For the past year, my younger brother has been backpacking around New Zealand, sleeping in a tent, working on farms and climbing mountains. From the pictures I’ve seen, it’s been an amazing adventure in one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth. The older sister in me, though, is always a little bit worried. I imagine him scaling the sides of steep rock formations or climbing his way to the top of Mount Cook, and I realize how much more of a thrill seeker he is than me. While I would prefer he take up a more relaxing outdoor sport like fishing, the fact that he’s well equipped for belaying allows my mind to rest easy. Instead of relying on a good grip and foot holding, most rock climbers these days use an effective system consisting of a harness, pulley and belay loop, which are all attached to a sturdy climbing rope. Belaying ensures the climbers won’t fall very far in case they slip off a rock.
High atop the astounding obelisk of the Washington Monument rests a pyramid made of precious materials. Glistening in the early morning sunrise of Washington D.C., this capstone serves as a powerful reminder of the nation’s forefathers and the achievements made by all fellow countrymen. With such an important role in our iconography, one might expect this pyramid to be constructed of extremely valuable materials, and it is or rather, it was. The capstone is made of pure aluminum. While nowadays the word might be more closely associated with kitchen products than prized possessions, it was once as precious as silver. Just as the height of the Washington Monument itself has since been surpassed, however, the price of aluminum likewise waned. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, aluminum remains one of the most versatile and integral metals in modern industry.
Today, as we all well know, judging from the steep spike in green attire and beer buzzes, is St. Patrick’s day. March 17th has been celebrated since the 1600s, at first a strict Catholic holiday honoring Saint Patrick himself. Originally, St. Patrick’s was a day of no drinking-all the bars and pubs in Ireland were closed. Since then, things certainly have changed. In fact, some bars open around the time I get up for work to service the most dedicated of St. Patty’s celebrators. Ireland is well known for its beer and the people who love to drink it. Celebrating their culture must include a tall mug of traditional Irish beer-a stout or porter. These dark, smooth and coffee-like beers have been brewed in Ireland for hundreds of years. In that time, brewing hasn’t changed much. Mostly, the same equipment is used for malting, milling, mashing, fermenting and filtering ingredients that, through these processes, become beer.
Look at the two images below. How do you think those round metal disks are transformed into that perfect, beautiful trophy? Maybe some form of molding or welding, definitely with the use of heat. If that’s your guess…you’re wrong! It’s formed by metal spinning, a process that doesn’t use heat at all and looks just like forming pottery on a wheel, only with metal. It was once considered a true art form that took skill, practice and talent. It might surprise you, but metal spinning has been around since the ancient Egyptians, to form objects like bells, bowls, light fixtures and event trash can lids. Hockey fans should appreciate this process, since the Stanley Cup itself was originally a large goblet made by metal spinning.
Some of the most precious and valuable elements on Earth are buried deep beneath the surface, just waiting to be found. While diamonds, gold and silver are the first that come to mind, lesser known, exotic elements like neodymium, a rare earth magnet, may be the most invaluable of all. It isn’t shiny or beautiful, but this silvery-grey magnet is expensive and highly sought after. Miners crawl deep into open pit mines, thousands of feet below the surface and appear with truckloads of the unimpressive looking chunks of metal. The raw element is shipped in large steel barrels to a manufacturing facility, where it is finely ground into powder and pressed into high temperature molds. Neodymium exhibits some extraordinary and unusual properties. When compounded with iron and boron, this magnet creates a magnetic field up to 25 times more powerful than those made from standard ferrites. It has exceptional resistance to demagnetization, and very small volumes provide the best performance of any magnet out there.
With the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics well underway, newsrooms around the globe follow a rising medals count. The elite athletes participating in the games and their eager nations watching from afar hope for the fulfillment of the ultimate Olympic dream, standing atop the podium as a gold, silver or bronze medal is draped around their neck. For many of the more than 5,500 Olympians representing more than 80 nations, receiving a medal will remain a dream, an ambition for future feats of athleticism perhaps. For a select 615 individuals, however, that dream will become a realization. 615 is the exact number of medallions created at The Royal Canadian Mint for the XXI Olympic Winter Games. Each of these was produced through unique metal stamping processes creating one of a kind medals for each athlete’s one of a kind moment.
Almost all the metals we use today-silver, aluminum, brass, even steel-are alloys, a homogenous mix of a metal and one or more other substances that enhances or changes its properties. In fact, very few metals are actually put to use in their pure form. From ancient times till now, humans have been experimenting and engineering alloys so they exhibit certain properties for thousands of years. There are literally an infinite number of combinations, all resulting in very different structural properties. In a way, metals and elements team up, work together and pool their strengths to make different metallic substances. Alloys may be a homogenous solid solution, a heterogeneous mix of tiny crystals or a true chemical compound.
Wire mesh is a pretty useful household material-not only does it help wash foods and drain pasta, it keeps pesky bugs out while allowing a cool summer breeze in. It functions decoratively inside cabinets and protects furniture and people from flying embers in a fireplace. It’s found in all sorts of filtration systems, vents, sifters and screens to keep the air/water flowing and the dust and particles trapped. For a moment, think about a world without any wire mesh. Bugs flying freely indoors and dirt in our water, life would be a lot filthier and less sanitary. Wire mesh is essentially composed of a series of thin, perpendicular wires that are woven or welded together. These two manufacturing processes determine the strength, complexity, and different applications in which wire mesh is used.
Many of the strongest metal products available today like knives, swords, train parts, die casting molds and musical instruments are made of extremely resistant, durable and tough materials. Although metals like steel and iron are the best metals for the job, sometimes they need a little help to obtain the desired hardness and strength properties for the tough jobs that the automotive, weapons, transportation and military industries have in mind. In order to make these metals even stronger than they already are, the products and parts are altered physically, mechanically and even chemically to obtain certain properties.
