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Metalwork in the 1930s
Posted Tue, December 3, 2019

A black and white photo of the New York City skyline featuring the Empire State Building.

Next time you’re in Manhattan, head to Midtown and look up to the monstrosity that is the Empire State Building. For nearly four decades, this mass of metal, brick and limestone reigned supreme as the tallest building in the United States. 

Still an iconic structure, the Empire State Building was one of the most notable historic pieces of architecture constructed in the 1930s. This was a decade where metalwork created memorable trends, shifts in the industry and changes that would pave the way for the rest of the century. Below, we’ll discuss how metalwork influenced interior design, architecture and various machinery developments. This is a continuation of our ongoing series, which started with Metalwork in the 1920s.

1930s trends and developments

The 1930s lent itself to many cultural, societal and economic changes, but none bigger than the Great Depression. The effects were widespread, as issues with the economy affected a wide gamut of industries. 

The dip in the economy sent shockwaves through the machine industry. The Machine Tool Show, a national trade exposition that showcased hundreds of operating machines, was postponed twice until 1935.

That didn’t stop advancements in machinery as it relates to metalwork. Leighton Wilkie, a well-known tool manufacturer, developed the contour band saw for metal cutting in 1933. The machine became an industry standard for reducing labor associated with cutting steel.

Automatic welding machines were popular during the 1930s. They were instrumental in steel construction and the fabrication of building floors. Innovation in welding grew alongside transportation advancements to help build submarines, automobiles and ships. For automobiles, Ford created, in 1932, its version of the V-8 engine, which featured many uses of steel. Later in the decade, General Motors came out with an all-steel body design for its 1937 line of automobiles.

Metalwork helped shape the food industry, too. Stoelting, a company that specializes in food equipment manufacturing, built ice cream machines for Homemade Ice Cream Co., which later became Dairy Queen.

Metalwork in interior design

At Coco Architectural, we enjoyed success in the 1920s and 1930s with the launch of a brass shower door that found its way to upscale houses and boutique-style hotels in New York City.

This movement was part of a broader continuation of Art Deco. This style first appeared before World War I, but its grip on interior design remained strong during the 1930s. Best defined as simple, symmetrical and geometric designs, Art Deco made for popular uses of stainless steel and chrome. This included lights and fixtures. 

It even translated to the use of steel in the kitchen. Steel kitchens and cabinets were more prominent as part of an overall movement. Women spent more time in the kitchen as traditional assistance decreased. It’s why many of the interior design elements we find today showed up in kitchen layouts. This came out of necessity. 

Many kitchens didn’t have built-in storage or cabinets. However, the depression created a problem with prices, so steel kitchens didn’t completely take off until after World War II. Today, stainless steel countertops are common, as are other uses of custom metalwork in kitchens and bathrooms.

Metalwork in architectural design

A variety of metals played a large role in several notable pieces of architecture that are still known today. As mentioned above, the Empire State Building was the biggest project of the decade. Inside, a ceiling mural in the main lobby featured aluminum and 23-karat gold. The original construction used 730 tons of aluminum and stainless steel. 

On the opposite side of the country, nickel and stainless steel made up portions of the construction process for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Stainless steel, thanks to its low maintenance, made sense for doors and steel gates, like the Federal Trade Commission Building in Washington, D.C.

Architects used nickel, silver, monel, stainless steel and aluminum as design elements. Others used brass inside, like for wall trim at the Hotel Edison in New York City. Brass is still popular today, especially for bathroom finishes like knobs and faucet handles. 

Nickel copper alloys, like monel, became popular for metal gates and offered hardness and durability in roofs, plumbing and decorative details. Monel steel debuted in the 1930s but it wasn’t cheap, which didn’t bode well for the Depression era. By the 1940s, stainless steel and aluminum became more popular, cost-effective options.

Aluminium, the material used for the lamp at the U.S. Custom House in Philadelphia, became more popular for exterior uses thanks to weather-resistant properties. It was a prominent interior choice for public and commercial buildings. Architects featured aluminum for the Union Terminal roof in Cincinnati and at the U.S. Department of Justice building.

Additionally, nickel silver was prominent in the 1920s and 1930s. Nickel silver is sometimes called white brass due to its combination of copper, nickel and zinc. White metals were more common thanks to the rise of Art Deco, Depression Modern, Streamline Modern and International Styles. 

