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Old 03-19-2023, 08:00 PM   #1
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Laser rust remover getting affordable?

I have been searching for a renting laser rust/paint remover equipment. I was not lucky so far. At least not in the PNW area. My steel hull needs a serious cleaning, but yards do not want to allow blasting anymore for DIY boar owners.
The laser tool would be perfect, since it is very environmental friendly and based on the videos I have seen, it could handle surfaces, which are impossible to clean with sanders. My boatís hull has plenty of those.
I understand that a laser tool is quite slow, - if you have a smaller unit, - but if I have something plenty as a retired person, is time. Of course, large industries can afford very powerful laser equipment ( navy, Air Force, commercial shipping, etc. ), which can handle large surfaces. Their budget is bit bigger then mine.
Few years ago, I had a conversation with a private business, which would consider renting me an equipment like this for a week for about 3K. He would not be interested in renting for 2-3 days only, which I think the hull cleaning would take in my case. So, I postponed the deal.
Recently I started to look around on the subject again. Prices come down significantly, although a basic level equipment is still hovering in the 10-15K price range to buy from a US company.
But.
If I go to the well known Asian online source, some of the basic level laser cleaning equipment can be as low as 1-3K. That price is something I would consider as a good investment. If I store it somewhere and use it every 2-3 years once, it will recover its price very quickly. Yes, with a smaller equipment I will need more than 2-3 days, but sanding would take even longer. Again, the hull/rudder/beam has countless corners and angles, which is very difficult to clean down to base metal.
Hiring a company today for blasting a steel hull is still over 10K in our area and the results are not guaranteed. This was the case with my boat. The previous owner paid over 21K for a full hull blasting and painting job at a reputable yard here. The first thing the diver told me when he cleaned the hull just few years after, was that the hull has blisters all over. I still have the video he gave me as the new owner of the boat.
What I donít know, if those prices are for refurbished and used equipment, or it is false advertising? Or, the prices came down that much? The web site I am referring to has the word express in it. You can look it up yourself.
I am looking for opinions on the buy, or not to buy, of a laser ablation equipment? Has anyone ever used one? If yes, how productive the cleaning process was? Pro, or contra, of this surface cleaning for metal boats? Or just your idea of buying versus renting it? Thanks.
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Old 03-19-2023, 09:16 PM   #2
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The previous owner paid over 21K for a full hull blasting and painting job at a reputable yard here. The first thing the diver told me when he cleaned the hull just few years after, was that the hull has blisters all over. I still have the video he gave me as the new owner of the boat.
I ran and managed the yard work on steel boats for decades. Following one blast to near white and full repaint the underwater area developed blisters. Next haul out at a different yard the yard supervisor said they were solvent blisters and not to worry. Sure enough we kept the antifouling up for years, the blisters never popped. Many yard periods later when it was time for the next blast to near white I popped some of the blisters before blasting. The steel under the blisters was in good shape. Turned out he was an honest yard sup, he could have easily talked us into another blast to near white and full repaint.

In my opinion the blisters are the result of not carefully and exactly follow the paint manufacturer's instructions. Prep, mixing, temperature and humidity during application and finally top coating. Coatings for a steel boat, even for a workboat finish, are technically sophisticated. Don't just roll 'em on and think that's all there is to it.
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Old 03-19-2023, 09:34 PM   #3
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Good advice, thanks.

Have you used any laser tools during your years?
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Old 03-19-2023, 09:39 PM   #4
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Good advice, thanks.

Have you used any laser tools during your years?
No. Yards did the heavy work. Early on "sand" blasting, actual material was slag. Later years high pressure water blasting. I personally have done spot work with sand blasting, real sand. Grinder and needle gun. Never used laser.
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Old 03-19-2023, 09:42 PM   #5
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No. Yards did the heavy work. Early on "sand" blasting, actual material was slag. Later years high pressure water blasting. I personally have done spot work with sand blasting, real sand. Grinder and needle gun. Never used laser.