When asked about the mineral graphite, one image likely comes to mind: a pencil. This soft, dark grey, greasy material, also called black lead and plumbago, has been used to jot down notes and draw pictures for hundreds of years. Its name is even derived from the Latin term for ‘to draw/write.’ Graphite is only found in a handful of places around the world, including Africa, the British Isles and a couple of U.S. states-including my home state of Michigan. There are 3 main types of natural graphite that are all found in different types of ore deposit. Crystalline graphite is flat with hexagonal edges, amorphous graphite is very thin and flakey, and lump graphite is found in veins of fractures underground. The first pencil was composed of sticks of graphite tied together with string. As you can imagine, this early writing utensil wasn’t exactly user friendly, but it could easily be erased with rubber. It wasn’t until much later that the modern pencil-the wooden kind with a pink eraser top that we use today-became popular.
Believe it or not, the manufacturing process that creates plastic products like plugs, handles and caps is one of the oldest known human professions. The ancient art of candle making, which dates back as early as 3,000 BC, used the process of dip coating to make candles out of beeswax and animal fat. Since then, it surprisingly hasn’t changed much. Plastic wasn’t widely used until the 20th century, but soon after it started replacing materials like glass and ivory, manufacturers experimented with melting down thermoplastics like Plastisol. They found that by applying the candle dip coating method to modern day products, melted plastic resins provide a strong, resistant and protective coating that is used in dozens of industries.
Aren’t we all familiar with that achy pain after getting home from work some days? We feel it in our necks, backs, the soles of our feet or various joints. Whether in an office, commercial, or industrial environment, repetitive motion all day in a standing or sitting position has the tendency to do that. This is why ergonomics is so important in the workplace, and why OSHA has a four-pronged comprehensive approach to ergonomics. Since, in the broadest terms, workstations are used in office, IT, home, school, and manufacturing settings, OSHA has specific workstation guidelines, such as ones for computer workstations.
In the most general terms, the function of any kind of seal is to block the passage of liquids or gases. Rubber seals can be either static or dynamic. A static seal does not move and simply contains pressure or maintains a vacuum. The purpose of dynamic seals, however, is to reciprocate a give-and-take with mechanical motion, like for pistons and cylinders or rotating shafts. Mechanical seals are essential components of hydraulic and pneumatic systems, in which constantly moving mechanisms can be under extreme stress. Along with preventing leakage and protecting against contaminants, the mechanical seal helps maintain pressure levels in high temperature, pressure and speed applications.
Due to the advancements in electronic controls, mechanical engineers may have the tendency to bypass the use of gearing, as the robust gears used in machinery of high speed and high power are quite complex in design. However, electronics has a hard time beating gears for such dedicated, high accuracy requirements as in automobile transmissions. For a variety of internal machinery workings, gears are optimum for changing the rate of rotation, the direction of the axis of rotation, and rotary motion to linear motion. The multitude of gear types can be combined in many ways to create larger gear units, such as gear heads, gear boxes, gear reducers and gearmotors – which all fall under the category speed reducers.
From plastic gears for the smallest wind-up toy to two ton cast iron gears, the capabilities of gear manufacturers amaze me. I mean, being able to machine and cut gears from only a half inch through up to twenty feet in diameter is a pretty incredible range. Plus, being able to provide this kind of gear production all under one roof, turning out completely in-house customized and even emergency jobs – some gear manufacturers can do it all!
When I hear the word mezzanine, I immediately think of that field trip to an opera version of Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade. All I remember from that experience is sitting in the theater mezzanine wishing that those two star-crossed lovers would stop singing and just die already. But we did have great seats. A mezzanine in a theater is the lowest balcony, a nice elevated position to see all the action. Mezzanines in commercial and industrial settings serve a similar function of creating another level within a building.
Industrial Quick Search has been selected for the 2009 Best of Grand Rapids Award in the Marketing Consulting Services category by the U.S. Commerce Association (USCA). The USCA ‘Best of Local Business’ Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USCA identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.
The concept is this: rubber in all its various elastomeric forms and alternatives offers different levels of friction – or, simply put, grip or give – when bonded to a cylindrical core, creating rollers that can take on then apply substances (like ink or hot stamp foils, heat transfers or labels), collect unwanted particles, move objects along a conveyor, or offer necessary movement within various machinery and automated systems. From soft, spongy paint rollers to hard roller skate wheels, the consistency of rubber rollers varies depending on application: Does it need to be smooth or grooved, slick or sticky?
The full range of today’s hydraulic presses is some of the most powerful and versatile manufacturing equipment. Achieving the highest compressive force of all the power presses, these machines are crucial for the forming and molding of a wide spectrum of materials: metals, plastics and composites, rubber, wood, and laminates. From deep drawing essential parts, such as tanks and fenders, for the production of motorcycles to creating 2,640 plastic credit cards per hour, the manufacturing realm would be lost without hydraulic presses. The scrap metal processing industry also relies on shear hydraulic press force to smash discarded cars and such into compact, manageable squares of reusable material for pop cans, paper clips, etc.
You can almost hear the grinding and crushing as you say the word pulverizer – the consonants and vowels combine to create hard sounds as you enunciate through the syllables. I enjoy deepening my voice to emphasize the harshness of the word. You try… it’s like a ‘grr’ from the back of your throat. Now, while saying it (and making pounding motions with your fists if you really want to get into it), imagine what it would take to smash stones into powder. The bulk material handling and process industries, including mining, waste recycling, plastics, food & pharmaceuticals, rely on this kind of de-agglomeration controlled at various intensities within pulverizing machines, making materials more useful or reusable. It’s destruction with a purpose; breaking down to make better. Pulverizers take the idea of mortar and pestle to the extreme.