New Ablative Cleaning Laser Utilized at Air Force Base

A member of the corrosion control unit at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, uses an ablative cleaning laser to remove rust from a stair lift. Photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Heal.

The corrosion control unit of the U.S. Air Force’s 36th Wing at Andersen Air Force Base (Yigo, Guam) is now utilizing a new ablative cleaning laser to clean metals. The laser works by emitting ultraviolet (UV) rays strong enough to vaporize rust and other materials, such as paint and residue.

“One great thing about the ablative laser is that it doesn’t use harsh chemicals to clean the metal and it doesn’t make any hazardous waste,” says Staff Sgt. Brendan McCormick, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the 36th Maintenance Squadron’s corrosion control unit. “It’s environmentally friendly, which is something we are consciously striving towards in the Air Force.”

The laser was provided to Andersen by the University of Dayton Research Institute (Dayton, Ohio, USA) in partnership with the Air Force Corrosion Prevention and Control Office as part of an on-location test trial.

The ablative laser does not use chemicals and does not require normal disposable cleaning supplies. By contrast, only UV glasses are required to protect the eyes of the user and bystanders. According to the Air Force, the reduced need for supplies makes it cost efficient when used over longer time periods, since its only expense is the power required to run it.

The tool also creates a very minuscule amount of waste in the form of a fine dust that can be easily vacuumed and disposed of without negative environmental effects. Along with being cheaper and safer, the ablative laser also saves time, the Air Force says. The laser cuts the rust removal and repainting process almost in half compared to traditional sanding methods.

“The cost and time-saving benefits paired with the benefit of it being environmentally friendly make this tool a huge asset to our corrosion control unit here at Andersen,” says Technical Sgt. Michael Fossler, chief for the 36th Maintenance Squadron’s fabrication flight. “Especially given that Guam is a more corrosive environment than most other Air Force bases.”

Source: U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution service,