Sometimes an ordinary thing can look extraordinary, and you may find yourself wondering, “How did they make that?” There are hundreds of manufacturing methods that most of us have never heard about, even though we use the products they create every day. Here are four little-known industrial processes you may have pondered.
We’re all familiar with basic cutting implements like scissors, saws, and even oxyacetylene torches, but you may not know what plasma cutting is. In simple terms, plasma cutting involves concentrating a jet of ionized gas with a plasma cutting tool to melt and slice conductive metal. Oxyacetylene torches cut by burning, which means that they require oxygen to slice iron-based metals. Some metals resist oxidization, and oxyacetylene torches can’t cut them. Examples of these include stainless steel and aluminum. Plasma cutting doesn’t need oxygen and carves through these metals easily. When it comes to larger pieces of steel and iron, oxy torches remain supreme. But for thinner pieces of aluminum and stainless steel, plasma cutting is ideal. Plus, plasma cutting grants more flexibility in cuts.
Though it may be hard to believe, you can build something by blowing it up. You may have seen videos of manufacturing processes involving presses and molds. These machines create specifically-shaped objects by punching them or pouring liquefied material into a premade form where it hardens. Explosive forming is similar, except that it uses TNT and nitroglycerin to force the metal into the required shapes. Manufacturers do this in cases where machinery can’t generate the force necessary to mold the metal. They place a mold at the bottom of a tank and secure the metal on top. They then fill the tank with water and drop in the explosives, instantaneously bending the metal into shape. Manufacturers mostly use this process to create airplane sections, boats, and other large products.
Metallizing describes multiple methods that coat metal onto other substances. Metallizing goes all the way back to antiquity. Back then, the ancients created mirrors backed with lead or tin. Over the centuries, metalizing techniques became more refined. German scientist and father of organic chemistry Justus Freiherr von Liebig discovered how to attach silver to glass to create reflective mirrors for telescopes. Later scientists perfected his methods. Today we have multiple ways to metalize, allowing us to coat or etch materials with metal for practical and decorative purposes.
Water Transfer Printing
Water transfer printing is the final method in our list of four little-known industrial processes. Manufacturers use this to put smooth images on car parts, motorcycle helmets, cell phone cases, and more. Water transfer printing works on fiberglass, metal, vinyl, plastic, ceramics, and other substances and surfaces. Manufacturers print the design onto a film that they then place in a treated water tank. Once the design floats to the top, they dip the object in and remove it with the seamless design intact.