In the 1930s, Revere Copper and Brass Company debuted lead-coated copper. The Philip Schuyler Mansion in Albany, New York, used an early application of this. The material is first dipped in lead-tin and pure lead and then rolled.

Many of these trends and metal uses exist today, so contact us if you’re feeling inspired to start a custom metal grille project of your own. We offer linear bar grilles, perforated metal grilles or custom metal products, and we’re eager to help you find the perfect solution for your project. Download our product catalog or request a quote for more information.


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How to Add Character to Your Home
Posted Mon, November 4, 2019

A photo of a kitchen to add character to your home

It should surprise no one that bathroom renovations and kitchen upgrades are the most popular types of interior remodels for homeowners. A recent study by the National Association of Realtors found a bathroom remodel was most common, with 26% of respondents divulging they did DIY projects compared to 25% who hired professional contractors. Likewise, 19% said they upgraded their kitchen on their own and 17% hired professionals.

We’ve established they are popular, but are these types of updates worth it? On average, you can recoup 81% of a minor kitchen remodel, 67% of a bathroom remodel and 62% of a major kitchen remodel.

When it comes time to add value to either of these rooms, your inner HGTV sense of style is likely to default to quartz or marble countertops in your kitchen and fancy showerheads and vanities in your bathroom. Those are key pieces that add aesthetic and functionality to a room, but there are other custom finishes and metalwork options than can add character to your home.

Custom metalwork for your kitchen

You don’t have to be a five-star chef to appreciate a kitchen. For most homeowners, we spend a good chunk of our time here creating meals for our families or entertaining for parties. It can easily become a focal point. Yes, we want functional spaces, but a few touches here and there can visually tie your kitchen together. 

For starters, you’ll want to steer clear of stock vents you can find at your neighborhood big box store. Many of our linear and perforated custom metal grills serve a dual purpose with increased ventilation and custom finishes that stands out.

In the past, we’ve added HVAC grilles and custom grille borders in kitchens for a luxury finish. Typically in kitchens, you’ll find tile (or another similar material) used to construct a backsplash. When paired and coordinated with cabinets and countertops, a backsplash can add depth to a kitchen. Ditch the subway tile look you’re familiar with and instead opt for a sheet metal backsplash. In addition, stainless steel countertops provide a classy look, with the added benefit of being durable and resistant to bacteria and stains.

The use of steel in kitchens rose in popularity after World War II. Many spaces were outfitted with metal cabinets as a sturdy choice, although the trend fizzled out in the 1960s. The interest is back, as vintage trends are becoming more prominent. 

Your kitchen needs brightness, and metal light fixtures help you achieve a sophisticated custom look. If you have an island or space over your stove/exhaust, consider adding a custom metal rack to hold all your pots and pans. It makes it easier to reach up and grab a skillet instead of rummaging through a cluttered cabinet and your guests will enjoy the visual aid it adds to the room.

If you need inspiration for your kitchen, check out Pinterest’s industrial kitchen trends for lighting and fixture ideas.

Custom metalwork for your bathroom

Like your kitchen, your bathroom is a high-traffic area that will need plenty of attention throughout the years. The good news is you don’t need a sledgehammer to demolish your entire space for a facelift.

For starters, you can add character to your home with a few simple upgrades by using metalcraft for towel racks and shower curtain rods. Maybe you want to add a new custom door handle or a metal frame to accentuate your mirror.

Trade your outdated, rusted bathroom vents and consider a custom metal grille. We have several options that can serve as the finishing touch to your project. There are many designs to choose from, including the types of metals and finish options.

We normally associate bathroom vanities with an assembly line-manufactured countertop set on top of a cabinet. But, swapping a traditional wood cabinet for a metal base is a simple way to modernize your bathroom.

If you’re searching for ideas on what types of materials to use, gold is back as one of the 2019 bathroom trends. Brass and gold fixtures, compared to traditional steel or chrome finishes, are also gaining traction. You can finish these fixtures in satin or matte. 

This Pinterest page on mixing metals in the bathroom can provide ideas and inspiration for your next upgrade.

Custom options at Coco

If you choose to give your kitchen or bathroom a custom metal grille upgrade, consider our L-Bead installation options. We use this look for linear bar grilles and decorative perforated grilles. 

This flush finish removes the bulky borders around your grille and gives off the impression the grille is built into the wall. We have the highest level of plaster recess, our welding process prevents plaster cracking and the core of the grille is removable. This allows for future ductwork behind the grille without damaging the plaster.

