Month: August 2021

How Exactly Does Laser Cutting Work?

If you’ve been wondering what laser cutting is and exactly how it works, you’ve come to the right place to find out.

Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Laser cutters have become a key tool in many industries, including manufacturing and even medicine.  Laser cutters are so popular due to their precision, adaptability, and their excellent cutting quality.

If you are new to laser cutting, you may have a ton of questions. What kinds of things can you create? What materials can you use? What are the different types of laser cutters?

The team at Engineered Mechanical Systems has helped engineers with custom fabrication, close tolerance machining, laser cutting, forming, reverse engineering, inspection, and more for over 30 years.

Who better to explain to you what laser cutting is and how it works than the professionals? So let’s get some of those questions answered for you.

What Exactly Is a Laser Cutter?

A laser cutter is a Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machine, which means the designer controls the machine with a computer. Using design software, the designer creates something and then sends it to the laser cutter, bringing the design to life.

When the design is sent to the laser cutter, a very thin, focused laser beam cuts through or etches something into the material on the cutting bed. While cutting can be done on almost any type of material, some of the materials commonly used on laser cutters are metal (such as aluminum and stainless steel), cardboard, wood, paper, and some types of plastic.

Laser cutters can produce designed parts very quickly. Since laser cutters are prototype machines, designers can create and perfect their designs quickly and at a low cost before sending the product to production.

How Exactly Does a Laser Cutter Work?

While there are different kinds of laser cutters, the process is the same when they cut materials. The laser emerges from the laser resonator, sending out a beam of intense light that will reflect through a series of mirrors into the cutting head. The cutting head contains a lens that condenses the laser into a very thin, very concentrated beam. The beam is then directed onto the material and cuts or rasters the material.

The cutting head is mounted on an XY gantry. An XY gantry is a mechanical system driven by a belt or a chain. It allows the precise movement of the cutting head inside a given area (the size of the work bed). The laser head is then moved over the work bed and makes precise cuts on the material on the work bed.

The focal point of the lens (the laser is the finest here) needs to be directly on the surface of the material it is cutting. Therefore, a focusing procedure must be performed on all laser cutters before making any cuts.

What Can a Laser Cutter Be Used For?

Laser cutters can be used for a variety of things. The most common uses are related to manufacturing tasks, but they are also used by small businesses, schools, and even the medical industry.

Because so many industries require the use of metal, cutting metal is one of the top uses of laser cutters. For example, the auto industry needs to make sure their parts are exact replicas of each other. Laser cutting is, therefore, a significant part of the automotive manufacturing process.

Laser cutting is also used frequently in the medical sector. Not only are laser cutters used in the design of medical devices, but doctors also use laser cutters in surgery in the place of a scalpel to vaporize human tissue.

Are There Different Kinds of Laser Cutters?

All laser cutters are similar in how they are built. The main difference between them is the type of laser that they use. The three main types of lasers are; CO2 lasers, neodymium lasers, and fiber lasers.

CO2 lasers: This type of laser is produced when electricity flows through a tube that is filled with gas (composed mostly of carbon dioxide). Laser cutters using CO2 lasers are the most common type of laser cutter. They are relatively inexpensive, low power, efficient, and can cut through a variety of materials.

Some common materials used with CO2 cutters are metal, cloth, paper, and wood.

Neodymium Lasers: A neodymium laser uses neodymium to transmit infrared light. They have a higher intensity than CO2 lasers, so these lasers are used to cut stronger materials. It is common to have parts of this type of cutter to wear quickly due to the amount of power it exerts during use.

Materials that designers can use with neodymium lasers are plastics, metals, and some types of ceramics.

Fiber Lasers: A fiber laser uses what is called a seed laser. The beam is then amplified using glass fibers specially designed to derive energy from pump diodes. Fiber lasers don’t require much maintenance and have a long service life. However, they also tend to be the most expensive.

Plastic and metal are typically the materials used with fiber lasers.

Will I Need Specific Software to Operate My Laser Cutter?

Similar to how inkjet printers come with drivers that need to be downloaded to your computer for the printer to work, laser cutters work the same way. The drivers for laser cutters take the design from the computer and convert it into a format that is then read by the laser cutter.

You will, of course, also need a design program. Some available design programs are:

  • 2D Design Programs: CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator, AutoCAD, and Inkscape

  • 3D Design Programs: Solidworks, Autodesk Inventor, and Autodesk Fusion

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We hope this has helped answer some of the questions you had about laser cutters and how they work.

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Engineering Projects To Save The World

Watching the news today, it’s easy to become disheartened about the state of the planet. Climate change and its effects on the world are frightening, but there’s hope for the world in modern engineering.

