For years, companies have used laser printers to produce quick, high-resolution copies of word documents and images. At Omnica, laser printing could refer to that mature technology, or a relatively new one, which doesn’t print on paper at all. Here we have a printer which uses a 60-watt carbon-dioxide laser to cut a variety of materials like wood, plastic, rubber, or acrylic, and engrave metal or glass.
The laser cutter is easy to program and operate.
We can use a graphics program (Corel Draw) or SolidWorks to create the design or cutting path (a drawing like a font, line art, or a picture). Next, the user specifies the laser settings like cutting speed and laser power. The parameters are based on the type of material (and depth) to be cut. For instance, thin silicone is lot easier to cut than a piece of half-inch acrylic. That file is exported to the laser cutter using the same print dialog box that gives the user access all the rest of our usual in-house paper printers.
Quick turn-around helps a client get their product to market.
A client we had been working with received their 510-K notifying them that they could begin selling their device, an oxygen concentrator. The hold-up was 100 silicone gaskets (see picture at left) that needed to be cut and installed in the integrated plastic manifold.
A project like this usually requires fabrication of a steel rule die so the parts can be stamped and precisely cut. If everything went right, with no modifications to the tool, it would take a week and a half before the parts could be delivered. The traditional method wasn’t going to be quick enough.
We received the bulk silicone sheets on a Monday, laser-cut the parts on Tuesday, and shipped them that day for delivery on Wednesday. We saved our clients thousands of dollars in time savings and the cost of a die. The bottom line is that we completed the project at least a week ahead of schedule.
Not all of our projects are on a tight time line (most, not all), but we still try to keep the product development process moving at a brisk rate. The laser cutter is especially good for prototyping different configurations of items like circuit boards for fit testing testing. When Andy March was finishing the ID for a flashlight project he was working on, there was a question of the optimum PC board size for the design. He was able to cut different layout variations (from ABS) with the laser printer, have our electronics department mount the components, and test them in the actual flashlight body. Later, our EEs had the real boards made, and everything fit just fine.