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Waterjet Cutting

Checkered flag

By Lynn Stanley

Above: C&R Racing manufactures components for the motor sports industry and continues to branch out into other markets.

Manufacturer races ahead of the field with reduced lead times, part quality and on-time deliveries

October 2014 - In restrictor-plate races, drivers often look to teammates for drafting help. Stock cars run nose to tail, reaching speeds up to 200 mph. The technique reduces wind resistance allowing the trailing car to conserve fuel or increase speed. C&R Racing Inc., looking to save costs and speed up production by bringing fabrication work in-house, found its own drafting partner in Techni Waterjet LLC.

The custom machine and metal fabrication shop has its home in Indianapolis as a leading manufacturer of components and equipment for high-performance applications in the motor sports industry. C&R Racing is the preferred supplier of custom parts for NASCAR events, the IndyCar Series and off-road, open wheel and late model series. The job shop also branched out into other areas, fabricating parts for the automotive aftermarket, medical device, military vehicle and general commercial manufacturing industries. The work put the job shop in the market for the right waterjet cutting system.FFJ-1014-waterjet-image1

Reducing drag

“We were producing a high volume of military vehicle components and spending a considerable amount of money on outsourcing,” says Chris Jaynes, production manager for C&R Racing. “We decided to bring that work in-house but needed equipment that was easy to maintain, quiet and reliable.”

The job shop chose Techni Waterjet’s Intec 5 ft. by 10 ft. waterjet cutting machine with Quantum NXT 66 single electric servo pump, PAC 60 five-axis cutting head and a Tech-Sense Abrasive Monitoring System. The Lenexa, Kansas, manufacturer specializes in developing and producing innovative waterjet systems.

“Techni Waterjet’s electric servo pump technology is what initially caught our attention,” Jaynes says. “Its design allowed us to quickly perform preventative maintenance, keeping our operation up and running.”

The pump employs direct servo technology first used by NASA for its space shuttle program. “No other company has technology like this,” says Jim Fields, national sales manager for Techni Waterjet. “Other pump products on the market use hydraulic systems, which are noisy, leak oil and generate too much heat. Our pump is electric, making it more reliable and efficient. We built it for easy maintenance. Seal changes for instance are quick—15 minutes versus hours. You are down less and running more.”

C&R Racing installed the waterjet in May 2012 and soon discovered untapped versatility. Sourcing sheets in sizes 4 ft. by 10 ft., C&R Racing runs a range of materials from 0.0625-in. thick aluminum to 5-in. thick 4140 steel. Stainless, Hastelloy, plastic, wood, rubber and carbon fiber are also used. “That’s the nice thing about the waterjet,” notes Jaynes. “It gives us the ability to cut a lot of different materials.”

Today the Intec 510 holds the pole position at the company. “It anchors C&R Racing’s entire manufacturing line,” says Jaynes. “It touches everything we do. The way we process work today is significantly different due to this machine. Previously we ran a lot of parts on our turret press that we now run on the waterjet. We get better edge quality and more accurate parts. We’re able to straight cut and bevel cut thick material with minimal—if any—taper.”

FFJ-1014-waterjet-image2

The job shop fabricates a high mix of parts in low volume runs. After cutting flat patterns, blanks are processed using secondary operations before finished parts are readied for shipment. “We do as much as we can on the waterjet to reduce the amount of secondary work,” Jaynes says.

Short lead times are the company’s biggest challenge, he explains. Turnaround times can be even shorter. An aluminum radiator, for example, must be supplied to a race team the same day the order is placed. “We have a saying around here,” Jaynes observes. “The green flag doesn’t wait for anyone so you can’t be late.”

A faster groove

Despite such time constraints, C&R Racing has built its reputation on the originality of its designs, its commitment to not cut corners and its innovative approach to customer challenges. “We’re always trying to improve our products by making them lighter yet more functional and with greater value adds,” Jaynes says, “because racing teams are always looking for ways they can get better performance out of their vehicles yet still comply with regulations. The tighter the rule book gets, the more challenging it becomes for us on the fabrication side.”

When the crew was tasked to produce vehicle components out of grade 6061-T6 aluminum within a short period, the job was plagued with slow cycle times and an excessive scrap rate. 

“Once we started running the job on the waterjet, cycle time improved dramatically and the scrap rate virtually went to zero,” Jaynes says.

Accuracy in cutting is critical, he continues, “but lead time reduction is what it’s all about.” The waterjet’s remote control pendant stores C&R Racing’s CAD programs, giving operators access to repeatable nesting patterns. NEST, Techni Waterjet’s advanced nesting software, uses true geometric algorithms that minimize rapid feed times and increase nesting speed giving the job shop maximum material yield. “Most other models use horizontal nesting from a third party source,” says Fields. “Our nesting program is turnkey.”

FFJ-1014-waterjet-image3

The waterjet also supports a lights out operation. “We run two shifts,” says Jaynes. “We program the waterjet to run a long production job unattended during second shift.” The machine’s Tech-Sense Abrasive Monitoring System acts as the job shop’s eyes once parameters such as material thickness, type and desired edge quality are entered. 

“The system is intelligent,” Fields says. “If it senses a problem it will stop the machine and send a text message to the operator. If the machine completes the work cycle and parts are cut, it sends a confirmation text. When the team comes in the next morning, they are ready to go to work. It saves customers like C&R Racing steps and time as well as reducing scrap, increasing uptime and minimizing consumables.”

With its roots in racing, the job shop is continuing to grow, grounded by the Intec waterjet. “Reduced lead times, coupled with part quality, are what keep us out in front of the field,” Jaynes says. FFJ 

Sources

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