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Waterjet Cutting

Streamlined steps

By Gretchen Salois

These companies acquire waterjet cutters to increase flexibility and speed

January 2012 - It’s not uncommon to read today’s headlines indicating the ebbing economy is headed in a generally positive direction. Many companies find themselves making the difficult decision to expand, invest in technology or potentially fall behind by losing business. After weighing the pros and cons, two job shops decided to invest in waterjet systems.

In Richmond, British Columbia, Viking Profiles Inc. shopped around, looking for the right waterjet cutter for its needs. The company already had some machines in its shop from Flow Corp., Kent, Wash. “If I wasn’t 100 percent happy with Flow, I wouldn’t have stuck with it,” says Jeff Cleveland, general manager at Viking Profiles. “We’re a busy shop and we run the machines hard, so we have very little downtime. I knew going with Flow would be a positive choice, plus the new five axis—we saw a demo and it was unbelievable.”

Spanning a number of industries, including architectural, artistic and machine shops, Viking takes on a number of complex projects, requiring a machine capable of taper compensation. “We did an art piece made [out] of 3⁄8 in. aluminum and perforated aluminum, which went together. The material is more cost effective, lightweight and easier to machine,” Cleveland says. “One advantage to using the waterjet is that the back of the cut is just as nice as the front, which is not the case when using older equipment. Using the waterjet eliminates the dwell, resulting in a nice finish.”

According to Tim Fabian, Flow’s global product marketing manager, Viking was growing actively and wanted to add a third system. Cleveland was looking for improved accuracy, productivity and reliability. “They were impressed with our proven technology of the highest cutting pressure available,” Fabian says, adding Flow’s field and telephone support also were convincing factors.

Viking added a Mach 4 with a cutting envelope of 13 ft. by 6 1⁄2 ft. in addition to its other Flow waterjets. “The Dynamic XD brings the same accuracy and cutting enhancements provided by the Dynamic Waterjet for flat stock into the 3-D and beveling environment,” Fabian says. “Previously, it took hours to properly program a single 3-D part in a waterjet environment.” FlowXpert, Flow’s CAD software, circumvents the natural tapering produced from the waterjet stream and makes programming faster and more intuitive, Fabian adds.

A company’s first waterjet
In 2010, PBC Linear, a Pacific Bearing Co., located in Roscoe, Ill., decided it was time to add waterjet capabilities to its operations. But unlike Viking, the company had not worked with Flow previously. “Working with Flow was our first experience with utilizing a waterjet. We knew we needed to become more competitive in certain areas, and the waterjet provided us a way to do that,” says Tim LeCrone, manufacturing engineer at PBC. “Several factors worked together in helping make the decision to invest in the waterjet machine. The downturn in the economy forced us to look at ways to cut our costs. It allows us to create a part that is very close to the net final shape. This cuts the final machining to the least amount possible,” he says.

According to LeCrone, using a waterjet to cut shapes is more cost effective than milling from raw stock. “Anytime that you utilize a machining center, you have the additional costs of the programming and fixtures. This can result in spending several thousand dollars before you can really begin to machine the part,” LeCrone says. “We needed to reduce these costs and become more competitive.”

The waterjet allowed PBC to become more competitive in its cost structures and added flexibility and speed in responding to customer requests. Ultimately, this allowed for quick turnaround on customized solutions. “A key focus for us is to help our customers slim down their products and design cycles. Using this ‘design on a diet’ philosophy, we collaborate with their engineers to develop new solutions to old design problems,” LeCrone says. “Inside of our [engineered to order] process, we heavily use the Flow waterjet machine. Using a customer’s print, it allows us to literally go from art to part in as little as 30 seconds. We can have a prototype piece in our hands in just a few minutes.”

PBC’s Mach 3 with a cutting envelope of 13 ft. by 6 1⁄2 ft. brought more flexibility to the company’s manufacturing operations using a flat stock cutting system. “It is equipped with our patented Dynamic Waterjet and Flow HyperJet system rated at 94,000 psi,” Fabian says. Dynamic Waterjet is designed to eliminate the V-shaped taper that is produced naturally when the water dissipates as it cuts material, he says.

Faster process, fewer steps
Cutting parts for machinery and manufacturers often results in high-volume production. At Viking, the company cuts 1⁄2-in.-thick stainless parts that fit to a round shaft at a 45 degree angle. “Basically, the piece [has a] compound bevel, whereas in the past, we’d just give customers a part with a radius and it would be machined,” Cleveland says. “We would do them in batches of eight and it was a four-hour process. Now, we’re able to compound bevel and it physically fits the shaft; they can just weld it and it’s good to go.” FFJ

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Sources

  • Flow Corp.
    Kent, Wash.
    phone: 253/850-3500
    fax: 253/813-9377
    www.flowwaterjet.com
  • PBC Linear
    Roscoe, Ill.
    phone: 888/389-6266
    fax: 815/389-5790
    www.pbclinear.com
  • Viking Profiles Inc.
    Richmond, British Columbia
    phone: 604/821-0773 
    fax: 604/821-0774
    www.vikingprofiles.com
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