The Industrial Revolution
The great social and economic changes due to introduction of machine and power tools and large-scale industrial production began in 1760. Through first 70 years of this century, US was industrial giant of world. In 1960 words "Made in Japan" was thought to be a joke. By 1980, those same words had become standard for manufacturing. In 1985, U.S. manufacturing was in a deep depression. Products were too costly, of poor quality and not innovative enough.
Now, again, America is ranked No. 1 in manufacturing (World Competitiveness Report, 1996).
America’s No. 1 standing is primarily due to manufacturing revolution that has been under way since 1985. This quiet revolution is built on unsurpassed innovative spirit of American people. Innovation is one of qualities upon which America is founded. American manufactures are world’s leading innovators. The right combination of technology and people is a good foundation for any company. These technologies are leading to a major new phenomenon: mass customization, which is ability to customize products literally in quantities as small as one, while producing them at mass-production speeds. Mass customization in Information Age is replacing mass-production model of Industrial Age.
The ultimate outcome will be simultaneous manufacturing. Here, even as customer is giving order, product starts to be manufactured. It may seem like a fairy tale, but time is fast approaching when a customer will stand at a retailers fitting room, download their personal measurements into a computer, choose pattern and variety of material wanted for their clothing and before they leave outlet their order is in production. Now that’s a truly empowered customer!
Over past few years, there have been a number of articles written on lasers. Each author lists applications as it relates specifically to their area of expertise. However, what EdgeWISE Tools would like to do in this article is to stimulate you to visualize all different ways you can use a laser to produce a variety of products. Let your imagination go. Don’t fear unknown. Those that can see future have greatest opportunity to succeed beyond their wildest dreams. "Carpe Diem" - seize moment!
Why use a Laser?
In 1985, thermal contact cutting tools were developed for roll feed plotters. The "Hot Tip" became first large format cutting system introduced to sign industry. This process became corner stone that most plotter manufactures built on. Through evolution, cutting hardware has changed and significant strides have been achieved. We have seen progressive steps taken to where technology is today.
Most old manufacturing technology uses contact cutting tools; where tool actually contacts surface, it is meant to cut. The cutting tools must be re-sharpened or replace often and as tool wears out quality is compromised. This antiquated method has become an additional source of income for manufactures because they now get to market one or more consumable tools. Contact manufacturing with all its additional costs can now be replaced with a more economical solution.
The next giant evolutionary leap in cutting manufacturing is replacement of contact cutting tools with non-contact tools. The next logical step is to use laser technology for mass customization. The traditional high cost of laser technology has delayed development of Roll Feed Laser (RFL). A day is like a year in technological development terms. However, recently cost of laser technology has been reduced to point where today it has become an affordable means of manufacturing.
Roll Feed Laser
In 1988, research and development began on first Roll Feed Laser system (RFL). This research developed more than just a new product. It developed new concepts in manufacturing and new ways to manufacture. The realization of mass customization is appearing using lasers. The combination of these two things EdgeWISE Tools calls laser manufacturing revolution. This laser manufacturing revolution we are beginning to see is becoming bigger than anyone has yet imaged. There are literally hundreds’, if not thousands’, of markets and industries that have yet to be discovered.
Can you change?
As history has proven, there are always those people that lack foresight and intuition to respond to changing trends of time. Ten years ago, in 1986, industry scoffed at idea of a large format, computerized, cutting system becoming main work tool for trade. The resistance to change at that time was severe. Seven years ago most plotter manufactures laughed at idea of a low wattage Roll Feed Laser system and could not see potential for manufacturing one. Look at what is happening today, Since 1990, number and diversity of applications for low wattage CO2, Nd:YAG and Diode laser systems have exploded. The CO2 laser market has grown on average of 60% per year. More people are recognizing benefits of using a CO2 laser over other traditional manufacturing tools. Machinery like dies, routers, hot knives, and mechanical engravers are being replaced with affordable low wattage RFL systems. Ink jet printers, in some applications, are losing ground to advancing low wattage laser used for marking.