For inspiration or to learn more about us, view our product catalog for a detailed list of our products. For a consultation or to order perforated grilles today, contact us at 631-482-9449 or sales@cocometalcraft.com.


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Baked Enamel Finishes for Architectural Design
Posted Mon, October 14, 2019

Painting a piece of metal for a baked enamel finish

What generally comes to mind when we think of painting objects for our house or business? Fabric, wood or some other material, right?

Don’t forget about metal, though. And we aren’t necessarily referring to wet painting techniques. In this case, we’re highlighting baked enamel, a technique used for finishing aluminum and steel metals.

In the past, we’ve explained in depth the types of metals we use at Coco Architectural and the types of finishes we offer. Previously, we’ve covered antiqued finishes, anodized aluminum finishes, satin finishes and blackened finishes. Here, we take a deeper dive on baked enamel finishes and how you can use them in your next project.

How it works

For starters, there’s a distinct difference between primed metal finishes and baked metal finishes. When using a baked finish, we apply an enamel coating directly to the metal without any need for a primer. This is where baked coatings differ from wet paint finishes.

Baked coatings provide a one-time hard, tough finish that is stronger and corrosion-resistant. These glossy paints or varnishes are sprayed or painted on aluminum or steel. 

The finish is heated, or baked, at temperatures that reach at least 150 degrees in order for the oil or synthetic resin to bind and develop. The result is a dense finish that defends against the traditional wear and tear we see with metals.

What it’s used for

This finish is primarily used in long-term indoor applications since it isn’t as tough or resistant to corrosion as other finishes. Keeping metals with these types of finishes indoors helps with color retention and prevents chalking and fading due to weather.

Typically, you’ll see baked enamel finishes with kitchen appliances, vents and grates, ceiling fans and other home furnishing accessories. 

Ever since this finish became popular, powder coatings have replaced some uses of enamel paints. We offer powder-coated finishes and Kynar products, which are baked on wet paint. The powder-coated finish uses a thermal bond to increase the metal’s durability. Powder coating is a strong alternative when attempting to reach a desired thickness. A thicker coating provides for a longer-lasting bond.

Between the powder-coated and Kynar options, these metal finishes allow for exterior uses thanks to warranties that can cover up to 15 to 20 years depending on its use and application.

Coco also provides you with the ability to take advantage of our in-house custom color matches. All we need from you is a manufacturer’s paint spec (part number/name) and your preferred sheen level (flat, satin, semi-gloss, gloss, etc.) and we can customize your order.

Baked enamel benefits

As we previously discussed, you need one coat for baked enamel finishes, thus no priming is involved. This makes it an easy, time-saving way to add value to your metal.

With this cost-effective alternative, the baking process helps with long-term color retention by using infrared reflective pigments. It also provides chemical resistance and gloss retention. 

In addition to baked enamel, we let you customize your finishing options from a laundry list of choices ranging from oil rubbed to blackened. These are important aspects to how your metal grille will look and perform. For inspiration or to learn more about us, view our product catalog for a detailed list of our products. For a consultation or to order perforated grilles today, contact us at 631-482-9449 or sales@cocometalcraft.com.


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Inside the Architectural Grille Manufacturing Process
Posted Fri, August 30, 2019

A photo of metal manufacturing

Stop and take a look at your surroundings. Check the ceilings. Check the walls. Check the floors. You may see a custom metal grille that serves a dual purpose: functionality and aesthetic. Did the amount of detail and planning that goes into manufacturing a grille ever cross your mind? Well, we’re here to provide some context.

Throughout the years, we’ve given you bits and pieces of how our operation works and what unique techniques we offer during the metalworking process. We’ve also explained how some of our services work and what you need to know before making the plunge into custom metalwork. 

Consider this an all-encompassing guide on how we manufacture custom metal grilles. We’ll detail certain techniques, types of metals used and how we provide finishes to transform your residential or business space.

How Coco Architectural Manufactures Metal Grilles to Suit your Needs

Here at Coco, we manufacture custom metal grilles, such as air vents, registers and grilles for the floor, wall, or ceiling, with the consumer in mind. We provide the brain and the muscle upfront so your grille is ready to install on delivery.

What sets us apart is our all-inclusive metal fabrication facility. We aren’t just a designer or a fabricator. We can handle it all, from engineering and production to custom finishes and installation.

