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BUSINESS PROFILE Fsafetyirst in


As Lasermet reaches 25 years old,Warren Clark explores the history of this leader in laser safety


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asermet is celebrating 25 years in the laser industry, and has earned a reputation as one of the leading names in laser safety in the UK and beyond. Back in 1987, Professor Bryan


Tozer had taken early retirement from a career at the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB), where he had spent 17 years as the organisation’s laser safety officer. His involvement and experience in laser safety led him to become chairman of the BSI Laser Safety Committee (a post he held until 2008). He later also be became chair of the European Laser Safety Committee for 16 years. Lasermet (taking its name from


‘laser metrology’) was initially founded as a supplier of laser measurement systems, building on Tozer’s involvement at the physics research unit of the CEGB, where he was using lasers to perform optical inspections inside nuclear reactors to check for corrosion. When Bryan’s son Paul joined the company in 1994 to handle the sales and marketing, Lasermet began making the shift towards the laser safety market, including the provision of products, consultancy and training. Lasermet’s first foray into the


8 Photochemical hazard laser output safety testing at Lasermet’s laboratories


supply of products was via the distribution of eyewear, as it was a largely untapped market in the UK. Soon, this was expanded to include illuminated signs, for which the only suppliers at the time were in the US. ‘We looked at what was around and decided we could manufacture it ourselves to a better standard,’ says Paul, now managing director. ‘Admittedly, it’s not the most exciting product! But it does have demand, and we have continued selling into this market – and have recently developed some very nice LED-based signs. Our Mini-LED sign is designed to be mounted at eye height, which makes it hard to miss when placed next to or actually on a door. Although conceived as products for laser warning signs, we do sell these illuminated signs into a range of industries now.’


The next major development step in the company’s history came when it won a contract to design a series of 11 interlock laser safety systems for a customer. ‘Available laser interlock systems were pretty poor,’ says Paul.


ELECTRO OPTICS l FEBRUARY 2012


‘They were little more than a relay in a box, and certainly didn’t conform to any of the appropriate standards.’ So, the company designed its first laser interlock safety control system, the ICS-1, dedicated to the needs of the laser lab, and conforming to the necessary Machinery Directive standards. Its function is to shut down the laser in the event that, for example, a technician opens the door to the lab, and so on. Being a fully integrated system, it also links with warning sign control etc. Options may include linking the safety control system


to maglocked doors, or having a time-limited override facility. There are also various ways of connecting the interlock system to the laser itself in order to control the shutdown process.


A significant function of the system is that it is required to retain a safety function in the event of internal component failures. ‘The


danger with a simple “relay in a box” set-up is that the relay could fail in the “on” position,’ says Paul. ‘When you’ve got powerful lasers around, you need to be able to do something a little bit cleverer than that.’ Since the ICS-1 was introduced, Lasermet has sold more than 1,000 systems, and the product has evolved through the ICS-5 to the most recent ICS-15XM. ‘When we first introduced the system, there was a bit of education involved,’ says Paul. ‘But once people see the product – which is clearly best practice in laser labs – they instantly see its benefits.’ Such a reaction has helped cement Lasermet as a market-leader in the UK and Europe.


Another successful line has been laser blocking curtains. ‘Again, these were largely being imported from the US,’ says Paul, ‘but we used our knowledge of lasers to develop our own range. The blocking material needs to obviously have properties that prevent a laser from penetrating it, and that doesn’t break down or burn through easily.’


We’ve seen significant


year-on-year growth, even throughout the financial turmoil


Such products are available made


to measure, with options such as Velcro fixings and so on, as well as similar offerings such as laser blocking roller blinds and screens. Its more recent solid screens are even suitable for use with multi kilowatt lasers. Although these are fairly standard products, many of the systems need some degree


www.electrooptics.com


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