By means of a 60 W high power diode laser (HPDL) and a specially developed grout material the void between adjoining ceramic tiles has been successfully sealed. A single-stage process has been developed which uses a crushed ceramic tile mix to act as a tough, inexpensive bulk substrate and a glazed enamel surface to provide an impervious surface glaze. The single-stage ceramic tile grout sealing process yielded seals produced in normal atmospheric conditions that displayed no discernible cracks and porosities. The single-stage grout is simple to formulate and easy to apply. Tiles were successfully sealed with power densities as low as 200 kW/mm2 and at rates of up to 600 mm/min. Bonding of the enamel to the crushed ceramic tile mix was identified as being primarily due to van der Waals forces and, on a very small scale, some of the crushed ceramic tile mix material dissolving into the glaze. In terms of mechanical, physical and chemical characteristics, the single-stage ceramic tile grout was found to be far superior to the conventional epoxy tile grout and, in many instances, matched and occasionally surpassed that of the ceramic tiles themselves. What is more, the development of a hand-held HPDL beam delivery unit and the related procedures necessary to lead to the commercialisation of the single-stage ceramic tile grout sealing process are presented. Further, an appraisal of the potential hazards associated with the use of the HPDL in an industrial environment and the solutions implemented to ensure that the system complies with the relevant safety standards are given
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