Scientists and engineers are working harder than ever to develop solutions to problems that can seem unsolvable. New advances in renewable energy and robotics could be the key to saving our planet and creating a brighter future for everyone.

It can be tough to stay optimistic about environmental issues, but these projects are just a few determined to make a difference. Here are some engineering projects to save the world from environmental peril.

Solar Powered Everything

If it seems like solar is suddenly everywhere, that’s because it is. Investments in solar energy are on the rise, consumers are looking to embrace solar power in their homes, and solar technology can be seen in everything from airplanes to roadways.

Solar energy is used for everything from powering homes and businesses to heating and cooling. Of course, there is still an impact on the planet since the materials used in the manufacturing process must be mined, but it is a big step in helping the world reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

Buildings That Clean the Air

Modern architecture doesn’t just look good. Some buildings can be better for the planet, too. In addition to utilizing solar and wind power, new green buildings are looking for ways to reduce pollution and keep the air in their cities cleaner.

By covering the exterior walls of some buildings in living plants, architects create vertical forests that filter pollution and release oxygen. Living walls are being used around the world to reduce air pollution in busy cities. 

In places where a living wall isn’t a good option, architects opt for buildings designed to suck the pollution out of the air. These innovative architectural wonders are already making a significant impact in cities around the globe.

Environmentally-friendly Building Materials

The humble cement block has a terrible secret. It’s responsible for a great deal of the world’s carbon emissions, due in part to the manufacturing process. And the sand needed to make cement has been over-extracted, leading to ecosystem damage, loss of species, and other problems.

With so much of the world’s infrastructure and architecture relying on cement, we must find alternatives. Scientists and engineers are already tackling this challenging problem by creating alternative building compounds using everything from recycled plastics to seaweed.

Creating Water From Thin Air

For engineering projects to save the world, they need to be efficiently utilized everywhere. And what is needed more than anything around the globe? Fresh drinking water. Water is crucial to life, but getting water to the places it’s most needed can be difficult.

Atmospheric water generators pull the moisture from the air and condense it into clean drinking water. While the air’s moisture counts for only a tiny percentage of the earth’s water, it’s more than enough to provide drinking water for everyone.

Harnessing the Power of the Wind

Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing alternative energies in the world. Windmills can create clean energy that’s sustainable and inexpensive to harness. Single windmills can easily generate power for homes or businesses, while clusters of windmills can be used to create windmill farms to harness energy on a much larger scale.

Because windmills take up little space on the ground, they can be integrated on farmland or ranches with little impact to the livestock. They can also be installed offshore to take advantage of strong air currents above the ocean.

Wind energy has lots of benefits, but it can impact wildlife, particularly birds and bats. Still, the fast-growing industry has been creating jobs, reducing our use of fossil fuels. It doesn’t produce harmful emissions like some other forms of energy, so expect it to be a key innovation in tackling our planet’s energy issues.

Robots to the Rescue

Robotics plays an essential role in saving the planet. While you may expect robots to be better at aiding automation or assisting in manufacturing, there are plenty of robots being used by engineers to help the environment.

Bees need a little help, and robotic pollinators could be the answer. As our planet’s bee populations struggle to survive, we risk losing our vital pollinators and much of our food sources. Without bees to pollinate our plants, we’d starve, but with robotic pollinators doing the work of the bees, we can ensure that our crops continue to thrive.

Feeding the planet isn’t the only thing that robots are good at. They can help us make recycling easier and faster, too. Since recycling plays a vital role in reducing our impact on the planet, recycling robots could be just what we need to ensure that more waste gets recycled and not dumped into landfills.

Fighting Wildfires with Engineering

Wildfires destroy property, habitats, and everything else in their path. They are also a significant source of air pollution that puts both people and animals at risk. They seem to be happening more frequently than ever before, but engineers are constantly working on ways to fight fire with technology.

Wildfire-resistant building materials such as adobe and other earth-based building materials are used to build houses that can withstand wildfires. These mud-based building materials are environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and could be the solution for many people living in wildfire danger zones.

Drones are used to monitor potential wildfires and to help firefighters know where to target their efforts. They can get into and out of areas where humans can’t maneuver as easily, and they’re becoming an invaluable tool in the fight to save the world.

Engineers play an essential role in battling climate change and keeping the planet healthy. Who knows what engineering projects to save the world we’ll see in the next few years?

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Improving The Efficiency Of Your Factory Workers

Ensuring that your workers are working at maximum efficiency can be a challenge for business owners.

