The Basics of Laser Pointers

July 20, 2021
By Alpec

We like a good cat photo or video as much as the next person. Plus, laser pointers are used for so many things these days – cats (and their owners) love playing with them. But using them as toys or pointing them at other humans is not recommended. These applications are considered a misuse of the intent of lasers. But how do you choose a laser that is right for your business needs? We have a few pointers. (Get it?)

About Laser Pointers and Humans

When used properly, lasers are a valuable tool in business, medicine, astronomy and many other industries. Lasers, like other industrial tools, are classified according to their type. Type is defined by the lasing medium used – solid state, gas, excimer, dye, or semiconductor. Laser pointers are further defined by the duration of the laser emission – as a continuous wave or pulsed laser.

Laser Classifications

Depending on their power, wavelength, and pulse duration, lasers and laser pointers are then classified with respect to the hazard they pose to humans. Classes range from 1 to 4. Laser class 1, class 2 and class 3 can produce no more than 5 milliwatts of power yet produce a comfortable visible region for the human eye. For visible light lasers, a class 3 laser or 3A laser is the maximum permitted in the USA and Canada. Premium lasers, such as those sold by Alpec, are class 3. Class 3 laser pointers can also be referred to as class 3R or 3A. Before purchasing a laser pointer, confirm that the class is clearly indicated on the laser’s housing as required by law.

For a more in-depth exploration of laser classes, please read our dedicated post on laser classes.

The Visible Range: About Laser Pointers and White Boards

To learn about laser pointers, it helps to know that most humans can see a rainbow of colors– remember ROY G BIV? Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet. These colors fall onto a rainbow or spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Lasers are made with a diode or semiconductor that, when partnered with a battery, convert energy into visible light. Laser pointers do not need much energy to function. Five milliwatts is often enough for class 3 or other laser classes. And the low power works to make the laser invisible until it strikes an opaque surface, like a wall or white board.

Understanding Laser Wavelengths

Laser pointers come in a spectrum of colors that emit energy. That energy is measured in nanometers (nm), or one billionth of a meter. The human eye picks up color in wavelengths between 400 and 700 nm. Many people look for lasers based on their nm – 635 or 650 nm for red, 532 nm for green and 401 nm for violet. As long as the number is between 400 and 700 nm, you and your group will see the laser light when it hits an opaque surface.

The Alpec Difference

All Alpec lasers provide 100% IR filtration, the standard to safely avoid eye damage, plus approval from the FDA and the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). Our lasers are certified as safe to use for presentation and pointing. Our lasers are all class 3, the most powerful class that is legally permitted. Constructed with an outer body of brass and aluminum, they are built to last.

We do not recommend using lasers as toys. We do recommend understanding lasers and how they work so you can use them safely and choose the right laser for your needs.

Reach out if we can answer any questions about which laser pointers are right for your business.