For many of us, the words “laser technology” conjure up sci-fi images from the distant future. But the truth is that lasers already play essential roles in many aspects of our lives. No matter what industry you’re in, you likely work with laser technology on a daily basis in both business and personal contexts. These are some of the most common implementations of laser technology in everyday life.
Laser barcode readers
Laser scanners are used to read barcodes—while they have a wide variety of applications, you’ve probably seen them in stores. Simply put, the laser beam goes back and forth over the code, which is scanned and decoded by the scanner’s sensor. While there are other types of scanners, laser barcode readers continue to be the most popular option.
Laser material processing
Lasers are leveraged in a manufacturing context for a wide variety of purposes, from marking and engraving to welding and cutting. The aerospace, automotive and shipbuilding industries, for example, regularly use lasers for an extensive range of applications, such as for fabrication and laser etching on metal. While these services were available well before laser technology was widely available, lasers provide a much more cost-efficient and sustainable solution.
Lasers may not seem like the right tool for something like welding, but they can function the same as traditional tools, and without the need for direct contact, they’re less likely to degrade. And while they may seem less powerful than traditional tools, lasers can actually weld any metal that can be welded by conventional technology. Laser technology is also more precise than other options, making it extremely valuable when working with small parts.
Laser eye surgery
One of the most important medical applications of laser technology is laser eye surgery, which represents a breakthrough in medical technology. Also known as refractive surgery, procedures like LASIK are capable of addressing many of the most well-known vision problems.
Laser eye surgery has only existed since the late 20th century, but like many other laser applications, it has become increasingly effective and affordable as the underlying technology becomes more accessible. Whether you’re farsighted or nearsighted, or even if you have another condition like presbyopia or astigmatism, laser eye surgery may be your best solution.
Laser technology has expanded the reach of spectroscopy, creating new methods of investigation. Laser spectroscopy is utilized in chemistry to identify molecules using a structural fingerprint. While many of us aren’t involved with spectroscopy on a daily basis, laser technology has changed the way chemists approach this process.
Laser Range Finding
Laser rangefinders are tools capable of measuring the distance between the rangefinder and a given object. These devices determine distance by measuring the time it takes for the laser to travel to the target, reflect back, and again reach the rangefinder. Advanced laser rangefinders are capable of accurately determining a distance to within a few millimeters.
These tools are used in a variety of contexts, including the military, 3-D modelling, forestry, and sports. Military-grade rangefinders can measure the distance of an object up to 25 kilometers away, giving extreme precision in the most critical situations. Laser technology is continually becoming more effective and more affordable, which has led to laser rangefinders, and other products become available to a broader audience.
While it’s undoubtedly true that lasers are used in the sci-fi, futuristic, and military contexts that we associate with the technology, many of us are unaware of the significant roles lasers play in our daily lives. Nearly every industry and aspect of life involved lasers in one way or another, and their prevalence in society is only increasing as the technology becomes cheaper and more people become familiar with the associated benefits.