This is where we can configure anything to add value to your home/business. For example, we can manufacture convex/concave, radius, mitered corner, mitered inside, mitered outside and round linear bar grilles. Our clients include architects, designers, contractors and homeowners.

With our perforated grilles, we can assist with concealed fasting, welded support bars, access doors or installation hardware with a matching finish.

What Makes Us Unique?

For starters, we recently upgraded from a CO2 laser cutting machine to a state-of-the-art fiber laser. We expanded on this more with a full breakdown of laser cutting and how we use it at Coco. Our new laser combines speed with efficiency (nozzle changes, cleaning, and the Z-Axis calibrating are done automatically) to cut thin and thick materials without a lens change or manual setup.

For most of our cutting, we use high-speed production saws for non-ferrous metals; band saws, double miter saws, and cold saws for stainless steel and steel; and a shear for sheet metal work.

Once we cut the metal, we use CNC bending to customize our products, mainly our perforated metal grilles. We bend the metal at an angle, typically a V, using punch tooling. 

We have years of metal forming experience, including the rolling of scrolls, angles, tubes and bars with bending machines. These methods allow us to fabricate unique decorative accents.

When welding, we use gas tungsten arc welding, also known as tungsten inert gas welding (TIG). We prefer TIG machines since they can weld heavier gauges. Additionally, we have access to metal inert gas welding(MIG), although we rarely use it. 

Once we cut, bend and shape the metal, a variety of finishes are at your disposal. We pride ourselves on L-Bead installation available with aluminum, bronze or stainless steel options. Known as “mud-in,” this process tricks the eye into thinking the grill is built into the wall. To accomplish this, we have the highest level of plaster recess, our welding process prevents plaster cracking and the core of the grille is removable. This makes it easy on you, the consumer. Pre-punched holes also allow for quick mounting, and plaster can be added to transform your business or room. 

The Five Types of Metals We Use

You’ll first want to consider measuring your space and choosing your air flow for your next custom metal grille project. The next step is deciding which metal is best for you.

At Coco Architectural, we can manufacture linear bar grilles and perforated metal grilles in five types of metal: aluminum, brass, bronze, stainless steel and steel. You can learn more about the materials and finish options (we’ll expand more on that below) in our catalog.

Depending on which metal you use, we have several decorative metal patterns to choose from for your next metal grille project. A few of our favorites are the windsor (clean pattern with octagons and circles; ideal for modern or mid-century projects), majestic (decorative crosses and circles; adds to any restoration) and bullet (functional yet sophisticated; perfect for modern offices).

Aluminum 

Similar in popularity to steel, aluminum is a popular choice for metals due to its affordability, durability and appearance. Its wide-spread use is largely tied to abundance, as aluminum makes up 8% of the Earth’s core mass. Aluminum’s pliability and soft, lightweight characteristics (three times lighter than iron) make it easy to be rolled, pulled and stamped.

  • More cost effective than stainless steel 

  • Lighter and weaker than most metals

  • Oxidizes but won’t rust

Brass

Process copper and zinc together, either through melting, mixing or rolling, and you’ll get brass. This alloy has a low melting point to make it cheaper than most metals. Brass is corrosion-resistant, making it popular for plumbing. You’ll find it in high traffic areas, such as door handles, since it acts as a barrier to bacteria. Brass is commercialized for its decorative look and similar visual appearance to gold, albeit it at a much cheaper price point.

  • Can form complex shapes

  • Tarnishes and becomes dull and spotted over time

Bronze

This mixture of copper, aluminum and tin is slightly bendable with gold and yellow hues. Bronze is most closely associated with Olympic medals. Even with its association as a third-place award, bronze is expensive to make. But a low metal-on-metal friction component makes it ideal for sculptures and accents.

  • Low maintenance

  • High-end feel/look without the high price tag

Stainless Steel

We all know and love stainless steel for its usage in the kitchen — pots and pans, appliances, and industrial equipment are all made with this popular metal. Stainless steel is made via the same process as steel, but with added chromium, a chemical metal used to prevent rusting. This provides longevity but also hikes up the cost.

  • Best for sleek, modern finishes

  • Corrosion resistant

  • Expensive but a long life span

Steel

There’s a reason steel is so popular and used for key structures such as skyscrapers, railroads and stadiums. It’s strong and is cheaper to produce than most other metals. During this process, you melt iron ore to remove carbon. The result, once cooled, is a dark gray metal that doesn’t bend easily. The downside is rust forms when its left unprotected.

