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Waterjet Cutting

A better way

By Lynn Stanley

Techni Waterjet configures motors and pumps to help fabricators reduce operating costs and raise profits

February 2017 - Private eye Nick Stone, a character played by Mike Connors in the 1959 CBS series “Tightrope,” said of his line of work, “It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.” Operators might say the same of waterjet cutting. The equipment runs in a harsh environment fraught with abrasives that mix with water at high pressures to cut metal and other materials.

Techni Waterjet made developing solutions to help fabricators overcome the challenges of waterjet cutting a key tenet of its business culture. The Lenexa, Kansas, equipment manufacturer has installed nearly 1,000 waterjet machines or water cutting systems across six continents.

“Basic waterjet cutting is a dusty, dirty, noisy process,” says Techni Waterjet National Sales Manager Jim Fields. “We thought there had to be a better way. With our culture of constant improvement, we looked at what we were doing, as well as what other suppliers were doing, and evaluated how we might make improvements.  We looked at the problems customers were struggling with and how we might solve them. We also investigated ways to save shop time and operating costs.”

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Techni Waterjet’s cutting technologies are designed to lower operating costs and increase performance in digitally enhanced factories.

Conventional pumps had hydraulic intensifiers that were noisy, generated a lot of heat and had a tendency to leak. The inefficient designs raised operational costs for end users. Three-piston pump technology (Tri-plex), on the other hand, was quiet and more energy efficient than hydraulic intensifiers, but a greater number of parts meant higher maintenance costs. “Adding a third cylinder meant 50 percent more maintenance right out of the gate,” Fields says.

Quantum leap

Techni Waterjet considered the pros and cons of both types of pumps, then looked to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the work the agency was doing with servo motors.

The next decision was to “supersize the servo motor and apply the technology to a reci-procating pump configuration,” says Fields. “The concept allowed us to eliminate the need for hydraulics from the intensifier and reciprocate the pump with a servo motor instead, while preserving the robustness of the hydraulic design and its slow stroking reciprocation.”

Using servo motors also helped Techni Waterjet to “retain what we liked about the three-piston pump but with improvements,” he says. “The three-piston pump is only efficient at 100 percent duty cycle, whereas the servo motor gave us efficiency at any duty cycle.”

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The new Advanced Diagnostics Package permits remote monitoring for proactive maintenance and adjustments.

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Techni Waterjet introduced its first electro servo pump in 2009. It performed well but, according to Fields, “a puzzle piece was still missing. Historically, maintenance practices for waterjet pumps have been at the discretion of the operator,” he explains. “If something leaked, got hot or made noise, it was left up to the skill sets of the operator to trouble shoot the problem. We wanted to use smart technology to turn the pump into a self-monitoring unit to help the operator establish predictive maintenance practices.”

By combining sensors, switches and computer software, Techni Waterjet set about developing a pump that could “communicate” with operators when maintenance tasks needed to be performed. The eco-friendly unit ushered in a new era for pumps. “In addition to eliminating the need for hydraulics, the Quantum ESP electro servo pump uses less electricity and less cooling water to provide the lowest carbon footprint of any pump,” Fields says. “But the biggest plus was that machine owners and operators could no longer ignore early warning signs. The cost of ignored maintenance can be very high. Especially if you have to replace expensive components.”

Individuals use smart technology every day in the shape of cell phones, cars, refrigerators and many other consumer products. “No one had introduced it to the waterjet industry until we did,” Fields notes. “We felt it gave customers a competitive edge against older and more conventional technology.”

The ability to plan maintenance means fabricators don’t have to experience down time in the middle of a “hot job” and “minimizing downtime is a bigger concern than ever,” Fields says.

Diagnosis protection

At Fabtech 2016, Techni Waterjet took its pump technology a step forward by introducing an Advanced Diagnostics Package, developed to protect the Quantum electric servo pump against damage that could result from poor maintenance practices and utility failures. 

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Regardless of part geometry, operators don’t have to reposition the PAC 60 cutting head, which saves time and helps to produce higher quality parts.

“It’s really about continuing to change the mindset of manufacturers from reactive to proactive maintenance,” Fields explains. “Customers have typically viewed maintenance as downtime. Lost time on a machine translates to lost costs. With an advanced diagnostics package-equipped Quantum servo pump, preventive maintenance can be planned for non-production hours, giving customers the chance to reclaim time they could use for production.”

The package also allows Techni Waterjet to remotely monitor a waterjet’s pump for things like flow rate and filter flow. “We can proactively call a customer and let them know they need a filter change or to check or replace a valve seal,” says Fields. “We can check the inlet flow rate to make sure they are running the proper amount of water during cutting or whether or not water pressure is high enough. All these elements contribute to cut quality and operating cost [savings].”

Machine operators can access the diagnostics application from their cell phones or tablets. The package completes the circle of early diagnostics Techni Waterjet offered with Tech-Sense, which monitors things like nozzle wear, garnet flow, and orifice health. First to market with this solution, Fields says advanced diagnostics ensures a place for waterjets in digitally enhanced factories.

Waterjet technology is gaining ground every year, says Fields. “With waterjet cutting, customers are not subjected to things like heat-affected zones during parts processing. In addition, a fabricator can cut anything with a waterjet unlike heat cutting methods.” 

The whole premise behind research and development is to put money back in customers’ pockets by giving them tools that allow them to compete. Says Fields, “We actively design to lower operating costs and increase profits for our end users.” FFJ

Sources

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