Over the past few months members Daniel Libolt, Barry O’Leary, Eric Nelson, and Wyatt Waldron have been working hard to create signs and metal cut outs for the community. With the new PlasmaCAM, these cut outs are made extremely easily and efficiently.
Each sponsor of the 2014 Hay King Contest was given a sign that reflected on something that stood out at their farms. For example, Troy Fine’s sign had a John Deere tractor on it to represent their museum of John Deere tractors, and the Kittredge’s sign had a Case tractor on it to represent their personal preference of Case farm equipment.
To prepare the machine the students must first determine what the sign will look like. An image is taken from the internet or file and then edited on a program called Inkscape so that the edges and gaps don’t have pixels. The pixels appear as small squares which cause ridged edges if they aren’t straightened out. After the image is edited, it is transferred to the computer that runs the plasmaCAM. The image is then placed into a program called Sheetcam to determine the size of the sign and the route the plasma cutter must take in order to make the sign or cut out as efficiently as possible. After the design is programmed into the machine, a piece of metal is positioned manually on the cutting table so that no metal is wasted. The type, size, and thickness of the metal are then put into the computer so that the plasma cutter cuts all the way through the metal and follows the correct route.
After every setting is adjusted and correct, the plasma cam cuts out the exact image that was earlier programmed into the computer. As it glides through the metal, air pressure from plasma cutter splashes the water in the bottom of the cutting table onto the metal cooling it down so that the cuts don’t mend again. After the plasma cam is finished cutting and properly shut down, the piece of metal can then be taken off the cutting table and the sign or cut out is nearly finished. The edges of the sign must then be ground down so they have a smooth finish. When the grinding is done the sign is painted, dried, and then sent off to the buyer or supporter of our organization.
The plasmaCAM has been a great addition to our metal shop, because of how resourceful and efficient it is. Our chapter has not only been able to show our appreciation to our supporters throughout the community, but also prepare quality signs and cut outs in a short amount of time.
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—Jade Stockton, FFA Historian