Traffic Film Removal with Fiber Lasers

Traffic film is a problem of the modern age, where pollution from vehicles and the roads are creating a layer of dirt and filth, which deposits itself in all manner of objects. Fiber lasers are a proven way of cleaning off traffic grime and dirt using ablation methods. We go on to discuss this in our latest application insight.

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Example of a traffic sign contaminated with traffic film

What is traffic film?

Traffic film is a layer of debris/contamination, which lies on the surface of all forms of road and aviation transport, as well as static objects such as buildings and signage, etc.

Types of traffic film include:

  • Contaminants from vehicles: exhaust fumes (including Sulphur, Vanadium and hundreds of other chemicals), oil, soot, unburnt fuel and additives, etc.
  • Contaminants from the road: bitumen, cement dust, grease, grit and salt, oil (various types) and tar, etc.

Other airborne contaminants, which aren’t traffic-related include acids (especially in acid rain), bugs, dust, pollen, salt crystal and smoke, etc.

The ablation process explained

The object (or area of an object) which has the surface contamination is focused on by the fiber laser’s beam. Layer by layer the film is removed, with particular emphasis being placed by the user to only ablate the contaminant layer and not the underlying material.

Fiber lasers are ideal for this as they provide absolute programmatic precision and control.

Everyday objects which suffer with traffic film

Many people think traffic film only deposits on transport vehicles, whilst this is true, there are other objects which are impacted by traffic film. Any items located outdoors can be affected including (as just a few examples):

  • Buildings – any building can be affected, particularly those which are roadside
  • Signage – these are often roadside and can be seriously affected, examples including advertising posters, road signs, traffic signs and many more
  • Stonework – various types of stonework including monuments and statues, etc.
  • Vehicles – all types of vehicles including planes, cars, vans, trucks, lorries, coaches

There are other items, which can be affected by traffic film, the above list just provides a few examples.

Why remove traffic film with a fiber laser rather than manually wash it?

It’s an obvious question and there are a number of reasons why fiber lasers should be used, here are just a few examples:

  • Health – traffic film is full of toxic substances; fiber laser cleaning is much healthier for the staff member than manually cleaning would be (which involves the use of chemicals)
  • Precision – traffic film can be more precisely/thoroughly cleaned through a fiber laser. Traffic film is typically “ground in” and is stubbornly resistant to hand cleansing
  • Reduced substrate damage – fiber lasers will carefully protect substrate materials, where manual cleaning with human intervention would struggle to protect substrates in the same way

The reasons why traffic film needs to be removed

Here are just a few of the reasons why it’s a good idea to remove traffic film:

  • Aerodynamics – research has shown that clean vehicles are more aerodynamic as they are smoother and have less friction through the air
  • Aesthetically pleasing – a major problem with traffic film is it makes everything look dirty and filthy, so cleaning the items will be much more “appealing on the eye”
  • Obscuring identification – if traffic film covers the vehicle registration number on vehicles or other important information (e.g. house number, or town names on a roadmap), then the purpose of the number/sign will not be achieved
  • Safety – dirty vehicles are less visible to other drivers. Dirty cars internal parts will wear more quickly and are less safe to drive and in addition dirty windscreens affect visibility, which is a driving hazard
  • Sale chances – anything will sell better when it is better presented. Therefore, removing a layer of traffic film off cars, houses, etc. can only increase the likelihood of sale
  • Reduce rust and corrosion – on paint and metal parts, chemicals can be deposited which over time will create corrosion and rust. Prevention is better than cure, it’s best to clean the layer of traffic film before it causes real and permanent damage
Traffic fumes are clearly visible, these are one of the reasons for traffic film to accumulate

Traffic fumes are clearly visible, these are one of the reasons for traffic film to accumulate

Image Credits: Ell Brown and Public Domain

Ablation is perfect for this task

If you are looking to remove traffic film then fiber lasers are perfect for the task, here are some reasons why:

  • Chemical-free – no chemicals are used in the process, which has a multitude of advantages, no residue, no noxious gases and no corrosion amongst others
  • Damage-free – the process causes no damage to the underlying materials
  • Precision – the user can precisely ablate the exact area where traffic film has accumulated
  • Speed – fiber laser ablation/cleaning is very fast when compared to traditional processes

Contacting SPI Lasers for advice

Traffic film can easily and safely be removed using ablation and cleaning processes. These are just two of the processes available with an SPI fiber laser. Also, use our fiber lasers for cutting, drilling, engraving, marking and much more too. Call us to discuss your options and buy the model of laser, which best suits your purposes, choose from our pulsed fiber lasers and continuous wave (CW) fiber lasers ranges.

Visit our Contact Us page for all our contact information, including phone numbers and a contact form.


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