Do You Need a Class 4 Laser?

January 16, 2024
By Alpec
Like the green laser light illuminating this lilac cat, Alpec laser pointers are safe to use for pointing and are not a class 4 laser.

Let’s be super clear: There is no limit on the strongest laser you can legally own in the United States. However, under federal law as governed by the FDA, any laser above 5 mW must comply with FDA/CDRH laser product requirements for labels, safety features, quality control and more. Further, the laser must not be promoted as a “laser pointer” or for pointing purposes.

At Alpec, the heart of our business is laser pointers. Though we recognize the need for class 4 lasers in medical and other industrial settings where higher mW power is beneficial, we do not sell class 4 lasers as they are not legal for use in anything called a laser pointer.

About Laser Classifications

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.

Distinctions Among Laser Classes and Class 4 Laser

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
  • Most laser pointers are class 3. Class 3 laser pointers can also be referred to as class 3R or 3A
  • Class 4 lasers, the highest class and therefore, the strongest laser you can legally own (but not a laser pointer), produce 500 mW of power or more – there is no maximum on milliwatts for class 4 – and is considered hazardous for users outside of an industrial setting

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.

Class 4 Laser Power and Problems

Laser class 1, class 2 and class 3, the classes we sell at Alpec, max out at 5 mW. That is, they produce no more than 5 milliwatts of power yet produce a comfortable visible region for the human eye. Our laser pointers beam light in the visible range.

Class 4 lasers cannot legally be used as pointers because of their immediate hazard to human health. A class 4 laser’s light is so powerful, the burn is nearly instantaneous. A class 4 laser will also burn skin and other materials. Proper eyewear must be worn to prevent injury.

Class 4 lasers are too powerful to be used as laser pointers.

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.

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.We understand lasers and have actual humans available to chat about your business’ laser needs. Drop us a note to discuss which laser pointers are right for your business.