced safety options that can range anywhere from a shroud around the cutting head to a full light curtain with bumpers. In the end the safeness of these systems relies more on the individual company’s protocols and training requirements than the systems themselves.”
James Stanaway, director of marketing, Epilog Laser, believes that any time you remove the potential of human error when using blades—and hot knifes—the potential for injury is greatly reduced. “Epilog’s laser cabinets are fully enclosed and were built with safety interlocks in place, which means that the laser won’t fire unless the door of the laser is fully closed.”
With safety standards in place, print providers can be rest assured that their staff are practicing in top work conditions. Modern laser systems are designed to the highest standards meeting all international safety requirements.
Sep2022, Digital Output