It’s easy to jump straight to implementing new policies and procedures that you think will resolve the problem.  Or start cracking down on your employees to “make” them work more efficiently. But, unfortunately, in the long run, that isn’t going to work.   

The first step is to find out why productivity was lacking in the first place.  After you find out the “why,” you can then jump into the “how” to find a way to help your workers work smarter, not harder.

Engineered Mechanical Systems has provided diversified and quality fabrication and manufacturing services to various customers for over 30 years.  

We are going to share with you ideas on how to improve the efficiency of your workers.

What Does Worker Efficiency Mean and Why Is It Important?

Worker efficiency is the ability for your workers to get the most output from the least input. Pretty much it is teaching your workers to work smarter, not harder, during their workday.

There are so many ways that increased efficiency can benefit your company.  Some of which are:

  • Increase your profit

  • It will create a positive work environment

  • Efficient workers will set the tone for their co-workers

  • Allows for the growth of workers within your organization

  • Workers will be more engaged in their job responsibilities

How to Increase Worker Efficiency

To effectively increase efficiency, you have to pinpoint what your team needs to work on. For example, do you see workers wasting time? Are workers using all of the resources available to them? Is your team taking the shortest route to get things done? Does your team need more training? Once you figure out where the wasted time is, you can focus on how to correct it.

Here are some tips to help increase the efficiency of your factory workers.

#1

Incentive Programs for All Workers

Many companies provide incentives for their employees. However, some tend to focus solely on senior-level workers. Extending your incentive program to lower-level workers helps them form a commitment to the success of your business.

Are you worried that it would be too great of a cost to do this? Then, tie your incentive program to specific financial targets to justify the cost of the program.

#2

Take the Time to Train Your Workers

When a company is trying to save money, it will sometimes cut off training for employees. These days so many workers are forced to figure things out on their own. The problem with this is that the way they “figure things out” may not be the most efficient way to do something.

Investing time training your employees in the beginning will ultimately save you time and money down the road. It will keep you from answering simple questions and save you money from having to correct mistakes that the worker wouldn’t have made had they received the correct training in the first place.

#3

Provide Useful Feedback to Workers

Providing helpful feedback on a regular basis is imperative to keeping your workers efficient. You want to make sure the feedback given to your workers is upfront and truthful, and if that means there are areas they need to improve on, they need to hear that as well.

Helpful and encouraging feedback helps workers make positive changes.

Be sure to pay attention to your body language. For example, when you smile and nod, you give off positive signals. You also want to focus on your tone of voice. If you feel uncomfortable or aren’t sure how you will come off to your workers, find someone you trust and practice. They can tell you if/when you are coming off as unfavorable.

#4

Respect Your Workers

Workers know if you are only respecting them for their work and not as an individual. Workers are more productive when they feel like they are respected. This respect will also create employees who will go above and beyond for your company.

#5

Provide Training For All Management Levels

All too often, training is provided to top management, and middle managers and supervisors are overlooked. These are the managers who are early on in their careers and could use the development opportunities that training can provide.

If you can’t fit formal training into your budget, let them take online courses, buy books, and attend conferences.

#6

Support Your Workers

Supporting your workers can come in many ways. It can be updating or acquiring equipment to make their jobs easier or as simple as making sure they can balance work and family.

When workers see support from their company’s leadership, morale will increase, and so will the loyalty that the workers have for you.

#7

Make Sure to Set Clear Goals

One of the best ways to increase the efficiency of your workers is to make sure they know exactly what goals they are working towards. Make sure the goals are clear and that they understand why the goal has been established. You will also need to have something set in place on handling workers who aren’t achieving their goals.

#8

Don’t Be Afraid to Praise and Recognize Workers

If you see a worker that deserves recognition for something, make sure to recognize them. According to Forbes, being recognized can be more motivational than money.

#9

If a Task Is Routine, Simplify It

While not taking so much time individually, simple tasks add up and cost your workers valuable time. Take time to review what your workers do on a daily basis. If a task is routine, see if there is a way that technology can help simplify the task for the workers.

By optimizing your team’s routines, you save valuable time and allow workers to move on to something more important.

#10

Make Sure You Are Communicating Effectively

Communication is key! It’s so simple these days to get in touch with co-workers by clicking “Send” or using a messaging app.

An even faster way to get the answers you need, when you need them, is to pick up the phone and eliminate what could end up to be hours’ worth of emails or messages.

Are You Ready to Improve the Efficiency of Your Factory Workers?

Improving efficiency isn’t something that is going to happen overnight. It takes time and commitment to implement. You also have to remember that your team consists of workers with different views and temperaments, and it will take time to make sure everyone starts doing things the way they should. You are teaching your workers and management team new habits, and learning new habits takes time.

