Laser pointers have been used for work-related projects, furniture alignments, and for personal entertainment for many years.
Yet, still, many do not know that laser pointers are put into different classes (e.g., class 3 laser) based on their various attributes and how much light it gives off.
Some can be considered low-threat while others can cause short-term to long-term damage to people or animals who are exposed to the laser for extended durations.
While these are classed from 1 to 4 based on the strength of their visible light, what is a class 3 laser pointer?
What is a Laser Pointer?
A laser pointer is a handheld device that is powered to emit a coherent beam of monochromatic light in the direction it is pointed.
Diode-pumped states create colors like red, green, blue, or purple that the laser is equipped with.
These diode-pumped states are made up of IR-pumped frequencies, which are doubled to give off their light.
Typically, store-bought laser pointers do not change their color unless specifically designed to allow for change.
Different Classes of Laser Pointers
With any laser pointer, you should consider the strength and damage it could cause if misused. Typically, the lasers you will see are characterized as either Class 2, Class 3R, Class 3B, or Class 4 and can cause damage and injuries from mild to severe.
Class 2 lasers are considered mild, cannot heat the skin, and can only cause eye damage if exposed unintentionally for ¼ of a second. Class 2 usually is low-powered (1 mW) and requires batteries to be used. The distance range of this laser is around 523 feet.
Class 4 is considered one of the most dangerous out of the other levels and can cause severe damage to your eyes and skin. This class can instantly burn your skin, damage your eyes on contact, and can even be used to burn materials. This class’s power source ranges from 500 mW to 1500 mW (1.5 Watts) depending on the strength requirements of the laser.
A Class 4 laser pointer, depending on the power used, can reach up to 522,746 feet (99 miles). For any of these classes listed, it is recommended that direct eye contact should be avoided at all costs.
What Is a Class 3 Laser Pointer?
There are two different types of visible Class 3 lasers that we use: Class 3R and Class 3B.
At times, these lasers can be labeled differently were the numbers can be replaced with Roman numerals and be listed as Class IIIa and Class IIIb. For example, the definition of Class 3R and Class IIIa may be different, but they are similar in result.
Class 3R or Class IIIa Lasers
The lower of the two is Class 3R (Class IIIa) lasers, which is closer to Class 2 regarding power and damage. It has a slightly higher risk than Class 2 and requires less than five milliwatts of power to be used effectively. If the laser made unintentional contact with the eye, the risk would be low if the contact was brief.
Even though intentional contact or direct contact with this laser beam or reflected beams should be avoided, this laser is not considered a skin or material hazard and does not produce much heat.
Class 3R and Class 2 are mostly sold in U.S. stores as “pointers” and are the ones that are commonly used for presentations or other pointing purposes. The distance that Class 3R lasers can travel is up to 11,169 feet or up to 2.2 miles.
Class 3B or Class IIIb Lasers
The higher of the two is Class 3B (Class IIIb) lasers, which is closer to Class 4 regarding power and damage. While it is possible for Class 3R lasers to have small but brief contact to the eye without causing damage, Class 3B lasers should not be pointed to the eye completely.
This class requires 5 to 499 milliwatts of power to use and is not quite as powerful as Class 4, but it can cause damage if the laser is applied for an extended duration.
Class 3B lasers can heat the skin and materials if the beam remains on the object at a close range. The distance Class 3B laser beams can travel is up to 116,890 feet or 22 miles.
These lasers should not be used for pointing due to their power and heat capabilities. It is better to go with a less powerful option if you wish to use a laser for presentations or entertainment.
When Are They Dangerous?
With laser pointers, there are many issues that one might face if misused. It would be best to look up the laws in your country regarding lasers and laser pointers to avoid unfortunate consequences.
During presentations, make sure you are in front of your audience or that your laser is aimed directly at the screen to avoid contact with others. While laser pointers can be helpful, they can also cause harm.
If the laser makes contact with an individual’s eyes, it can temporarily affect their vision or possibly harm their eyesight permanently. The severity of the damage or injury is determined depending on the power of the laser used.
Due to the effect on eyesight, it is also illegal to aim the laser at vehicles or people, and you may be arrested depending on the severity of the offense.
It is recommended that if you do wish to use your laser pointer outside, aim it toward the ground and avoid contact with people. It is also best to avoid pointing it towards the air or stars to prevent any aircraft flying into the vision of your laser.
If you do decide to purchase a laser pointer, specifically a Class 3 laser pointer, it’s best to know if that device fits your needs. Even after obtaining one, make sure you read on proper procedures to avoid harming yourself or others in the process.
Keep the laser away from your eyes no matter what class of laser you end up purchasing and know what class of laser you plan to obtain. Hopefully, this article will guide your decision on whether a Class 3 laser pointer is the right choice for you.