Designing a Cost-Effective and Accurate Laser Cutter That Serves a Market Niche; Managing the COVID-19 Spread: Understanding South Korea’s Strategies of Infection Control

Choe, Borah, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Sun, Sarah, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Rogers, Hannah, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Sociotechnical Synthesis
The technical portion of this project aims to custom build a high power, CO2 laser cutter system that is low in cost and high in performance given a bed size of two by four feet, a laser tube power of one hundred watts, and a budget of four thousand dollars. The laser cutter targets to build its own consumer market by highlighting its distinctive innovation from existing conventional laser cutters in its unique design parameters of price, resolution, focal length, tube power, and bed size. As the laser cutter is planned for frequent usage in rapid prototyping and fabrication of parts, the investigation of how lasers can be used effectively and safely was a crucial mission to achieve in the developmental phase of constructing the laser cutter.
The STS research paper focuses on understanding the unique strategies of COVID-19 infection control in South Korea and the associated legal, political, and ethical aspects of the subject. Another center point of the paper was exploring the response of the South Korean people to the various measures instilled by the country. The virus control techniques of South Korea were deemed notable for a close examination to distinguish what contributed for the success as well as the failure of the nation’s COVID-19 spread prevention measures.
The technical paper and the STS research paper reveal that there exists an interesting relationship between managing the spread of COVID-19 and the handling of lasers in that it is critical to both cases that the source of danger, the virus and the laser respectively, is properly contained. Failure to keep the sources under control will lead to hazard exposures that will bring physical harm to the human body, in which extreme possibilities may include death.
The subjects are also interconnected in circumstances in which high power lasers can become a cause of the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, such cases including “Aerosol generating medical procedures (AGMPs)” (Thamboo, 2020) involving high power lasers.
AGMPs can generate virus containing aerosols if performed on infected tissues, and without proper measures to mitigate airborne contamination, risk of exposure to airborne transmission of the virus will be highly increased. As interhuman transmission through aerosolization of virus particles is a significant route of virus transmission, it is essential that high power lasers in AGMPs are used with high caution to ensure minimization of exposure.
The thesis writing process was an intriguing experience which allowed me to notice how engineers could have direct impacts on making social changes to the world. It is fascinating how a topic in society’s infrastructures could be intertwined with technology to form a complex relationship. As I move on to become an engineer, I hope to put this knowledge at the forefront to remind myself that engineers must consider various aspects of society to achieve success.

BS (Bachelor of Science)

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Sarah Sun
STS Advisor: Hannah Rogers
Technical Team Members: Christopher Dauber, Cole Lloyd, Dong Wook Kim

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