Have you seen videos of the laser tools? What is your opinion? Something to consider?
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Old 03-19-2023, 10:15 PM   #6
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A bit more. If you already know this please disregard. Coatings don't chemically bond to steel. It's all about getting a clean surface with the proper profile. Nothing is as good as abrasive blasting to near white. Leaving just the right roughness the coatings will adhere to. And keeping it dry and clean until coating. Water blasting for example works best on a previously abrasive blasted surface. It removes old coatings and light rust leaving the abrasive blasted profile. I imagine laser is the same, removing old coatings and some rust. Heavier rust, the kind that shows as built up scale or deep pitting needs abrasive blasting, grinder or needle gun. Not sanding. You don't want a smooth shiny surface.
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Old 03-19-2023, 10:46 PM   #7
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The laser is also capable to remove only one or few layers of paint. If that is case, perhaps the existing primer can be left alone, and it will not be necessary to go down to white metal. I did not really see rust below waterline, so that is not the problem. Blisters and barnacle footsteps could be.
When I haul the boat out again, my goal is to create a nice even painted surface and adding anti fouling. It does not have to be perfection. This is slow boat. However, the barnacles are getting on my nerves. I believe by using a laser tool can speed up this work and it will be less messy. Painting is easy work. Preparing the surface is different challenge.
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Old 03-19-2023, 11:27 PM   #8
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I know nothing about laser cleaning. However lasers used in other industries are normally gas lasers, and have a limited lifetime. The lifetime isn't so much the number of hours run, but rather the calendar time it takes for the gas to leak out. It is somewhat unpredictable. The tubes are expensive to replace. Before you buy one with the expectation of using it a little every few years, it would be advisable to research the shelf life of the tube and the replacement cost.
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Old 03-20-2023, 07:32 AM   #9
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I have never used laser cleaning equipment for steel or marine applications but had used lasers extensively for many years ending about 10 years back. Unless there have been very large changes in this equipment you may want to ask about and/or expect these challenges....very small work area, long delay time over surface, tight focal range, ability to keep lenses clean, high power required for unit (220), high heat loads, beam frequency material sensitive, equipment duty cycle is limited, maintenance cycles of equipment.
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Old 03-20-2023, 07:53 AM   #10
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This was the case with my boat. The previous owner paid over 21K for a full hull blasting and painting job at a reputable yard here. The first thing the diver told me when he cleaned the hull just few years after, was that the hull has blisters all over.
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Following one blast to near white and full repaint the underwater area developed blisters. Next haul out at a different yard the yard supervisor said they were solvent blisters and not to worry. Sure enough we kept the antifouling up for years, the blisters never popped. Many yard periods later when it was time for the next blast to near white I popped some of the blisters before blasting. The steel under the blisters was in good shape.

So "blisters" on a steel hull not (usually) the same as blisters in an FRP hull?

Just a paint thing, on a steel hull?

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Old 03-20-2023, 08:04 AM   #11
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So "blisters" on a steel hull not (usually) the same as blisters in an FRP hull?



Just a paint thing, on a steel hull?



-Chris
Blisters on a steel hull are a problem with the coatings. The steel under the coatings unless in contact with water and oxygen to cause rust is fine.

Blisters on a FRP hull indicate water has penetrated the hull structure.
From https://www.boatus.com/expert-advice...blister-repair
Quote:
Water soluble chemicals inside the laminate exert an osmotic pull on water outside, and some water molecules find a way through the gelcoat. As more water is attracted into the enclosed space, internal pressure builds. The water molecules aren't squirted back out the way they came in because they have combined with the attracting chemicals into a solution with a larger molecular structure. Instead, the pressure pushes the covering gelcoat into a dome ó a blister.
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Old 03-20-2023, 09:41 AM   #12
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I don't think lasers work well or at all on paint. I would not be surprised if your boat has paint five or more layers deep. Find a yard that allows soda blasters and bite the bullet and pay to have it done.

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Old 03-20-2023, 10:38 AM   #13
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Sand blasting is preferred for steel. Soda blasting for softer surfaces such as fiberglass.

From https://www.abitl.com/soda-blasting-vs-sand-blasting/
Quote:
Sand blasting is most often used on metal due to the strength of the media and air pressure. It is one of the most efficient preparation methods and the best one for rust removal.
Quote:
Soda blasting is especially effective on surfaces like wood, chrome, and plastic. In other words, surfaces that are softer or require a gentler touch work well with this type of blasting, as it is less likely to damage the surface. Because of the low risk of distorting the surface, soda blasting is suitable for use on a wide variety of surfaces.
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Old 03-20-2023, 11:28 AM   #14
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Blisters on a steel hull are a problem with the coatings. The steel under the coatings unless in contact with water and oxygen to cause rust is fine.

Blisters on a FRP hull indicate water has penetrated the hull structure.

Thanks, that's the conclusion I was making my way toward...

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Old 03-20-2023, 11:49 AM   #15
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Like Portage Bay I spent time in shipyard paint shops but not as long he has. I ran a blasting crew at Miami Shipyard where we had both large steel yachts but USCG and NOAA vessels so prep and paint specs varied. I have to ask Leoka about the laser tool and wonder first of all how fast is it or more importantly how many square feet or area can you work and clean in let’s say 30 minutes. Not asking for real specifics just a ballpark to compare with wet or dry blasting. My concern is that this tool may only work small areas and that time is running against you since the surface needs to be cleaned again, rust inhibitor applied the primed or you’ll get surface corrosion or blushing before it’s primed.

