Portable Laser Removal System

Period of Performance: 09/29/2011 - 06/29/2012


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Physical Optics Corp.
1845 West 205th Street Array
Torrance, CA 90501
Principal Investigator


ABSTRACT: To address the Air Force need for a portable laser removal tool, Physical Optics Corporation (POC) proposes to develop a new Portable Laser Removal (POLAR) system. This proposed system is based on continuously attenuated pulsed laser ablation and real-time ablative process monitoring by plasma emission spectroscopy (PES) combined with optical surface profiling. The innovation in combining real-time material diagnostic feedback and laser-manipulating optics will enable the proposed system to identify the coating layer being removed and to control the ablation process. As a result, this POLAR system offers selective removal and tapering of coatings without damage to the substrates and a strip rate of better than 6 ft^2/hr, which directly addresses the Air Force requirements for a portable coating removal tool. In Phase I, POC will demonstrate the feasibility of POLAR by building a benchtop prototype using commercial off-the-shelf components and conducting proof-of-concept experiments at a POC laboratory. The experimental validation will include the selective removal and tapering of coating from a small test panel and quantitative damage assessment. In Phase II, POC will build a portable, deployable, and automated POLAR system prototype and test its performance in stripping contoured and difficult-to-reach surfaces. BENEFIT: The POLAR system will bring many benefits to the government in field maintenance of aircraft, including reduced worker injury (carpal tunnel syndrome), reduced hazardous material use, reduced hazardous waste generation, reduced repair time, and reduced substrate damage. Other benefits include decontamination and cleaning of nuclear facilities, government buildings, and military facilities. Potential commercial applications include the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) operations of civilian airlines and automobile industries, which can benefit from the development of the POLAR system by replacing the mechanical paint removal process and the use of chemicals that are environmentally unsafe. Other potential commercial applications of the POLAR system are cleaning and removing coatings on various high-value high-volume parts, as well as glass etching and surface preparation in aerospace, automotive, medical, electronics, and telecommunication industries. In addition, the marine industry can benefit from the use of the POLAR system to decoat and clean parts and systems made from composite materials (such as boats and propellers) where chemical stripping is not suitable.