(This post is part of our series on Midwest Cleantech Open winners.)
The reason you see bridges, ships, and commercial and military aircraft in the photo montage below is that this Novi, Michigan company has its sights set on doing a lot with laser stripping, which seems like amazingly little. SurClean’s invention—a handheld laser ablation system that can replace costlier and less environmentally friendly means of removing coatings from substrate metals—has the potential to boost efficiency, lower labor costs, and eliminate chemical, abrasive, and other media-based strippers from the coating removal process.
Susan Sprentall, owner of SurClean, explained to me how the new laser stripping system works. Instead of laboriously removing coatings with tons of environment-unfriendly strippers, SurClean disintegrates the coatings with a laser beam, removing them from the substrate in what she calls “a cost-effective, safe, energy-efficient, and earth-friendly way.”
The laser stripping invention takes off not only paint and other coatings; it also removes rust. Right away, the advantages for bridges and marine applications become obvious. Since air transportation rules mandate inspection and recoating of aircraft every five years or so, the savings from laser stripping are tremendous in that area as well.
Proprietary software, a patented sensor technology, and a proprietary delivery system provide the following advantages:
- Selective, precise stripping of multiple layers,
- Withdrawal of traditional safety concerns and hazards, and
- Elimination of environmental issues associated with chemical stripping.
Susan says the ROI of her laser stripping system is achievable in less than a year. The strip rate using the SurClean laser system is 16 times as fast as the use of chemicals, which reduces labor costs by 50%. Because the laser leaves little detritus, huge material and disposal savings are realized.
SurClean has its sights set high—not just to serve as an alternative to conventional methods, but to make laser stripping a dominant force in coatings-removal technology. With the help of the five-month Midwest Cleantech Open accelerator course and its award of a coveted CTO regional accelerator award, SurClean has its sights set on the national Cleantech Open Global Forum in San Francisco later this month. If determination, optimism, and breathtaking scale are any indication, Susan Sprentall and SurClean are truly going places.