Safety classes of laser products

Laser products are divided into safety classes, with the more dangerous products having a higher number. The current system contains the following classes: 1, 1M, 1C, 2, 2M, 3R, 3B, and 4. The letters signify the characteristics of the laser beam.

Class 1:

The laser beam in class 1 laser products is so weak that it poses no threat in any situation, or when the product is designed so that the laser beam is limited to the inside of the device. A laser encased in a device can however still be powerful enough to qualify as a higher class of laser. This is the case with CD players, for example. These kinds of laser products have warnings not to open the protective case. Toys shall not be over class 1 laser products.

Class 1C:

Class 1C laser products can cause skin damage as the radiation they produce can exceed the maximum values of skin exposure. Class 1C products are designed to be safe for the eyes. The letter C refers to the word “contact”. The products can be used, for example, for cosmetic skin treatments. High-efficiency class 3B or 4 lasers may be encased in class 1C laser products.

Class 2:

Laser products only produce visible light and are relatively low power. The maximum output power for class 2 laser products is 1 mW. Usually the blinking of an eye is enough protection for it. Staring at a laser beam that is part of this class can, however, damage the eye. The most powerful laser pointers permitted in Finland and lasers used educationally in schools belong to this class.

Classes 1M and 2M:

The beam of laser products which are class 1M or 2M has a large divergence or it is relatively wide at the source of the laser output. Looking at a class 1M or 2M laser can only be dangerous when using a radiation gathering optics, such as a pair of binoculars or a magnifying glass.

Class 3R:

Lasers are slightly more powerful than classes 1 and 2. In the visible range the maximum output power for class 3R lasers is 5 mW. A direct hit or a reflection from a smooth surface can cause permanent damage in the eye. Some directional and levelling lasers for professional use belong to this class.

Class 3B:

A beam of class 3B laser, whether hitting the eyes directly or reflected on a mirror, is always dangerous for the eyes. The maximum output power for class 3B lasers is 500 mW.

Class 4:

The beam of a class 4 laser is so powerful that it can instantaneously burn the skin. The eye can be damaged even from a diffused reflection. A high-power laser can set wood or canvas alight. Class 4 laser products are used in places such as hospitals, in industry as cutting equipment, and in certain show performances as a lighting effect.

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