CHICAGO – I’ve spent the last day at Fabtech, the massive sheet metal forming and fabrication show going on this week at Chicago’s McCormick Place conference complex. Fabtech is always loud, with lots of banging, punching and (metal) cutting – and organizers and many attendees probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

Walking the trade show floor, I was reminded of what Mike Bailey, vice president of sales and product development at Mestek Machinery, told me about laser cutting for a recent article. Traditionally, the big, expensive and bulky machines were not very practical for cutting the thin-gauge sheet metal used in HVAC ductwork fabrication. They require a big enclosure to house the laser and protect workers from the potentially damaging rays. That means they’re mostly used by shops engaged in cutting thick metal sheets.

I saw plenty examples of what Bailey were talking about on the floor at Fabtech. I also Mestek’s new Vulcan Laser-Max 1.5 on display, which brings the clean cutting abilities of laser to sheet metal contractors in a more compact and affordable package. It was great to see the equipment in person and contrast it with the others on display. It really helped me understand why Mestek developed the Laser-Max. If you haven't checked it out, take a look in the links above.