Buyers Guide | What is the Difference Between an Aiming Beam vs and Operating Beam

There are typically two wavelengths associated with a laser:

  1. The aiming beam wavelength - the aiming beam is typically "eye safe" | depicted in the image below as red
  2. The operating beam wavelength - the operating beam requires proper laser safety protection | depicted in the image below as green
Operating Beam Laser vs Aiming Beam Laser (Typically Eye-Safe)

What is an aiming laser beam?

The aiming beam is to aid the user in positioning the operating laser beam.  Generally, the aiming beam will be low powered and typically red.  A common use case for an aiming beam is a laser pointer.

If you are in doubt whether or not your aiming beam is eye-safe for diffused viewing, please check with your laser safety officer or call us before making any assumptions. Recently our team has come across wavelengths utilized for aiming beams that are inappropriate without proper laser safety protection.  Never look at any laser directly -  including the aiming beam (stand behind the beam while viewing it), and do not bring your eyes near the axis during alignment or any other operation with lasers.  All laser safety PPE is for unintentional direct and diffused viewing only. Proper laser safety is to never look directly at a laser beam; if you are hit with any laser in the eye, look away immediately.

Having proper personnel with appropriate training and standard operating procedures during the alignment process are proper laser safety amongst several other laser safety controls.  

If the alignment beam exceeds the MPE, of course utilize proper alignment eyewear (where the MPE threshold is not exceeded factoring appropriate exposure duration).  The aiming beam needs to be able to be seen to align the laser correctly, and therefore attenuating the laser to a point it cannot be seen is an issue.  Laser safety alignment eyewear should be used if possible and may be needed. Always be safe when dealing with lasers.