In the shipyards I worked with the blasting crew, the follow-up surface cleaning crew and spray crew all had to work closely together. We were known as the ‘ overtime ‘ crew cause you couldn’t stop until the process was done. We would wet blast with sand or steel shot for the USCG, and when one side of the hull was done it was blown off, solvent washed and primed. Then the blasting crew moved to the other side and it was repeated. In the humidity down there you could ‘ Near-White Blast ‘, eat your lunch and come back to find the surface blushing if you didn’t use inhibitor in your water tank. I know cause we forgot to add the inhibitor once.

Wonder what type of surface does the laser leave ? How would the profile compare to ‘ Near White ‘ blasted surface ? This information is critical because all marine and industrial paint company specs require different surface profiles. I’d bet a Commercial Blast would suffice for your hull but maybe ‘ Near-White Metal Blast’ if your paint system requires it. It’s funny but after years of painting and having a brother who owned a large sand blasting company I’ve learned that painting steel can be more demanding and technical than aluminum, glass or wood. But if done by the numbers todays coatings have literally increased a hull’s life by a factor of two or three times.

Rick
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Old 03-20-2023, 11:53 AM   #16
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What is the cost comparison to having the hull blasted vs buying a laser tool. In most cases, it's been my experience that the limitation in "DIY Media Blasting" is the DIY portion.

A good laser tool is 10K - 15K.
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Old 03-20-2023, 12:53 PM   #17
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That is an essentially an impossible question to answer. I know you can determine the price of a tool and after experimenting try to guesstimate production performance and cost. Sandblasting involves various grades and prices plus not all hulls are the same so the logistics of setting up, tending machinery and general access varies. Is the job Ď White Metal Ď the costliest, Ď Near White Metal Ď, Ď Commercial Blast Ď , Ď Sand Sweep Ď or Ď Brush Off Blast Ď ? Each of these levels cost more or less plus the labor, staging costs, crane or Hi-Lift personnel work buckets. Lots of extras and I know most of these donít apply to the size of boats on this site but it gives you an idea why itís hard to nail down an accurate footage price unless your numbers include a comfortable creep or fudge factor

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Old 03-20-2023, 01:41 PM   #18
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What is the cost comparison to having the hull blasted vs buying a laser tool. In most cases, it's been my experience that the limitation in "DIY Media Blasting" is the DIY portion.

A good laser tool is 10K - 15K.

I would strongly suggest that you take a small sample or similar piece you are attempting to clean and bring it to a place where you can test the time, skill, and effectiveness of any laser cleaning tools you are contemplating.
Either get a free demo or rent the tool for the time required to really see how limited and time consuming it is to clean a few square feet to your standards.
Then look at that tool and see where it might occupy a marine yard and what it might look like after a day of constant use.
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Old 03-20-2023, 03:22 PM   #19
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I don't want to give the impression I have more experience than I do. It sounds like you have a lot more than I. I should have worded my post more accurately. Over decades I ran and managed steel boats. I wrote the specs for the yard work and inspected the work and observed the environmental tests to be sure the coatings manufacturer's instructions were followed. Just trying to help Leoka not learn some of the lessons I learned the hard / expensive way.

Along the lines of helping Leoka the biggest DIY job I attmpted was taking a 65' steel deck down to bare metal and coating with the best 2 part epoxy coatings we could find at the time. It didn't go well. One person working alone with hand tools priming as they go didn't yield a job that held up well.
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Like Portage Bay I spent time in shipyard paint shops but not as long he has. I ran a blasting crew at Miami Shipyard where we had both large steel yachts but USCG and NOAA vessels so prep and paint specs varied.
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Old 03-20-2023, 04:33 PM   #20
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Portage Bay all I can say is you never know about somebodyís experience or credentials on these Forum do you. You may well be short changing your experience, and then who knows I could be blowing smoke. But I read some good advice from you so there.

Thing about these forums is there are all these Wikipedia experts and those who actually know more than they think they do. But I find as a rule on forums like this and others that the BSíers almost always trip themselves up sooner or later. Itís hard to remember and keep track of fabrications or lies that youíve never ever experienced or felt, and thatís how they get tripped up. My big beef is with the new breed of authors, those with a little depth but canít make it in deep water. Often they write as experts in various periodicals passing themselves off as mechanics, shipwrights, surveyors or painters, etc etc. Where or how do they get the time to write and turn out this kind of work if they are supposedly working as tradesmen. At the end of the day I want my drink and kick back. When I was surveying I avg 2-2500 miles a week on the road. Iíve personally surveyed boats for five or more first time owners who in a matter of four to six years have published books on everything from varnishing to yacht maintenance ? Write and get published you are immediately a qualified expert. Iím not referring to anybody here including Steve D. who from what I can tell is an exceptional technical asset in the marine trades. This Forum is lucky to hear from him.

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