Latest version of ANSI standard for laser safety in manufacturing

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Orlando, FL - Media reports these days are filled with stories of a coming revolution in manufacturing, particularly through additive processes. With lasers prevalent in the output of high-value components in many industries, the Laser Institute of America (LIA) recently unveiled its latest safety standard exclusively for those applications.

The ANSI Z136.9 Safe Use of Lasers in Manufacturing Environments standard is the latest in the line of laser safety guidelines stemming from the parent ANSI Z136.1 standard.

This standard provides reasonable and adequate guidance for the safe use of lasers and laser systems that operate at wavelengths between 180 nm and 1 mm. Intended to protect individuals with the potential for laser exposure when lasers are used in manufacturing environments, this standard includes policies and procedures to ensure laser safety in these areas where lasers are used in manufacturing, both public and private industries, and product development and testing settings.

Standard development
Development of the Z136.9 standard has been a study in collaboration and front-line input.

"We brought in an awful lot of people from industry to get involved," said Tom Lieb, chair of the Z136.9 development subcommittee and president of L A I International in Elk Grove, CA. "Especially in the early drafting, we had people from laser companies and using companies participate. I had a very large list of people who participated in the early meetings."

Until now, the parent standard has been "almost like the Bible" when it comes to regulating differences of opinion regarding interpretations of laser safety on the manufacturing floor, said subcommittee vice chair Randy Paura.

"Our original mandate was to try to simplify things. Manufacturers want to err on the safe side. We said, 'OK in that case we can simplify a lot if we went with point-source exposures only,' which made it easy for the end user to do calculations," Paura added. "We explain that if you want to do extended source (calculations), go to Dot 1, but you will be on the safe side using point source. I've been in touch with a lot of customers who have been very receptive to that concept."

Using point sources only "simplifies for the average manufacturing operation what they need to know in terms of finding out how dangerous — or not dangerous — something is and how to calculate MPEs," Lieb explained.

A critical time for lasers
The new standard comes at a critical time, as lasers continue to populate more processing lines in the aerospace, automotive, energy, defense and health care industries.

"The advent of really high-powered fiber lasers and the potential for femtosecond and picosecond lasers in actual manufacturing operations has increased the need for safety attention," Lieb asserted. Fiber lasers have enhanced the growth of an array of applications due to their relatively lower cost, plug-and-play capability and low use of floor space, Lieb said. "They have expanded the marketplace."

In particular, Lieb noted, the major automotive companies have raised the bar on safety consciousness in the past five years. They have "put protocols in place that demonstrate their awareness of safety concerns for lasers in the workplace and put requirements on their suppliers that heretofore hadn't existed."

LIA has been a leader in laser advocacy and safety education since 1968 and serves as secretariat and publisher of the Z136 series of laser safety standards, providing financial and administrative support to the committee. To order the ANSI Z136.9 standard ($150 for LIA members, $170 for non-members), visit www.lia.org/ANSI or call LIA at 1.800.34.LASER.

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(Image via Shutterstock)




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