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Access the Adaptability of the Abrasive Precision Waterjet

20 January

Headland Admin

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precision waterjet

Flexible, versatile machining is very important these days. Successful manufacturers utilise multipurpose technology like the abrasive precision waterjet.

Innovation dictates how and what we machine. Steel and aluminium are standards. Yet new alloys are changing how we construct everything, from key rings to aeroplanes. On top of this, customer demands continue to change. When they do, your machine shop must adapt and change as well.

Abrasive waterjet cutting uses a high-pressure stream of water. The water erodes a narrow cut in the part stock material. You can cut a wider range of materials from tool steel to titanium, to foam. To do this, you add a granular (e.g. garnet) abrasive to the waterjet, increasing its cutting power.

OMAX offers an array of extra features and specialised software. These enhance waterjet machining with capabilities like bevelled cutting and taper compensation. They also allow for part material changes that may happen in the future.

Workflow and Costs Control with Your Precision Waterjet

Cost control and short turnaround times are important for running a profitable operation. Owning an abrasive waterjet is to bring advanced cutting capabilities in-house. This has the potential to pay huge dividends. Outsourcing metal cutting and near netting eats into turn-around times and profit margins. By having your own waterjet, you control your workflow and costs. No other shop knows this better than Titan Boats.

Titan Boats was spending time and money outsourcing its waterjet cutting. According to Jennifer Michell, Organization Development Manager, the reason was logistics. “Living on Vancouver Island means that the proximity to a waterjet machine that would meet the size requirements of our vessels, would have to be done off-island,” she explained. “With that bears shipping costs and lead time waits. We wanted to eliminate those added expenses by the purchase of our waterjet.”

By adding its own abrasive waterjet, Titan Boats was able to streamline its workflow. They were able to cut production times from several weeks to a few days.

An abrasive precision waterjet is the most versatile cutting method available. EDM cuts electrical, conductive materials. And laser has limitations to thin, non-reflective metals. Yet abrasive waterjet cuts almost every metal on the market. Abrasive waterjet machines cut:

  • steel
  • aluminium
  • brass
  • copper
  • titanium
  • Inconel
  • chromel
  • cupronickel; and
  • every other type of metal.

In particular, abrasive waterjet is excellent at cutting titanium (over other methods). This is because the jetstream of the waterjet never dulls. It eliminates the need for time-consuming tool changes. The cut product has no heat-affected zones (HAZ) or material distortion. This often removes the need for secondary machining.

Accurate and Versatile: Your Abrasive Waterjet

Venable Machine Works is another shop that now benefits from abrasive waterjet cutting. They bought the OMAX 55100 in 2011, and Dan Wingerak, Venable’s machine shop foreman, explains. “When deciding between a flame, plasma, laser, or waterjet, we decided to go with the waterjet due to the precise cutting, option with no heat or heat affected distortion, and the ability to cut almost any type of material,” he said.

Lasers are often very expensive and need extensive training for operators. Plasma can produce noxious fumes (depending on the material cut). It can leave a rough-cut surface. A waterjet is an inexpensive, clean and useful alternative.

Abrasive waterjet handles the full spectrum of part sizes. Abrasive waterjet is pushing the extremes when it comes to micro and macro machining. You can use them in medical, national defence, and circuitry applications. OMAX’s MicroMAX JetMachining Center is capable of a positioning accuracy within five microns. OMAX’s 120X series has a customisable cutting bed reaching up to 40 feet by 10 feet. Large tank fabrication, architectural metal and glass industries use these. The size of the finished product is only limited by the size of the waterjet’s cutting table. This allows manufacturers to work as small or as large as needed without extra equipment.

For K&W Tool, the durability of its two abrasive waterjets is a huge benefit. “We use both of our OMAX 120X waterjets at least ten hours a day; if we are busy, we run them both 24/7,” said Camren Kring, Project Manager at K&W. “The ease of use and low maintenance associated with abrasive waterjet make them nearly capable of non-stop machining.”

K&W also added the OMAX A-jet accessory to its waterjets. With a cutting range from 0° to 60°, the A-Jet can cut bevelled edges, angled sides, and countersinks. OMAX’s IntelliMAX Software allows the A-Jet to compensate for taper. It creates complex 3D shapes. The A-Jet is a completely software-controlled multi-axis cutting head. This expands K&W’s versatility.

Superior Software

The versatility of an abrasive waterjet is only as good as its software. Using underperforming software with an off-brand waterjet will result in off-spec parts. Experience excellent machining with software that considers the unique characteristics of waterjets.

OMAX has made its software easy to use. With OMAX’s IntelliMAX software, the operator enters the material type and thickness. Then the software calculates and controls the cutting. The machinability is already factored into the software. If you enter a new design into the IntelliMAX MAKE, the screen prompts you with a dropdown list. The list contains over 60 different materials ranging from red oak to Inconel to PVC etc.

Enter extra materials yourself if necessary. After an operator enters the material and thickness, they are ready to cut. At any time, an operator can reset the material by a simple click of a button.

OMAX incorporated the versatility of large waterjets into a sleek, affordable, small one. The ProtoMAX is perfect for job shops, engineering classrooms, maker spaces, personal use.

Dan Dumphy started his own business, Dumphy Cycle Machining, in 2018 with the aid of the ProtoMAX. It is the first personal waterjet on the market.

What convinced Dumphy to use waterjet to start his business was the software. “The programming software is so easy to learn if you have general machining experience or use of CAD software. We can simply load an image and adjust it as needed, where CAM software on CNC mills and lathes can get a little tricky and time-consuming. Plus, it’s simple to draw up a part from scratch,” he said.

Your Abrasive Precision Waterjet is THE Cutting Tool to Choose 

Any shop machining metal needs a machine tool that can adapt to changing markets. It must be easy to use, producing precision parts. For fabrication shops, single-purpose machines can be a deal-breaker. For manufacturers, it can be limiting. Shops don’t want to turn away work due to inadequate capabilities. Nor do they want to suffer the cost of retooling with every product change.

In the changing world of machining, you need a tool that can accommodate any metal variation. An abrasive precision waterjet is the right cutting tool for almost any metal, now or into the future.