Solution Summary: Laser Cutter
A laser cutter is a CNC machine that receives cutting specifications from a computer and emits a high powered laser beam to cut metal. High pressured gas removes the material. Typical laser beams have a kerf of 0.2 mm in diameter and have a power of 1000-4000 W. The quality of the cut is dependent upon the choice of laser, beam quality, and the power. Many laser cutting techniques are available and CO2 is most commonly used.
Laser cutters work best on metals with the ability to absorb and conduct heat, such as carbon steels or stainless steels. Standard laser cutting is not recommended for metals with low abilities to absorb and conduct heat, such as copper and aluminum. These metals require either waterjet cutting or more powerful lasers.
Stooped postures can cause low back disorders, such as muscle strain or a disc herniation (“slipped disc”), which is bulging of disc material possibly pressing on the spinal cord or nerves that go into the leg. The laser cutter can help reduce stooped postures by giving workers a space to make cuts closer to waist level.
Stressful hand and wrist activity can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as muscle strains; tendonitis, which is inflammation of elbow and wrist tendons; or carpal tunnel syndrome, which is compression of a wrist nerve, resulting in finger numbness and loss of hand strength. The laser cutter reduces the amount of stress placed on the hand and wrist by eliminating the need to make cuts manually. Lasers are able to make sharply contoured cuts in narrow-angle locations.
How Risks are Reduced:
Compared to manual cutting techniques, laser cutting reduces the amount of stress placed on the hand and wrist. Awkward hand positioning required during manual cutting with hand tools puts the hand and wrist at risk for injury. Lasers are able to make sharply contoured cuts in narrow-angle locations. Also, since laser cutting is performed by a machine, manual material handling and stooped postures are reduced.
Effects on Productivity:
Laser cutting reduces the amount of physical contact with sharp edges that typically result from manually cut metal. Lasers emit heat and cause hardening, thereby eliminating sharp edges. In many situations, waterjet cutting may be used instead of laser cutting.
The use of lasers may create an eye injury hazard. Eye protection should confirm to ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Z136.1 and the TLV requirements from ACGIH (American Conference of Government and Industrial Hygienists) for lasers, which conform to ANSI Z136.1. You can order the ANSI standards from www.webstore.ansi.org, or order the ACGIH guide at www.acgih.org or http://www.laserinstitute.org/store/LSAFPUB/104/.
Dan Anton, PT, PhD, ATC and Cassie Malecha, DPT – Eastern Washington University