Get answers to common questions about precautions and safety issues that come up during laser marker installation. All the items of importance prior to using a laser marker are fully covered here.
What safety measures should be implemented when operating a laser?
Both manufacturers and end users need to take precautions to ensure that lasers are used in a safe manner.
Below are some typical examples of user safety measures.
- 1REMOTE INTERLOCK
- Install an interlock mechanism to shut the laser off during emergencies.
- 2END OF BEAM PATH
- Use a diffusing reflector or absorber with suitable reflectance and thermal characteristics to end the laser path. (For example, install a protective cover.)
- 3EYE PROTECTION
- Wear protective goggles as a routine precaution in control areas containing laser products to protect against accidental ocular exposure to laser emissions. Always wear goggles during laser maintenance.
- 4LASER SAFETY MANAGER
- Appoint a safety manager who knows how to handle laser products and prevent laser injuries.
What type of protective cover is required for laser markers?
Laser markers need a protective cover made from a material that the laser cannot penetrate—meaning that the material must attenuate the laser to a Class 1 beam.
Protective covers for CO2 lasers (30 Watt class lasers) are generally made of acrylic or polycarbonate, and protective covers for fiber and YVO4 lasers are commonly made of sheet metal. Since completely surrounding a laser in sheet metal prevents the operator from seeing inside the housing, some protective covers have a view window covered with a special protective film.
Penetration of acrylic plates by CO2 lasers
Standards for selecting materials to use in laser device covers
The material used as a cover is deemed intrinsically safe if the laser’s transmitted beam power after being diffused and reflected by the target workpiece is no more than the Class 1 AEL*. The Class 1 AEL for a CO2 laser (10.6 μm wavelength) is 103 W m–2.
*AEL (accessible emission limit): The maximum permitted level of radiation exposure or the exposure emission limit.
Theoretical acrylic plate thickness providing Class 1 AEL (typical example)
|Maximum power output||80W|
|Spot diameter||ø60 μm approx. (ML-Z Series)|
|Spot area||2.82 x 10–9 m2 (calculated using the ø60 μm spot diameter of ML-Z Series)|
|CO2 laser transmittance of acrylic plate||60% (for plate of 15 μm thickness)|
In theory, an acrylic plate thickness of 508 μm attenuates a CO2 laser to the Class 1 level, but a thickness of at least 5 mm is recommended to ensure adequate durability and material workability.
What is considered a safe distance that an operator must stand away from a laser marker when its protective cover is off?
There are two values to consider here: MPE and NOHD.
- MPE and NOHD
- MPE (maximum permissible exposure) is the permissible safety level for a laser beam in contact with eyes or skin. NOHD (nominal ocular hazard distance) is the distance needed for a laser beam to diffuse to an intensity level lower than the MPE (the level deemed safe).
Therefore, a laser marker's safe operating distance depends on the NOHD when its safety cover is off. The NOHD values of KEYENCE products are given below.
Note: NOHD should only be used as a safety management indicator. JIS standards specify that “Exposure to laser radiation must be minimized under all circumstances.” NOHD values DO NOT imply that a laser marker can be operated without a safety cover as long as the operator is at least the NOHD distance away.
NOHD (nominal ocular hazard distance) values
CO2 laser markers
|Standard model||Wide-area model||Fine-line model|
|approx. 4.9ｍ||approx. 5.0ｍ||approx. 1.2ｍ|
YAG (YVO4) laser markers
|Standard model||Wide-area model||Fine-line model|
|approx. 40.4m||approx. 63.9m||approx. 18.8m|
|Standard type||Wide area type|
|approx. 32.2m||approx. 59.2m|
Should a beam shielding film be applied to the inner or outer surface of the acrylic plate?
As illustrated in the example above, is it better to place the protective film on side 1 or side 2?
