Covid-19 has brought about many changes in the landscape of the workplace. Forced to stay home from work because of health safety concerns, many people have started to look for ways to make a living from home. As so often, necessity is the mother of all invention, and just one look at the web traffic on creative e-commerce websites like Etsy and eBay shows that they are filled with countless crafts and items that were created thanks to a wide variety of laser engravers. Thanks to their higher speed, increased accuracy, and possible bulk volume applications, laser engravers have gradually started to replace the traditional manual engraving machines over the years. Instead of mechanically scraping the material, laser engravers use light energy to change the surface of the product. The surface heats up to extreme temperatures, and it can start to melt, burn or bubble up. Smoke, fumes, and gases can be a by-product of this process.
Laser engravers, and of course, especially the top-of-the-line ones, will make a hefty dent in your finances. The new proud owner of a top-notch laser machine will then be tempted to ask herself: “Do I really need to invest additional money into a fume extractor”? This is a valid question. However, even in these uncertain times, where money is tight for most people, the answer is a simple and resounding “yes”. Yes, you do need to invest in a fume extractor for your laser engraver. Let us run through all the different possible scenarios and tell you why.
Scenario #1: I only laser engrave as a hobby, and only use the machine a few times per week. Also, I am running it away from my home in my shed. Depending on the type of material engraved, the toxicity of the fumes can vary, and unless you have equipment like the inspectors from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), you cannot be sure how high the toxicity levels are in the air that you breathe in your shed. Remember, your health is your most precious good. You should protect it, and not play Russian Roulette with it.
Scenario #2: I wear PPE (Protective Personal Equipment) gear like a high filtering mask. This should protect me enough.
As the official website of the Government of Canada states: “PPE does not remove or reduce workplace hazards and does not replace effective engineering or administrative control methods such as substitution or ventilation. PPE is the last line of defense when the hazard cannot be removed or controlled adequately. Proper selection, use, and care of the equipment are vital to providing the proper level of protection.” (https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/environmental-workplace-health/reports-publications/occupational-health-safety/whmis-quick-facts-personal-protective-equipment-health-canada-2008.html).
Scenario #3: I have already installed a hose that will divert the fumes to the outside of the building where it will disperse in the open air.
This is not a satisfactory solution, since people, pets, or wildlife may still be exposed to the toxic fumes that are diverted to the outside. Depending on where your exhaust hose is leading, imagine a young mother pushing a stroller with her baby past the exhaust outlet, and both of them inhaling the toxic fumes. For a newborn, just the tiniest amount could have grave repercussions. And, of course, even an adult should not be subjected to harmful substances. Simply stated, if you are the one producing the toxins, you must also make sure to remove the toxins.
Other reasons to use a fume extractor:
It is not only your own health and the health of everyone around you that should provide motivation to utilize a fume extractor. The fume extractor will also ensure that your engraver suffers only a minimal amount of wear and tear during its usage cycle. Without an extractor, the dust particles generated by the engraving process can settle on the lens of the laser engraver and cause irreversible damage. The quality of your laser engraving will suffer, and your laser engraver may need to be repaired or at least replaced sooner than with an extractor, ultimately costing you much more money than a fume extractor would have.
Furthermore, fires can be averted by the fume extractor. As it cleans the air of the different particles, it prevents these particles from chemically reacting with one another and potentially combusting (exothermic reactions). However, you should still keep a fire extinguisher nearby, just in case.
The heat produced by the laser causes the material engraved to burn and melt, which in turn often releases toxic fumes, which are called LGACs, Laser Generated Air Contaminants. Different types of material will release different types of toxins when engraved by a laser engraver. For example, when engraving stainless steel, the toxic chemical Hexavalent Chromium is released. This chemical can cause lung cancer amongst a host of other serious health problems.
Asking if you need to invest in a fume extractor for your laser machine is a little like asking if you need to wear your seatbelt when driving your car. You can try to do without it, but it will most certainly backfire in more ways than one.
The bottom line is that any buyer of a laser engraver, just like the buyer of any toxic fume- or particle-producing equipment, should calculate the purchase of a fume extraction machine right into their overall expenditure from the get-go.
And don’t forget, we are here to help you get it right the first time when selecting your fume extractor. Our friendly and knowledgeable customer service staff loves to help you make sure all the boxes are ticked when picking out your fume extractor. They will advise you which machine is needed for your laser. To get you started, here are some additional features to consider when buying a fume extraction machine:
- Are the filters easy to clean/replace or are they even self-cleaning?
- If they are replaceable filters: what is their price; are there discounts for purchasing them in bulk?
- Is the fume extractor easy to install and easy to maintain?
- What is the noise level of the machine; is ear protection recommended?
So, don’t hesitate, and give us a call, because you do not want to start using your laser engraver without a fume extractor! Call us at 1-888-655-8455 (Eastern Daylight Time/ Eastern Standard Time).