Shop meets customer demands with waterjet cutting

March 1, 2004
Detail Technologies abrasive waterjet cuts 18-gauge ceramic-coated steel on a Jet Edge system that reduces the job's scrap rate from 50% to less than 5%.

Detail Technologies abrasive waterjet cuts 18-gauge ceramic-coated steel on a Jet Edge system that reduces the job's scrap rate from 50% to less than 5%.

Detail Technologies in Grandville, Mich., offers prototype, limited production, and manufacturing services for product development. To deliver its services quickly and cost effectively, the shop relies on a number of manufacturing technologies, one of which is ultrahigh-pressure waterjet cutting.

Operating at 55,000 psi, Detail's Jet Edge waterjet system lets the shop cut space-age composite materials, hard metals such as titanium and Inconel, and soft products like rubber and foam. The system handles thicknesses ranging from thin paper and 0.005-in.-thick stainless steel to 9-in.-thick Inconel and 12-in.-thick rubber. The machine's motion-control system is as accurate as 0.003 in. on positioning and 0.001 in. on repeatability.

Detail's system includes a Jet Edge 4X8-ft system with 55-150 intensifier pump. "We use a 4-ft spreader bar, which expands the work area to 4X12 ft, and two cutting heads for twice the cutting volume," explains Bryan Herrington, Detail's founder and president.

He describes a case where a customer needed 1,000 0.060-in.-diameter holes put in four 60X70-in. steel plates. With the Jet Edge system, the shop revised the design and saved time and money by replacing a static-pierce-andcirclecutout operation with a straight line and dynamic pierce, which reduced job processing time by about 38 hr.

Another customer was experiencing high-rejection rates on 18-gauge steel with a 0.030-in.-thick ceramic coating when cutting on a 3-axis laser. The cause was microcracks forming along the cut, which made for a 50% scrap rate. Using its waterjet system, Detail slashed the scrap rate to less than 5%.

In yet another case, a customer was considering stereolithographysystem (SLS) prototypes for an assembly involving an acrylonitrilebutadiene-styrene plastic component as a spring-tension device. Detail waterjet cut the first sample part for evaluation, which led to data revision, component changes, and additional samples all within the same day. Using SLS, these revisions would have tripled the project's overall cost and added days to assembly development.

Waterjet is also well suited for finishing die stripper pads, subplates, and die shoes, points out Herrington. The system cuts complex shapes and detailed corners as small as 0.020 in., and Detail has processed die components as large as 36X84X2.5 in.

Jet Edge
St. Michael, Minn.

Waterjet puts shop a cut above the rest

A Dynamic Waterjet system from Flow lets Precision Waterjet take on new jobs like cutting gears out of specialcomposite materials and steel.

Orange, Calif.-based Precision Waterjet Inc., which serves industries including aerospace, engineering, and manufacturing, was satisfied with the performance of its two existing Flow A-Series waterjet machines. So it was no wonder Precision Owner Jack Budd quickly agreed to be the first beta site for Flow's new Dynamic Waterjet cutting system. Now, with the system live in his shop, Budd is finding that it is more of a finished part tool able to eliminate secondary operations while cutting parts up to 4X faster.

Instead of keeping the waterjet at a 90° angle, the Dynamic Waterjet system automatically tilts its cutting head as required, depending on workpiece material and shape. This tilting action, controlled by computer models, eliminates taper to produce high-quality parts.

"Using conventional waterjets, we rough cut titanium and nickel-alloy parts, which then required some finish milling afterwards," explains Budd. The new system, he says, not only cuts outside peripheries to a finished edge and dimensional tolerance but also waterjet drills holes without taper. All of which means no secondary operations.

"While we can cut parts within tolerance using a conventional system, the cutting process is slow and extra care is needed with the program, fixturing, and other process details," comments Budd. "Now we have no problem quoting a ±0.005-in. overall dimension with a 125-Rms finish using the Dynamic system."

Precision competes heavily against lasers for jobs, often losing out on those involving 1/32 to 1/16-in.-thick metal. For these jobs, waterjet is too slow, but since implementing the Dynamic system, the shop is winning back this lost business. For instance, the shop now stack cuts three or four pieces simultaneously to reduce cost and increase productivity, especially when it comes to aluminum. Not only does the Dynamic system cut without leaving a heat-affected zone like a laser, it does so at 2/3 the cost per part of a conventional waterjet system.

"The thickest we've cut to date is 3 in., and the Dynamic Waterjet did a beautiful job," says Budd. "We would never have considered this type of job with our conventional system."

Flow International Corp.
Kent, Wash.

Upgrade boosts shop's testingmachine output

Wheatland Tube Co., a manufacturer of continuous and electric-weld tubular products such as standard pipe, mechanical tubing, fence framework, sprinkler pipe, and more, knows firsthand the value of a test-equipment upgrade.

Increased production volume and more-stringent test requirements at the company's Wheatland, Pa., facility forced quality lab manager Matt Skiljo to turn around more tests in less time and quickly send the results to several remote locations. However, outdated test equipment proved a stumbling block.

Skiljo focused his efforts to increase testing capacity on the company's Tinius Olsen universal hydraulic frame with manual control and mechanical dial indicator. He debated over several options, including purchasing a new testing machine with computerized controls, continuing to use the existing machine and expand capacity by pressing an older machine into service, or opting for an Extend upgrade from Instron. He chose the upgrade.

An Extend upgrade modernizes and increases a testing machine's life at a fraction of the cost of new equipment. It retains the machine's existing load frame, grips, and load cells, while replacing old electronics and recording devices with a new controller and advanced testing software.

As a result of Extend, Skiljo replaced the existing Tinius Olsen's dial indicator and pumping unit with new Instron control electronics and Windows software. The system now functions with fully automated servo control and data management. In fact, Skiljo has networking capability that lets him transmit test results to remote facilities via e-mail.

Skiljo realized a 30% increase in productivity using only the one upgraded machine. The increase also allowed him to consolidate all testing to a single lab rather than establishing test labs in each of the company's facilities.

Instron Corp.
Canton, Ma.

Lifter pulls shop out of downtime

Nucor Steel reduces maintenance downtime associated with extracting 120-in.-diameter bottom electrode plates from electric steel furnaces using a Bushman grab lifter.

Nucor Steel wanted to reduce maintenance downtime associated with removing 120-in.-diameter bottom electrode plates from electric steel furnaces. Just hooking up an electrode, which involved hydraulically pushing the plate up and retrieving it with a mechanically activated clamp device, took operators an hour. The shop also had some bad experiences with lifting devices that further extended downtime by 6 to 8 hr. The solution was a motorized grab lifter that not only lifts and changes an electrode within an hour, but does so without human intervention.

The grab, from Bushman Equipment, has a 70,000-lb load capacity and four legs that simultaneously open and close on the circular plates. The motion ensures equal pressure is applied to the plate's O.D.

Operators lower the grab into the furnace on an overhead crane, and via remote control, open its legs. Special wear bars attached to the top and bottom of each of the system's four sliders withstand high temperatures and allow the legs to easily extend and retract.

A drive system that includes a brake motor and double-reduction gearboxes eliminates the potential for back drive if the plate or grab contact obstacles during the lift. A low-speed, high-torque clutch prevents damage to the drive system while clamping.

The first time Nucor used the Bushman lifter, it saved 8 hr in removing an electrode plate from a hot furnace and performing necessary maintenance.

Bushman Equipment Inc.
Butler, Wis.