On the Cutting Edge

August 15, 2018

Nestled in a small corner on the second floor of the Facilities Services building, staff members Mark Renios, David Gaffney, and Mark Jones are hard at work perfecting their skills on a new services machine. The team is used to providing a wide range of services to the SFU community such as painting around campus, sign design and manufacturing, and refinishing of university furniture. Now, the team are planning to add high precision engraving to their arsenal.

“Producing high quality signage for the university on durable materials takes a long time when you’re doing it by hand,” says Paint Shop foreman Mark Jones. “From bathroom signs to convocation, it requires a lot of patience and aptitude especially when working with materials like plastics or wood.”

Jones says that for a while, the team had been looking at options that would help improve efficiencies and save resources and time. After speaking with material suppliers and doing their own research, the team placed an order for the Trotec Speedy 360, a superior flatbed laser engraving machine.

With a working area of 32 x 20, the new Trotec Speedy 360 laser engraver reads the digital design element from an attached computer then marks and engraves the design without any need for manual adjustment to the laser source. With photo-realistic precision, the device settings can be adjusted to provide variations to elements such as the depth of the engraving. Attachments even make it possible to engrave round, cylindrical and conical objects such as glasses or cylinders.

“We started out with pretty simple designs just trying to learn the system and get a sense of the capabilities,” says David Gaffney, Painter. “No matter what material we’re working with, wood or glass, metal or even rock, the quality of the engraving is amazing and that’s going to make it possible for us to provide even more services to the University.”

When news broke in May that two long-time Facilities Services staff members were set to retire, Jones and his team thought this would be a great opportunity to create service awards, something the shop had never done before. “We wanted to do something that our folks would be proud to receive and to hang on their wall,” says Mark Renios, Painter. “We thought if this works out well, this could be a totally new service we’d offer the university. So we had to get it right.”

With some help from their colleagues in the Carpentry department, the team set a design and chose a beautiful low-grain birch wood as the base. With a remarkable degree of precision engraving in a fraction of the time it might otherwise have taken, the service awards turned out beautifully. Featuring Simon Fraser University’s coat of arms, the name of the individual in bold and a message of thanks, Jones says he’s happy with the result.

“We want these service awards to be a source of pride not just for the recipients but us as well. We’re still developing our skills with the new engraving system but once we get going, I think folks are going to be really impressed with what we can offer.”

Last month, Jones and his team received a project work order for a new Faculty of Science welcome sign. Krystal Ness, Building Technologist with Facilities Services department, met with the sign shop to discuss the idea. “David and Mark discussed some ideas they had and I took the various options to design something that I thought would be both eye catching and functional for their space,” says Ness. “The sign guys took my drawings and specs and made it a reality – impeccable work on their part.”

In order to produce the sign, the carpentry shop constructed a box for the sign shop staff to mount the sign to. Jones and his team then cut letters from 15mm thick acrylic and then precision cut and painted the large SFU block logo. With all the elements prepared, Jones and company mounted the various pieces to the box then sent everything back to the carpentry shop for final installation in TASC2.

“We’re all very happy with the final product,” says David Gaffney. “We’re hoping to do more like it in the future.”