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Waterjet Cutting

Shifting demands

By Gretchen Salois

Above: By combining Flow’s patented SmartStream models with a five-axis wrist, the DynamicXD can cut angles faster and more accurately than traditional five-axis systems.

One job shop recognizes the importance of being proactive

January 2014 - When business is good, it’s no time to sit back and relax. Rather, it means forecasting future demand so as not to get caught off guard and risk falling behind the competition. Despite steady success with its current waterjet cutter, Samuel, Son & Co. Inc. saw the value in adding newer technology to its capabilities.  

When shopping for a waterjet cutting solution five years ago, Samuel did extensive research. “We saw that we were outsourcing a lot of our waterjet cutting to a couple of different shops in the area so we talked to them to see what kinds of machines they had,” says David Oliva, general manager at the Los Angeles and Hayward, Calif., locations. Samuel, Son & Co. Ltd. is based in Mississauga, Ontario. “We had several manufacturers come in and present their product lines to us. Flow’s technology behind the WMC 3090 and support is what gave us the best option.”

Samuel provides parts for customers serving the semiconductor, food processing, oil refinery, wastewater treatment and aerospace industries as well as general line fabrication shops. Parts are produced in stainless steel grades 304, 316L, duplex, 2205, 2507 and aluminum grades 6061, 7075, 7050, 2024 and 2124. 

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After five years of success, Samuel looked at the marketplace—and what type of demand to expect down the road. “We had great success with the first waterjet and worked with Flow to better meet customer demand for better quality cuts,” Oliva says. “We found that market needs have changed and we needed to keep up with capacity.” 

A representative from Kent, Wash.-based Flow International Corp. introduced the company to its Mach 4 4020c. “The five-axis machine allowed us to fill a smaller market segment, including customers who were asking for a bevel cut on material,” Oliva says. “The new machine has a cutting head that actually rotates so it doesn’t point straight up and down—it can point at various angles. In the past, customers would take a straight part we cut and needed to use secondary machines to get the angle they needed on the part. Customers like the clean cut the Mach 4 provides and that the part doesn’t need any secondary machining.”

Previously, Samuel was unable to bevel cut a rounded edge part. “We could not offer customers this prior to purchasing the five-axis waterjet,” he says.

Complex capabilities

The Mach 4 4020c boasts the latest in waterjet motion technology, allowing operators to cut faster and more accurately. The 94,000 psi waterjet is fast while using less abrasives. The Mach 4 series’ drive system features the Nexen Roller Pinion System, a motion control system that combines high-speed motion with near-zero backlash. 

Using patented SmartStream technology, complex mathematical models automatically adjust the cutting stream based on material parameters for the specific part being cut. The software’s library contains more than 100 tested and preprogrammed materials, allowing operators to cut at the correct speed and angles to achieve the precision required with minimal operator input. By combining Flow’s patented SmartStream models with a five-axis wrist the DynamicXD can cut angles faster and more accurately than traditional five-axis systems. The DynamicXD  can cut flat stock material up to +/- 60 degrees. 

Unlike traditional five-axis bevel cutters, the FlowXpert software allows customers to cut complex shapes directly from solid 3-D models.

“Programming speed is quick and easy because we can program directly from the solid model and do not have to edit the geometry,” explains Brian Kent, global product manager at Flow. Because the path is derived without breaking it up into smaller segments, a new operator can program parts without intervention.

“When we first started designing the Mach 4 series, we wanted to make every component modular,” Kent says.  “That allows us to build a custom solution using a standard process. We designed it so the machine has the flexibility to meet customer needs instead of them having to customize their needs to adapt to the machine.”

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Considering cost-per-inch

Since purchasing the new Mach 4, Samuel is able to wield 94,000 psi, using less garnet while cutting with higher pressure and increased cutting speed. People can fixate machine speed, but the cost-per-inch is a better way to look at it. “We can build a machine that cuts at 20,000 psi and requires no maintenance but the cost to run it would far outweigh the benefits,” Kent says. “It’s about finding the balance of speed, pressure and garnet consumption to minimize the overall operational cost.”

Flow’s approach to finding out what works includes testing prototypes before offering them for sale. One way it does this is by first testing product in-house, then beta testing with existing customers. The new product is sent to beta customers, based on the customer’s application as well as the volume the shop produces. “We select customers based on what kind of parts or materials we’re trying to test—we want beta sites that are busy enough to utilize the new products,” Kent says. 

Samuel cuts a wide range of metals spanning varying thicknesses, two shifts a day. “It’s an advantage to be able to try some of Flow’s prototypes,” Oliva says. “It gives us an advance look and we’re always looking toward whether we want to take the next step and invest in new equipment. Being able to try different cutting heads really helped us through any learning curve we’ve had.

“Because our customers are always pushing us for newer and better processing, we’re always looking to see what’s out there,” he continues. “It gives us a chance to test what’s coming out and find out if we can solve a problem a customer needs resolved with the new technology—I don’t know if we’d have that kind of advanced look if we worked with someone else.”

But the big factor that keeps Samuel relying on Flow is the waterjet producer’s relationship with Samuel’s operators. “Our operators run the machines every day and if there are any issues, Flow is quick to send out engineers and technicians to troubleshoot any problems we come across,” Oliva says. “They’ve been very supportive in that role getting us through any issues.

“We’ve got the largest cutting table (10 ft. by 28 ft.) available on the West Coast,” he continues. “We jumped on the Mach 4 because we believe the five-axis cutting head would allow us to cut parts other shops might not be able to take on as efficiently and accurately.” FFJ

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