By: Ken Barat

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley California

An underused tool in the Laser Safety toolbox is the use of remote viewing. By remote viewing I mean being able to observe beam placement and interaction from a location other than bending over the optical table. Industrial applications are familiar and has long used machine vision tools. While in the research laboratory the application of camera viewing systems have lagged behind. Today the availability and cost of cameras to perform this task has greatly improved. Costs have gone down, and well as the size of cameras. These web cams and CCD cameras are ideally situated for the viewing of near infrared and visible wavelengths. Leading this use of remote viewing has not been the Laser Safety Officer or even laser safety firms but the users themselves.  Homemade units that combine a LCD screen and camera are a great advantage in the research lab. As opposed to the IR viewer there is no debate if one can look through the viewer with laser protective eyewear on or off. The user can, while wearing their protective eyewear, look at a fixed screen while moving around the camera or having the camera in a fixed position keeping the user far from possible stray beams. Combining with motorized mounts, we have the best of all worlds CCD’s can be as small as 1 cm square and can be fixed on any optical table. Many a computer web cam with the removal of their IR filter will provide good visualization. Parts cost for such a system can be in the $600-$700 range, depending on the quality of the camera. Another place where cameras are readily employed is where physical access to optics and reaction chambers is difficult to achieve. This application removes the user from climbing over equipment, which always presents a risk of inadvertently moving equipment to back injury to members of the work force. In biotechnology applications cameras can also be applied to microscope eyepiece systems remove the risk from back reflections through optics and giving a superior view on a monitor. There is really no excuse for microscope users to be looking down the eye pieces these days. Fiber optic users should not be examining the fiber end with a handheld viewer but rather a camera system. The presentation at ILSC highlighted not only uses and advantages of using cameras for remote viewing, but also technical short comings, in particular for some pulse rep rate systems.