  • Cost effective, durable and strong

  • Can rust and tarnish over time

Types of finishes

Picking out the type of metal is half the process. We let you customize your finishing options from a laundry list of choices ranging from oil rubbed to blackened. These may sound like food options, but they are important aspects to how your metal grille will look and perform.

Baked Enamel Colors

You can easily confuse a primed metal finish with a baked metal finish based on appearance. The differences, however, are clear. Baked coatings provide a hard, tough finish that is stronger and corrosion-resistant. We use powder coated finishes by creating a thermal bond to make the metal stronger. You also have the ability to color match. Send us a manufacturer’s paint spec (part number/name) along with the sheen level (flat, satin, semi-gloss, gloss, etc.) and we can customize your order.

Used with: Aluminum and steel

Blackened

Used for steel and stainless steel, a series of chemical baths help turn the metal black. This provides mild corrosion resistance for appearance and to minimize light reflection. We use cold blackening at Coco by submerging it in a blackening agent. Adding a clear lacquer provides protection. The finish still leaves the metal prone to corrosion, so we recommend using it for indoor projects.

Used with: Steel, brass or bronze

Duranodic (Bronze Anodized)/Anodized Colors

Anodizing a metal creates a strong, durable product that is resistant to corrosion. For this process, aluminum is immersed in an acid electrolyte bath with a positive charge added to release oxygen ions. The aluminum oxide is fully integrated so it won’t chip or peel like paint. The final product helps metal adhere to primers and glues better than untreated metal. You can add colors to give a metallic appearance once the empty pores are sealed.

Used with: Aluminum 

Mirrored Polish

Just as it sounds, this polished look creates a smooth, bright finish. The abrasion process works its way up to a high shine akin to a mirror.

Used with: Aluminum, brass and stainless steel

Oil Rubbed

An aged look is created on brass of bronze metals by using chemicals to darken the surface. You’ll see this finish in historic renovations when hoping to achieve an aged look.

Used with: Brass and bronze

Primed

We generally associate “primed” with painting your house or furniture. This process applies to metal, too. Primed metal is highly detailed to give a unique finishing look. A primed finish gives the metal an extra layer for durability and longevity by limiting rust and corrosion. With steel, a plastic primer provides ideal durability and corrosion protection.

Used with: Aluminum and steel

Satin/Brushed

This finish showcases the metal by mixing a shine we all yearn for with a brushed texture. We achieve this through metal brushing where a belt grinds the metal to create fine lines. We polish it with fine bristled brush and soften it with a greaseless grit compound or abrasive, nonwoven belt or pad. This is what gives it a frosted appearance. You’ll most commonly find this finish in bathrooms. 

Used with: Aluminum, brass, bronze and stainless steel

Statuary/Antiqued (light, medium or dark)

Like oil rubbed finishes, we use this to achieve a vintage look with brass or bronze metals. You’ll find these grilles in a ballroom, lobby or bedroom.

Used with: Brass and bronze

Let us help you plan your next custom metal grille project, or provide more information about any of our other services. Contact our experienced team at 631.482.9449 or sales@cocometalcraft.com. If you’re in need of some inspiration, feel free to take a look at our extensive Grille and Metalwork catalog.


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What You Need to Know Before Planning a Custom Metal Grille Project
Posted Tue, August 6, 2019

We live in a world today where constant upgrades are the norm and consumers are in search of bigger and better things. Maybe it’s time to upgrade the bathroom or redo the kitchen at your residential property. Or you may want to spruce up a commercial setting for the office or your business.

Sure, that new tile backsplash, fresh coat of paint, designer furniture or new sink with a fancy faucet can aid in the transformation of your property and increase the value. But it’s important to remember how the small details, such as a custom metal grille project, can elevate a space and add a custom finish to any room.

This is where Coco Architectural can help. Interested in a historic renovation and in search of a metal grille to complement your dream room? We can help with that. Need a modern finish to a particular design element? We’ve got you covered.

The process of planning and completing a custom metal grille project doesn’t have to be daunting. Here’s everything you need to know before you start.

Custom metal grille benefits

Whether it’s during the planning process or the middle of a project you’ve already started, it’s easy to forget about fixtures. And when it finally dawns on you, it’s even easier to jump in your car and run to your closest big box store for a temporary fix.

