There are many different uses for lasers; we’ve all seen James Bond and his gadgets, although most people aren’t lucky enough to get to experience that kind of thrill. But what many people don’t realise is that lasers are around us all day, every day.
There are still some lasers that are more common than others, such as the ones inside household appliances such as DVD players, CD players, video players etc. There are then the more peculiar lasers which involve measuring temperature, cutting, 2D and 3D shapes. Although it’s obvious that not all lasers are the same, how do you know whether they’re dangerous and how dangerous they are?
Are lasers dangerous?
Of course they are, but so are a lot of other things if they’re not used properly. You can be safe in the knowledge that the lasers in your DVD player, laser printer and your computer disc drive are not going to kill you, but you should also remember that you should never look directly at a laser beam no matter how weak it may be. One thing you have to remember is that lasers would be nowhere near as useful if they weren’t dangerous.
The horror stories that you hear are probably true, they can cause explosions inside your head if you look directly at a laser beam and by the time you know anything about it, it’s too late. However, these sorts of lasers are the ones used by the military and the police or in industry and this would only happen if they weren’t being used properly; the lasers that are inside electrical devices and the handheld lasers that kids play with are safe, otherwise they wouldn’t be available. Quite honestly a lot of the handheld ones that kids love shining through people’s windows are actually LED lights and not lasers at all.
Many lasers are used within industry and their main purpose is cutting wood, metal and a whole host of other materials. Some lasers, such as a 2 Mw HeNe laser, do no more damage than looking at the bright midday sun, in a cloudless sky, when you’re abroad. Many common lasers that are used in industry can blind someone from 10km away, even when they’re not looking directly at it. Lasers come with safety instructions for a reason and it is only when these safety instructions are not adhered to that accidents happen. When using lasers or when you’re around them common sense must prevail and anything that can be used to protect yourself should be.
This article was written by John Chambers, on behalf of laser sensors supplier www.micro-epsilon.co.uk.