Texas A&M gets new laser cutting machine for aircraft designs

College Station, TX -- Air Tractor has donated a laser cutting machine to Texas A&M's Aerospace Engineering department, to support its work in aircraft used in agricultural spraying and aerial firefighting.

The company and TAMU told ILS that the system is a Universal Laser System PLS 6.75 with a 60 W CO2 laser and 32 × 18 in. work envelope -- the same as TAMU Aero has been borrowing from another department -- and will be used primarily for undergraduate design courses cutting soft wood.

Air Tractor's founder Leland Snow was an Aggie alum (Class of 1952), and after his death in 2011 his family established a scholarship in his name for the school's aerospace engineering department. The company also donated a laser cutting machine for the department's design lab, in response to a student-led project to design and build a large radio-controlled plane. Jim Hirsch (TAMU '91), Air Tractor's current president and new member of the department's advisory board, presented the machine to the school this past April.

"This new laser cutter has provided the ability to our students to have access to a state-of-the-art equipment to cut material for their planes, as part of their senior capstone required project," stated Dimitris Lagoudas, former head of TAMU's Department of Aerospace Engineering. "The laser cutter improved the quality and accuracy of cut geometrical shapes and also shortened the time to build their airplanes, which is essential for the students to complete the design-build-fly sequence in one semester."

"As an aircraft manufacturer, we know how valuable modern technology is in the production process, and we've continued to upgrade and modernize our manufacturing equipment and processes," noted Kristin Edwards, daughter of company founder Snow. "While there is some romance in doing things the old–fashioned way, it can be difficult to get things done properly without modern equipment [...] so Air Tractor wanted all the aero students to have a new laser cutting machine at their disposal."

The laser system in use at TAMU Aero, for modeling
aircraft components. (Courtesy of TAMU Aero)

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