A metal grille is a permanent fixture that functions as either an air supply or return vent. You’ll find these installed in ceilings, walls or floors. Yes, these catch the eye, but they serve a functional purpose, too. It’s important to consider air flow. We outline that here, and how HVAC grilles are essential to households. They make your air — and design — flow smoothly.

For residential properties, the kitchen and the bathroom are two of the most popular places for metal grilles. Why? Kitchen ventilation is essential. Plus, an elegant culinary gathering area is often the focal point of a house. If you upgrade to quartz countertops and high-end appliances, it doesn’t make sense to reach for stock vents. A custom grille helps tie everything together.

The same can be said for placement in bathrooms. You need ventilation because of the frequent use and varying humidity levels from hot water. This means updating your vent covers. A few tweaks here and there can top your project off. If you need a visual aid, check out the perforated grilles we installed in a Park Avenue apartment in New York.

For commercial settings, a custom metal grille can elevate your lobby or boardroom. These approaches showcase attention to detail and give a room a furnished appearance by using simple, decorative touches. These are one of the many reasons why a custom metal grille is worth the plunge.

Know the different types of metal grilles offered

Now that you know the benefits of a custom grille, let’s take a refresher course in all the ways you can use them.

Decorative linear bar grilles come in a variety of options, such as decorative wall grilles, modern floor grilles, or decorative ceiling registers. Linear bar grills come in aluminum, brass, bronze, stainless steel and steel. Check out which bar grille type is right for you. You’ll want to make sure you measure your space and choose your air flow. A large space, such as a lobby, may need more air flow. Conversely, a smaller bathroom may need a grille capable of restraining the air flow.

Linear bar grilles include HVAC grilles. We customize these products for engineers, woodworkers, contractors, HVAC companies and homeowners. This varies from a curved wall that needs matching or a mitered corner that needs covering.

Perforated metal grilles are a specific pattern and generally aren’t adjustable. We use a turret punch press for single-hit perforation, laser cutting and waterjet cutting in the production process. These decorative pieces combine performance, by allowing air to flow freely, and aesthetics.

Custom options offered by Coco

Once you’ve decided to move forward, the team at Coco will help you design, draft and engineer the grille. Then comes the fabrication and manufacturing process. Depending on your choice, this can come via cutting, notching, shearing, bending, perforating, welding, laser or waterjet cutting and final finishing.

We already touched on all of the metals to pick from. You can also customize your finishing options. Choose from satin/brushed, mirror polished, anodized colors, duranodic, baked enamel colors, blackened, statuary/antiqued or oil rubbed.

Check out our L-Bead installation options for linear bar grilles and decorative perforated grilles. A plaster or drywall L-Bead “mud-in” install removes the bulky borders around your grille. A flush finish gives off the impression the grille is built into the wall. This process isn’t new, but our technique at Coco gives us an edge over our competitors. We have the highest level of plaster recess, our welding process prevents plaster cracking, and the core of the grille is removable. This allows for future duct work behind the grille without damaging the plaster.

How Coco is an all-inclusive facility

If you’re asking yourself what separates Coco from everyone else, we point to our all-inclusive metal fabrication facility. We do it all. That means we can design, engineer, fabricate, finish and install your product.

We aren’t limited to air vents, either. We can step outside our specialties to produce residential or commercial items such as ornamental trim, railings, handles and pulls and column covers, among others.

Ready to start a custom project that involves a custom metal grille or any of our other services? We can help. Contact us at 631.482.9449 or sales@cocometalcraft.com. If you’re in need of some inspiration, feel free to take a look at our extensive Grille and Metalwork catalog.


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How Laser Cutting Works
Posted Mon, July 1, 2019

We use and see products each day that may go unnoticed. Ever wonder how your piece of metal — with the precision cuts and intricate designs that make it a unique piece of craftsmanship — became that piece of metal? The short answer is a machine capable of quick, efficient and consistent cuts.

In short, you can thank the evolution of laser cutting machines and laser cutting services. These advancements have led to significant growth in the industry. As of 2016, laser cutting accounted for the largest share of the metal cutting market. Market analysis and segment forecasts expect this trend to continue over the years.

Coco Architecture uses laser cutting in our all-inclusive custom metal fabrication facility. We’ll take a look at what laser cutting involves, the transition to fiber laser cutting, how we implement it at Coco, and go into detail about the benefits of laser cutting.