The purpose of the film is to prevent laser emissions from escaping the protective cover. Adhering the film to side 2 (the inner surface) is recommended whenever possible, because placing it on side 1 (the outer surface) may cause laser emissions to scatter as they enter the acrylic plate.
What is the most accurate way to measure laser power?
Power meters are used to accurately measure the output power of a laser marker (available from electronics suppliers). KEYENCE laser markers come with a built-in power monitor as a standard feature, allowing users to measure the laser power output easily and precisely without having to buy an external device.
*not available in the ML-Z series
KEYENCE does not sell power meters.
General method of measuring laser power
Use a power meter (available from electronics suppliers) to measure the laser power output.
Measuring the power of KEYENCE laser markers
A power monitor is built into the marking head, allowing for easy measurement without any external laser emission. The power monitor can be operated directly from the software so there is no need to open the equipment cover.
*not available in the ML-Z series
What maintenance is required for laser markers?
Laser markers don’t require maintenance, which is one of their major benefits. That said, the lens should be cleaned if its surface gets dirty, since dirty lenses can reduce print quality or cause missing parts in the print image.
Q31What is the best way to clean the lens?
Wipe the lens lightly with a cloth soaked in acetone or ethanol. Wipe in a circular motion, working outward from the center of the lens.
Never wipe the lens with a dry cloth. This may scratch it or remove the protective coating.
What items are needed for a general installation?
An example of a typical installation is shown below.
Install a dust collector to filter out the dust and smoke generated during marking. To ensure efficient dust collection (and avoid laser reflection) cover the laser passage with a material that does not allow laser light to pass through. Moreover, terminate the laser passage so that the laser beam cannot be emitted when there is no target present.
Is a fume extractor necessary?
Yes, a fume extractor is required since laser marking generates smoke and dust. Installing a fume extractor also helps prevent contaminants from building up on the lens, which could otherwise cause faded or missing marks.
Gas may also be generated when laser marking plastic targets, so a fume extractor should be used that can filter out potentially harmful air contaminants.
What warning signs and labels are available?
Laser warning labels can be purchased from Rockwell Laser Industries, Inc.
Signs and label types may vary depending on the size.
Post the following warning sign at the entrance of the room where a laser product is installed in order to warn people before they enter the room.
A warning label is attached to the head of the laser marker before shipment.
The following is an example of the warning labels for the ML-Z Series CO2 laser marker.
Can marking details be controlled by an external device?
Yes, every KEYENCE laser marker can be controlled via serial commands from a PC or PLC. Every operation available on the editing software (including character and program changes) can be used.
- 2D code marking by using the measurement data from an inspection machine.
- Part identification marking on products arranged on a pallet by specifying coordinates.
- Product type changeover by reading barcodes.
- Example: barcode verification
- Users can change the data to be marked on products by reading a barcode with the correct registered data. This ensures smooth change-overs of product lines and prevents marking errors.
What kind of communication interface can be used?
Users can establish communication via RS-232C, Ethernet TCP/IP, EtherNet/IPTM, PROFINET, or simple I/O. Customer programs can even be created using ActiveX control.
Why is the communication control failing?
KEYENCE's laser markers have an extremely useful function designed to help troubleshoot communication issues. Each laser automatically stores its communication history, which allows users to record the exchanged communication commands in a text file format. The file can then be emailed to KEYENCE in order to quickly determine the cause.
Communication history monitor (sample screen)
This function displays the history of communication exchanged with an external device (PC or PLC).
- Use when troubleshooting abnormal communication.
- Compare the actual data sent and received on the monitor and verify the transmission of data.
Is it possible to control the operation of the laser with only the I/O terminal block?
Yes, the rear panel of the controller is equipped with a terminal block and an MIL connector which allows users to wire a sensor, a PLC, or a control device to the laser marker. By registering the marking settings beforehand, the user can switch the marking type with the I/O terminals. A wide range of control is possible with just the I/O terminals. The terminal block can be detached by releasing the locks at the upper and lower ends.
What type of input signals can be used via the I/O terminals?
Typical signals are as follows.
* Many more signals are available. Contact KEYENCE for more information.
MARKING START INPUT
The Marking Start Input can be turned on by a sensor or another device.
(Minimum pulse width: 1 ms or more)
EMERGENCY STOP INPUT
Stops the laser emission in the case of an emergency.
When this terminal is opened, all marking operations stop (Laser power OFF) and the internal shutter closes.
MARKING CONFIRMATION INPUT
Used to make sure the laser is actually emitting during marking (requires an external sensor, such as the KEYENCE FT Series). If the marker does not receive an input from the sensor during marking, it outputs an error.
MARKING COMPLETION OUTPUT
When the marking operation is completed successfully, a pulse output turns on (100 ms max.). If the next trigger is input during the output, the output turns off immediately.
COUNTER UP INPUT
Increments the value of a selected counter by one step.
SETTING NUMBER CONFIRMATION INPUT
Changes the settings or programs in order to compensate for adjustments in marking due to product changes or updates made to the data being marked. Changes can be made to adjust for a variance of up to 2000 parts.
How do I connect external devices?
An example of a typical installation is shown below.
Connecting external devices
How do I connect timing sensors?
Examples of sensor connections are shown below.
Input and output supports both NPN and PNP, and allows them to be used simultaneously.
Will laser marking be affected if the equipment vibrates?
Laser markers use precise optical control. For this reason, if vibration occurs during marking:
- Marking coordinates may become misaligned
- Text may become distorted
Additional problems may also occur. If ambient vibration affects the laser marker, use a vibration-resistant stand or other preventative measures in order to eliminate vibration.
Will marking with the laser in an upside down orientation cause any problems?
Since KEYENCE laser marker heads can be mounted at any angle, there are no problems.
* Take cautionary measures to prevent the build up of dust and debris on the lens.
Can laser markers be used with a 200V power supply?
Yes. KEYENCE laser markers support AC power supplies from 100-120V or 200-240V.
* Use a cable that meets power supply specifications.
How do I prevent the laser from oscillating when the protective cover is opened?
Use the shutter control inputs on KEYENCE's laser controller. Shutter control terminals are used to close the shutter and stop laser scanning when the cover is opened.
Shutter Control Input
KEYENCE's shutter control inputs prevent laser radiation from being emitted. The laser is disabled when the connector pins are released. Shutter control inputs are controlled by two circuits: terminal A and terminal B. If either one is released, the shutter closes and laser scanning stops. If both ends short, the shutter opens and the sensor switches to standby mode.
* When shipped, the terminals are shorted together by means of a connecting bar.
WARNING: The laser control interlock should not be used when the door to the enclosure needs to be opened frequently. Contact Keyence for alternative measures.
I want to move the laser to another factory.
What should I be aware of when packing it?
Laser markers are high-precision devices.
Packaging supplied by KEYENCE or a similar substitute must be used when transporting laser markers.
Should I replace the air filter when it gets dirty?
Yes. The air filter should be cleaned or replaced when it gets dirty. If the condition of the filter is ignored, cooling performance will diminish which may reduce laser output or cause damage.
Use a mild detergent to clean the air filter and let it dry naturally (do not apply heat).
* Replacement filters are available. Consult your nearest KEYENCE office for details.
Maintenance work on laser markers must be performed by technicians who possess specialist electrical knowledge.
|Name||Function||Replacement Timing Guidelines|
|Air Filter (OP-80107)||Prevents dust from entering the cooling unit||Replace or clean the filter when it gets dirty or dusty.
Replace if ripped or damaged.
|Time Lag Fuse (250V 15A rating)||Fuse for FDA specification controller||Replace when blown.|
|Lithium Watch Battery CR2032||Battery for internal clock||Replace when low battery warning occurs.|
Rating : 250V, 10A, Compliant with European Standard EN60127-2