Choosing the Right Safety Glasses for Laser Engraving

Laser Safety Glasses

Laser engraving involves the use of high-intensity light beams to etch various materials. High-powered laser cutters, such as OMTech’s laser engravers, produce stunning precision but can harm your eyes and even cause permanent damage if you're not adequately protected. The right laser safety-glasses will protect your eyes while you create beautiful products.  

The Importance of Laser Safety-Glasses

Laser safety-glasses prevent eye damage by filtering out harmful wavelengths from lasers such as CO2 and fiber. The glasses protect against direct laser beams and hazardous reflections. Wearing safety glasses is required by industry compliance standards set by OSHA and promotes a safety-conscious work culture with lower risks of injury. 

Factors To Consider When Selecting Laser Safety-Glasses

Not all safety glasses are the same. Using the wrong type of glasses can be just as bad as not wearing safety glasses at all. Here are some factors to consider when choosing safety glasses. 

Laser Wavelength and Lens Material Compatibility

Different lasers operate at distinct wavelengths and have outputs that range from ultraviolet to infrared. Your glasses should block the specific wavelength range of the laser you'll be using. Polycarbonate lenses are common and provide broad-spectrum protection but may not be suitable for all laser types. Glass or mineral lenses offer better visibility and protect against specific wavelengths.

Optical Density (OD) and Laser Power

Optical density (OD) measures the glasses' ability to reduce the laser's power to a safe level that reaches your eyes. A higher OD means more attenuation (a reduction in laser power). Usually, the laser system's manual includes the laser specs and recommends an OD suitable for safe operation.

Frame Design and Comfort

Since you might be wearing laser goggles for extended periods, frame comfort matters. Look for frames that are lightweight but sturdy. Some frames offer adjustability features, such as nose pads or temples you can tweak for a better fit. You may want to try on several pairs to find one that balances comfort with safety.

Additional Protective Features

Beyond the essential factors, some protective glasses come with extra options for laser safety, such as:

  • Anti-fog coatings to maintain visibility in humid conditions
  • Side shields to protect from laser radiation coming from different angles
  • Scratch-resistant coatings to protect your lenses
  • High-contrast filters for improved vision
  • Over-the-glasses design to work with prescription eyewear

Types of Laser Safety-Glasses: CO2, Fiber, and Beyond

When working with lasers, the type of laser safety-glasses you'll need depends on your specific laser system. 

CO2 Laser Safety-Glasses

CO2 lasers operate in the far-infrared region, usually around 10,600 nanometers (nm). They are commonly used in engraving, cutting, and welding. Safety glasses designed for CO2 lasers typically use materials like polycarbonate or special composite blends that effectively block or reduce infrared radiation. These glasses' OD is usually high to deal with the higher power levels that CO2 lasers, such as OMTech’s 100-150 watt engravers, often emit.

Fiber-Laser Safety-Glasses

Fiber lasers usually operate at wavelengths around 1,064 nm but can range between 1,000 and 1,100 nm. These lasers are often employed in metal marking, engraving, and medical applications. The safety glasses for fiber lasers typically use glass lenses because they better protect against these specific wavelengths. Glass lenses also offer high OD levels and better visibility compared to polycarbonate lenses at these wavelengths.


Specialized Glasses for Specific Applications

Apart from CO2 and fiber lasers, several other specialized laser applications require equally specialized safety glasses. Here are some examples:

  • Diode lasers, which are common in pointers, barcode readers, and some medical equipment
  • YAG lasers used in medical and industrial settings
  • Excimer lasers used in eye surgeries and semiconductor manufacturing
  • Holmium lasers used in medical procedures

Industry Standards for Safety Glasses

Before purchasing laser protection glasses, always check for these compliance and certification markers so you’ll know you’re getting a product that has been properly tested. Safety glasses are compliance tested by exposure to direct beams of various intensities and wavelength ranges. Once the glasses successfully pass these tests, they are often marked with the standard they comply with and the specific laser wavelengths and optical densities they are certified for, which can include: 

Expert Tips for Optimal Laser Safety

Buying the right laser safety-glasses is only part of safe laser use. You also need to care for and maintain your glasses properly and create a safe working environment — whether you're in a spare corner of your home or an industrial setting. 

Proper Use and Maintenance of Laser Safety-Glasses

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your laser safety goggles: 

  • Make sure the safety glasses fit snugly around your eyes, leaving no gaps where laser radiation could enter.
  • Before each use, inspect the glasses for scratches, cracks, or other damage. Even minor flaws can compromise safety.
  • Use lens-cleaning solutions and a soft cloth designed for optical surfaces. Avoid abrasive cleaners that could scratch the lens and decrease its effectiveness.
  • Store the glasses in a protective case to avoid accidental damage. Never leave them lying around, especially in a laser work area.

Create a Safe Working Environment

In addition to using laser safety eyewear, take the following steps to make your workspace safe for everyone, including operators and visitors: 

  • In all laser areas, post appropriate warning signs to alert workers or visitors about the presence of lasers and the need for eye protection.
  • Use laser barriers or curtains that block or absorb the laser light, preventing it from exiting the work area.
  • Regularly train all staff who work with or around lasers about the potential hazards and proper safety protocols, especially when new equipment is introduced.
  • Before each use, inspect the laser equipment to ensure it's in good working condition, including alignment, safety interlocks, and emergency shut-off systems.
  • Document and follow standard operating procedures for using the laser equipment, including what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Limit access to the laser-operating area to trained and authorized personnel only. 
  • Have an emergency response plan that includes first-aid steps in case of laser exposure, and make sure all staff are familiar with this plan.

Enhance Safety With the Right Laser Engraver

In addition to using protective equipment and following safety protocols, choosing the right laser engraving machine will go a long way toward preventing accidents. At OMTech, our lasers are crafted to the highest industry standards and designed to be intuitive, even for beginners. Contact us today to learn how we can help you find the perfect laser machine.