What is laser cutting?

Before we take a dive straight into the world of fiber laser cutting, it’s important to understand the general scope of laser cutting. Industrial manufacturing uses this type of technology for high-power outputs to melt, burn, vaporize or blow away the material, leaving an edge with a high-quality surface finish. It allows us to reduce setup time, cut the need for custom tooling, and provide grilles in heavier gauges that could not be punched.

Laser cutting consists of two categories: laser fusion cutting and ablative laser cutting. This engineer’s guide to laser cutting explains how fusion cutting melts the material before using a high-pressure stream of gas to remove the metal. Ablative cutting uses a pulsed laser to remove the metal.

Fiber laser, gas laser and crystal laser make up the three most notable types of laser cutting machines. CO2 is one of the most popular types of gas lasers, where the gas transmits through a beam guided by mirrors. This process can cut plastic, Plexiglas, metals, and wood. Crystal lasers use crystals, like neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet, to produce high-powered cutting. They are more archaic and, therefore, have a shorter lifespan (8,000-15,000 hours). Fiber lasers use optical fibers doped in rare elements to create quick, clean cuts using an automated system that is easy to maintain should any errors occur. 

Laser cutting services at Coco

We’ve previously written about the differences between waterjet and laser cutting in sheet metal. We use both, since waterjet is ideal for thicker materials and 3D printing by using a high-pressure stream of water. Thanks to new technology and new equipment, we are excited about the advancements in the laser cutting industry.

Here at Coco, we recently upgraded from a CO2 laser cutting machine to a state-of-the-art fiber laser from Amada, a Japanese manufacturer of metal processing equipment and machinery. This particular model, the Ensis 3015, uses fiber laser technology to process both thin and thick materials without a cutting lens change or manual setup. It allows for high-speed cutting in a more efficient manner.

We first start the design process with an AutoCAD file. Having a good, clean file that is full scale with no overlapping lines or unconnected endpoints is part of the battle to get it to run smoothly. There is an additional offline software that programs the CAD file to create the G-Code in order run the machine. Nozzle changes, cleaning, and the Z-Axis calibrating are done automatically. We also have many new features such as flash cutting that can be used. The machine’s computer is as intuitive as a giant smartphone as a way to assist the operator. 

The benefits of fiber laser cutting

Why is this important and why does it matter? We can operate the machine for long production runs thanks to the automated technology. The result is a quality product at a high speed that is energy efficient. We can use the fiber laser for things such as steel, copper, brass or titanium.

The Ensis 3015 processes thin materials up to four times faster than a CO2 laser and has the ability to cut up to 1-inch thick mild steel. 

This technology consists of a Variable Beach Control Unit that automatically adjusts the laser beam mode based on the cut condition selected on the machine control. Users can process a wide range of material thicknesses without exchanging the nozzle, cutting lens or any additional machine setup. Amada Fiber lasers don’t require laser gas mix or mirrors to generate the beam. Individual modules combine to send a single fiber laser directly to the cutting head. This reduction in modules is faster and more efficient. 

A four-station nozzle changer cleans the nozzle and selects and calibrates a new nozzle in less than a minute. The laser head features a water assisted system, which cools down and reduces heat in thick parts of the metal.

Fiber laser vs. CO2

There was a time earlier this decade when CO2 lasers dominated the market. In fact, Engineer.com reported Amada’s fiber lasers were just 5-10% of sales in 2010. Compare that to more than 90% in 2017, and the movement away from CO2 is apparent. 

When comparing fiber laser vs. CO2 laser, it’s not so much about CO2’s limitations as it is about the benefits associated with fiber machines. The cost effectiveness, efficiency and precision with thin materials are key factors. A fiber laser is an estimated 100 times greater and converts 70-80% of the power. There aren’t mirrors or lens to constantly adjust. Everything with fiber is automated. CO2 still holds its place, as it works well with thicker materials, can provide a smoother finish and performs faster when cutting in a straight line. But they are sensitive and can require more maintenance. Plus, the older age makes it less energy efficient. 

Ready to start a custom project that involves laser cutting or any of our other services? We can help. Contact us at 631.482.9449 or sales@cocometalcraft.com. If you’re in need of some inspiration, feel free to take a look at our extensive Grille and Metalwork catalogue.

 


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