An educational series brought to you by AMERICAN MACHINIST and Flow International Corp., Kent, Wash.
Waterjets are high tech and hard to operate.
While waterjet systems are high tech, they are no harder to operate than automobiles, scanners, printers, or high-definition TVs. Today's innovative and intelligent PC-based controllers like Flow International's FlowMaster let operators with little skill or expertise produce parts.
Using a Windows-based control system such as the FlowMaster, operators simply draw, import, or scan a part; specify material type, thickness, and edge finish; and point-and-click on “start” to cut. Basically, if the operator knows how to use Microsoft Windows, he can run a waterjet system.
Waterjet technology lets shops cut materials that other machines can't — from whisper-thin details in stone, glass, and metals to rapid hole drilling of titanium. The waterjet process also provides other special capabilities and advantages that reduce overall manufacturing costs.
Technology In Action
In addition to its other high-profile customers, Carmin Industries in Birmingham, Ala., works on numerous jobs for architectural firms that require precise, accurate, and smooth cuts. To achieve such cuts, the shop owner Carolyn Minerich relies on abrasivewaterjet technology from Flow.
“It's not easy being a small jobshop, but the waterjet systems with advanced features and software applications like FlowMaster make it possible for us to not only compete but also deliver high-quality projects,” says Minerich.
The company has evolved from cutting simple stainless steel plates for the Hawaii Convention Center's entrance to an 8 16-ft dinosaur bone and the honeycomb-shaped aluminum that was made into steps for space shuttles. As a result of the diverse projects it is able to complete using waterjet technology, Carmin Industries has realized a 350% increase in sales since 1997.
In addition to cut quality, time savings is another benefit of waterjet systems. “When customers look at the big picture, they realize that time savings equal cost savings,” says Minerich. “ The waterjet cut needs no grinding or secondary processing , which means we literally can move a finished part from the machine to a waiting truck.”