While it will take work, you will find that once you get these tips implemented, you will see an increase in employee engagement, a great work environment, and ultimately, increased profits.

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Why You Should Teach Engineering To Your Kids

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (or STEM) are fields of growing importance for the economy’s growth. Providing opportunity and stability, STEM careers are a critical component to helping the U.S. win the future. But adults aren’t the only ones benefiting from the prominence of STEM. 

The generic saying that “children are the future” holds true in education. How we educate children to drive them to be the best, develop critical thinking skills, and be innovative contributors to society is of utmost importance. So how does STEM fit into this? 

STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators. STEM is everywhere. From science playing a role in nearly every aspect of life to technology’s overwhelming and unforeseen growth in recent years, STEM is something that students need to be exposed to, even from a young age. 

It pervades every part of our lives in some way, so why not get them excited about it now? By introducing kids to STEM concepts, such as engineering, at a young age, they will be more likely to develop a passion for it in years to come. Let us show you some reasons why. 

Play and Engineering

Think about preschoolers. They’re fascinated by everything and incredibly imaginative. They love to play. Even at the age of three or four, getting children involved in engineering is as simple as grouping it together with playtime. 

For kids, especially at a young age, where they develop more skills and thought processes, learning and playing go hand-in-hand. Building motor skills while playing is also a great learning opportunity for them. Engineering in its most basic form could be introduced with marbles, building blocks, and sandpit activities. They can build, learn what works and what doesn’t, and see how engineering works without even knowing it. 

Teamwork and Engineering

Sure, sports and other group activities in a classroom setting can build motor, communication, and other learning skills. Kids pick up on these skills as they face new situations and grow older. But one of the best and timeless takeaways from working in a group setting is the teamwork that results. 

Learning how to collaborate is one of the most essential life skills you can build at any age, but as a child, working in groups should be introduced as early as possible. How does this relate to engineering? Take a group activity like building a tower, for example. A child’s group has to work together to make sure their tower holds up, is the tallest, etc. This involves building skills of communication, being part of a team, spatial awareness, and more. 

The Future and Engineering

Think about activities that your kids enjoy inside and outside of the classroom. Think about sports, reading, games, subjects, studies, and other hobbies that take time to develop skills in. If a kid becomes skilled in a hobby or activity and enjoys it, they’re likely to continue participating in that hobby or activity in the future. 

The same goes for engineering. Teaching engineering to your kids could bring about a bright future in STEM for them. Children are naturally curious and asking questions about the world around them. Introducing STEM topics, such as engineering, early could spark their curiosity even further, prompting them to want to try their hand at things like marbles, building blocks, and more now. This could lead to bigger projects or a career in engineering later on in life. 

STEM and Engineering 

Considering the swift movement of engineering and technology in the 21st century, STEM is of growing importance. Engineering and technological literacy are almost required to function as a member of society. We need to understand these fields as our dependency on them increases. 

Introducing engineering to kids is their pathway into the entirety of STEM. By implementing small engineering projects, like building blocks, egg drops, marbles, wooden cars, or pasta bridges, into their education or playtime, you’re simultaneously teaching them math and science topics. Also, very important aspects of STEM careers, math, and science are the building blocks for various careers in STEM, including mechanical, chemical, biomedical, and other engineering paths. Real-world engineering experiences can be built from small projects while a child is still learning.

Confidence and Engineering

As a child, most of us feared not fitting in or failing at something, whether it was in a sport, test, etc. They worry about answering a question wrong or looking foolish in front of others. However, engineering teaches us that there is room for trial and error. 

Instilling a vote of confidence in children can be brought on by teaching them engineering skills at a young age. There isn’t necessarily failure in engineering when considering there can be multiple solutions to the same problem, build, etc. Failure is important when it comes to problem-solving, and problem-solving is a significant component in engineering. If we teach children how to problem-solve and look at “failure” in a different light, think of how confident and motivated they will be. 

Need Project and Activity Ideas for Your Kids or Classroom?

Engineers and their skills are in high demand across many sectors, from manufacturing to the finance industry. Engineering education is important in this day and age to engage youth with engineering concepts and help them develop the problem-solving skills that all engineers develop throughout their training. 

At Engineered Mechanical Systems, we believe in investing time and ideas into developing young minds for a future in engineering and STEM. Since 1990, we have been providing diversified and quality fabrication and manufacturing services to many customers. We strive for excellence and customer satisfaction in all we do, from engineering education and project ideas to having quality equipment built in a timely fashion for other manufacturers that are in need of it. 

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