Cooling machining lasers with industrial chillers
Since machining lasers generate tremendous amounts of heat, it’s necessary to use industrial chillers for adequate temperature regulation. Otherwise, the excessive warmth could damage the laser’s tube and any surrounding equipment.
Relatedly, too much heat could negatively affect accuracy and wavelength. Using an industrial chiller prolongs its lifespan and ensures consistently high performance.
Air- vs. Water-Cooled Chillers
When a person researches the industrial chillers on the market, they’ll find details about models that cool lasers with either air or water. Air-cooled chillers are self-contained units with fans, while the water-cooled options need external liquid to work.
The laser source and optics are the two main generators of heat. However, they don’t produce that warmth in the same ways, and both components must stay at the right temperature for the laser to work properly. Some lasers have dual cooling circuits to address both of those areas. They are in a single machine, but they operate separately, so an operator can adjust the temperature as needed.
Some laser systems require the operating temperatures of the resonator and optics to stay at or below ambient. In such cases, people often choose vapor compression water chillers. They have an internal refrigeration system that transfers heat to the air from the cooling water with an air-cooled condenser. They might also use a water-cooled condenser to send the heat to a chilled water system within the facility.
Choosing the Right Chiller to Get Desired Results
Selecting an appropriate chiller means understanding some specifics about the laser that will use it. For example, a laser’s voltage and current determine its heat load. Thus, the larger the laser, the more horsepower needed for the chiller and vice versa.
Philip Preston is the president of PolyScience, which offers temperature control solutions for the medical, chemical, botanical extraction and other sectors. He clarified, “As lasers have evolved, it’s essential that chillers evolve with them. Having a chiller that has the right heat removal, has excellent stability and a level of quality, and maintenance-free operation is absolutely essential to keeping that laser up and running so the customer can make parts.”
Assessing the chiller’s environment is essential, too. For example, using one in a dust-prone area could necessitate changing the filter more often than the user’s manual recommends. However, some chillers have self-changing filter technology that switches them out monthly for two years. In that case, a maintenance technician doesn’t have to worry about that responsibility nearly as often.
Ensuring there is sufficient space to install the chiller is another vital consideration. Some states have equipment boundary space requirements. Additionally, the manufacturer may mention suggested or required clearances for the machine to maintain optimal performance.
Consistent Cooling Keeps Companies Profitable
In addition to excessive heat compromising laser performance, it can also interfere with smooth operations that allow businesses to stay profitable. A laser’s warmth can lead to extra costs for the company.
For example, in the food processing sector, lasers create holes in produce packaging, helping the contents become ripe and taste fresh. However, overheated lasers could create excessively large holes in the plastic used to protect the fruits or vegetables. The material could become useless, forcing company representatives to discard it.
Additionally, manufacturers use lasers to cut materials ranging from steel to plastics, and many facilities operate almost constantly. Too much heat causes a deterioration in beam quality, affecting the cutting performance and leading to defects in the finished materials. This means the items won’t pass quality checks.
However, industrial chillers provide the temperature control needed to prevent such outcomes. Investing in them could help a company meet productivity goals and avoid costly consequences.
Appropriate Maintenance Maximizes the Return on Investment
Selecting the correct chiller for the laser, environment and industry needs are crucial for achieving the best results. However, beyond the industrial chiller itself, company representatives must maintain the machine property for longevity and consistent performance.
Staying on top of maintenance begins by keeping a log of all upkeep and the parties involved. That way, it’s easy to establish accountability and determine who first noticed any identified issues.
Plus, in the case of water-cooled chillers, fluid from the tap is not sufficient. Manufacturers often recommend deionized water since the process eliminates more contaminants than traditional filtering and distilling methods. However, it may also be necessary to add an anti-corrosive agent to the water because metal components may come in frequent contact with it.
Following all manufacturer instructions for recommended maintenance is a good first step. However, people must also make the connection between the chiller’s performance and adequate care. Taking upkeep seriously prolongs the time a company can use the machine and get expected results.
Chillers Help Machining Lasers Meet Expectations
This overview highlights the importance of selecting and maintaining industrial chillers in any industry that regularly uses lasers. Keeping a laser from getting too hot translates into accurate, consistently high performance.
About the author: Emily Newton is an industrial journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized.