better safe than sorry
Lasers are dangerous. I guess even the youngest child knows this.
If you look at a working CO2 laser tube, then there isn’t that much to see.
But…. it is not because we can’t see it that it is not there. CO2 lasers work with beams of infrared light. When shooting (emitting light) you can see a bit of violet light inside the tube, but once the beam leaves the tube, it looks like nothing is there.
Everybody knows you should not expose yourself for too long to sunlight. The reason is because sunlight contains UV radiation/light and UV is not healthy to our body. Fortunately our earth atmosphere makes sure that a lot of UV radiation never reaches us, but still… better safe than sorry.
Our human eyes can only see certain light wavelengths. UV is invisible, just like XRAY and Gamma. On the other end of the spectrum there are the other wavelengths like Infrared, Microwave, etc. …
CO2 lasers emit bundled light in the 10604nm wavelength. It is totally invisible to the human eye, but it is very dangerous. Imagine a bundle of light with an optical power of 40 watts. It is powerful, because it can cut wood, plastics, … . That same beam of light (which is invisible) can easily reflect on certain surfaces and refract. If the beam only needs less than a millisecond to burn a hole in some plywood, imagine what it would do if it hits your eye? I can’t blink faster than a millisecond, can you? And even if you could, what do you think a beam of heat would do to your eyelid?
They are not sexy, but they are invaluable when working with lasers in general (not only CO2 lasers). Relatively cheap safety glasses exist and can be easily obtained. The only thing you have to look for is that you buy the correct glasses for your kind of laser. A CO2 laser needs glasses blocking in the 10604nm range, whereas Blu-ray diode lasers are more in the 400-500nm range. Laser safety goggles that protect in a large spectrum do exist, but it is always advisable to buy goggles for your specific laser wavelength.
Be careful… you only have 1 pair of eyes.
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