New integrated safety and maintenance concept

Wackersdorf, Germany – In the development of scanning systems, reaching the highest possible speed and precision was the main goal. However, safety has become more important as speed and precision have increased. One German company, Arges GmbH, has tackled this problem with a new safety monitoring function on its scanner.

Many applications that use low laser power – e.g., laser marking, microstructuring or precision ablation – do not require safety precautions except the usual protective housing, and, thus, an unrecognized, uncontrolled behavior of the scanner does not present any danger to either man or machine, according to an Arges press release.

However, in the medical industry, the user requires a redundant supervision of the safety-relevant functions of all system components. Possible malfunctions need to be recognized via additional external sensors or extensive plausibility checks during the treatment. Normally, it is very time-consuming to adapt these features specifically to a system.

Increasing outputs of high power lasers with multi kW for remote welding or remote cutting bears a new potential risk. These laser beams cannot be made safe via simple and low-cost measurements like passive housing. A beam that becomes uncontrolled within the safety housing can cause significant damage to the machine and its components, for example, a gantry.

Possible solutions include an active protective housing and the surveillance of the laser beam position via an external vision system. Arges GmbH has addressed this problem by presenting the first scanner with extended and integrated safety monitoring, the so-called "SafeScan" function, which includes a three-step security concept. It verifies the correct functionality before and during the laser processing and monitors the safety-critical optical elements as well as the electro-mechanical components of the scanner internal beam path.

SafeScan functions include real-time plausibility checks of characteristic parameters of the scanner axes during laser processing; plausibility check of the position data received from the scan head with regard to speed, acceleration, etc.; surveillance of scanner internal and external system parameters; and preventive maintenance functions. With SafeScan, further safety measurements are often no longer required and compromises do not have to be made.

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