Q&A: Laser Preventative Maintenance

Does preventive maintenance vary much from brand to brand? 

Preventive maintenance of fiber lasers varies very little from one brand to another.  This is attributed to the diminishment of items that require maintenance: specifically the elimination of nearly all optics.  The frequencies, procedures and costs of preventive maintenance on CO2 lasers can vary greatly between brands, however.  Most of these differences can be attributed to the resonator.  The differences between Cross-Flow and Fast Flow (RF and DC) are too numerous to discuss in depth in this in this interview.

Are Cross Flow and Fast Flow styles of resonators?

Yes, they are different styles of CO2 resonators.  RF and DC excited resonators employ high-speed turbines to move the laser gas through glass tubes and shoot an electrical charge through the tubes to stimulate the laser gas to produce the laser beam.  A cross-flow resonator has a large, sealed cavity with low speed fans to circulate the laser gas and electrodes to stimulate the laser gas to produce the laser beam.

Is preventive maintenance sometimes put off because it cuts into production schedules?

I would hope not.  Remember, all machinery requires preventive maintenance.  The better question for laser owners to ask themselves is “Do I want my machine’s down time to be planned or unplanned?”.  One of our customers is a world renowned heavy truck manufacturer that strictly follows preventive maintenance schedules of all their lasers.  Over the past twelve years I could count on one hand, the number of times, all of their lasers combined, have been down for unexpected, unscheduled repairs.  It’s also important to remember that most preventive maintenance can be performed during off hours. 

What’s the best advice you can offer a laser owner in order to maximize its use?

Lasers, be they fiber or CO2, are only making money when they are operating at peak performance. It’s, therefore, important to closely follow maintenance protocol. Follow optics cleaning procedures closely and regularly, track your productivity and machine downtime and ask to see the machine alarm history to help identify and address recurring problems. Understand and plan for secondary operation bottlenecks that may put a strain on schedules and machinery. Remember to keep machine programming software current, minimize part tip-ups and follow OEM recommended maintenance schedules. It’s true what they say about an ounce of prevention: Take the time to create and follow a daily and monthly maintenance checklist; and find laser operators who understand the importance of this and who are interested in taking ownership of the machines they run.

Guest BLOG post contributed by:

Patrick Medlin                                                                                                                                         

Advanced Technology Sales & Service                                                                                      

Greensboro,  NC  27409                                                                                                                                          

Tel: 336-393-0030                                                                 

pmedlin@atsservice.com

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