November '22

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G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M N O V E M B E R 2 0 2 2 • G R A P H I C S P R O 7 7 Another use of the laser engraver is for Colville's QR codes used in its mainte- nance program to track individual truck repairs. Hatch printed QR code tags for each truck that link to the inspection form for that particular unit so that drivers don't have to scroll through a long list of maintenance items to find what they need. "Drivers have to do pre- and post-truck inspections before they take them out," Hatch says. "I've been printing the QR code on anodized aluminum, so the driv- ers can scan it. It won't wipe off, fade, or degrade. It's very versatile." WORKING WITH THE SETTINGS Hatch tried several variations of the settings, seeing that with larger fonts and longer prints, he experienced slight warping in the material. He identified his print failed to break up the printing into six stages and to flex the material in between prints, using pinch clips in the crumb tray to help pin down the metal. He also figured out the optimal settings when working with stainless steel to con- trol the intensity of the light and speed of the laser. He set the speed at 600 and the lines per inch, or LPI, at 670 — the higher LPI results in a higher fill rate and a better laser job, he says. "It makes the time for the print longer or shorter, depending on how deep of a con- trast of the letter you want to come out," Hatch says. "ose settings were the final settings I settled on that deliver the best results and the fastest engraving, but also the best quality." Stainless steel is harder than something like brass, which would not require the same intensity of laser work, Hatch says. "I can go a little bit quicker on that," Hatch says. Hatch makes labels but not for cut- ting out the shapes and sizes of the metal panels — he hires that out. He uses a 3 D CAD program to draw what he wants to cut and sends the specs to Richards Sheet Metal, a company in Ogden, Utah, which uses a special laser to cut the material. Hatch then engraves on the cutouts that Richards returns to him. "ey cut the tags and the metal pieces I want to engrave … with clean edges and (access) holes in them," Hatch says. Hatch likes seeing the end product of his labels and the fact he's saving Colville on expenses. "It's also a very professional end product that meets the needs of what we want," Hatch says. "I like seeing how clean it is and how long it lasts. It looks very tidy." Hatch also likes that everything he makes is custom crafted. "It's that feeling of creating your own product versus buying something," Hatch says. "It's built to do one job essentially. It's fun to see it come together." GP Shelley Widhalm is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Shell's Ink Services, a writing and editing service based in Loveland, Colorado. Hatch labeled the diverter valves inside a lube truck, marking the directions to turn the handles for different operations.

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