This Rifle Shoots Lasers

Safety goggles required

Sometimes, a fancy new cutting tool just needs that special human touch. TWI, a British company with a long history of welding innovation, recently added a pistol grip to a 5-kilowatt industrial cutting tool.

Scary as the idea of a handheld laser cutting tool is, the machine was originally attached to automated industrial machines. The pistol grip and trigger add flexibility, the same way a handheld Dustbuster is easier to maneuver than a shopvac. The tool fires a beam of light with a wavelength of 1 micron that cuts through steel up to about three-quarters of an inch thick. The human users’ special shiny reflective suit and goggles shield them from the laser.

Why cut things with a laser? Besides the obvious (because laser), laser cutting is useful for decommissioning nuclear power plants. Previous methods, like high-pressure jets of water, generate additional waste and rubbish, which, coming from a decommissioned nuclear reactor, could be radioactive. A laser doesn’t get contaminated by what it cuts and doesn’t generate significant waste.

This isn’t just a laser rifle. This is a a laser rifle that shrugs off radioactive waste.