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Waterjet Cutting

A gentle slice

By Colin Linneweber

Above: This waterjet system is designed to cut and machine virtually any material type, regardless of properties like reflectivity and conductivity.

Award-winning abrasive waterjet cutting system can do pretty much anything, with any material

May 2017 - Think of an application—any application, from Las Vegas entertainment venue stage sets to solar power arrays, from fitness equipment to industrial tools, and waterjet cutting technology from Omax Corp. may have had a role in producing parts for those applications. Founded in 1993 by Dr. John Cheung and Dr. John Olsen, Kent, Washington-based Omax Corp. designs and develops abrasive waterjet cutting systems, equipped with motion control technology and proprietary software.

Stocked with a complete range of tools for machine shop environments, Omax’s waterjet cutting systems can precisely custom-machine stainless steel, titanium, carbon fiber, PEEK, glass, Nitinol, graphite, copper, composites, laminates and other materials for either prototyping or production fabricating. 

In late 2016, Omax unveiled the second generation of its MicroMax abrasive waterjet machine. MicroMax was a 2016 R&D 100 Awards finalist and the winner of a 2016 Tibbetts Award.

FFJ 0517 waterjet image1

Positional accuracy is achieved by moving the nozzle a predetermined distance, stopping the machine, and then measuring the actual distance that the nozzle moved.

Stephen Bruner, Omax vice president of marketing, says the MicroMax abrasive waterjet can be adopted by university laboratories, high-tech and prototyping shops, and anybody seeking accuracy, versatility and speed within electronic discharge machining tasks.

Bruner compares this latest cutting system with previous models, outlining its distinct primary features and additional capabilities. 

The MicroMax, he says, is fully enclosed and “ultra-precise,” and it includes “many performance and ownership enhancements over its predecessor.”

Regardless of properties

“This waterjet system is ideal for cutting and machining virtually any material type, regardless of properties like reflectivity and conductivity,” Bruner says. “The cold cutting process does not create heat-affected zones [heat can spoil surfaces, which then must be retouched] and it retains the advantages inherent to the abrasive waterjet cutting process. 

“We believe the product is capable of producing the most accurate waterjet cut parts in the industry. In fact, this product is capable of a positioning accuracy of less than 5 microns [5 millionths of a meter]. The accuracy of the MicroMax is compelling with ball bar circularity of about 15 microns.” Ball bar circularity, he explains, is a measure of how accurately a nozzle can follow a predetermined circular path and 15 microns is roughly half of the positional deviation range from that pathway. “Positional accuracy is often conducted by moving the nozzle a predetermined distance, stopping the machine, and then measuring the actual distance that the nozzle moved,” Bruner says.

Among other advantages, the MicroMax helps foster a quieter production environment and monitors its own power usage. “The MicroMax reduces the noise from operations and it automatically stops operating when its doors are opened,” according to Bruner.

“The MicroMax also benefits customers by significantly reducing free garnet and water vapor in the areas surrounding the machine,” he continues. 

“The cover vents are clustered to accommodate ventilation system ducting and the product is compatible with our Variable Speed Solids Removal System to efficiently remove used garnet from the machine’s catcher tank.”

FFJ 0517 waterjet image2

Omax's waterjet can precisely custom-machine stainless steel, titanium and other materials for prototyping or production fabricating.

The model is available in sizes of 74 in. by 84 in. by 84 in. with a cutting area of 25 in. by 25 in.

Bruner acknowledges that fully loaded, MicroMax users must have sufficient floor space to accommodate the EnduroMax pump, computer and toolbox, and any external accessories like the Variable Speed Solids Removal System or Bulk Garnet Feed Hopper.

Drive system

The Intelli-Trax drive system features closed loop, digital drives and brushless servo motors, according to Bruner. 

“The X and Y axis has optical encoders with 0.1 micron resolution and the system is isolated from the rest of the machine to eliminate vibration. The MicroMax also features our patented Tilt-A-Jet cutting head,” which eliminates taper when operators have to cut straight-sided parts. Accuracy-enhancing options include, but are not limited to, a catcher tank cooling package, which Bruner says “keeps materials at a constant temperature during the entire cutting process.”

From basic, unprocessed materials to completed commodities, the MicroMax can augment a manufacturing operation’s throughput, accuracy and handle a wide variety of materials while reducing costly stoppages and extended downtimes. 

Bruner elaborated on MicroMax’s comprehensive effectiveness and specified its value to manufacturers. “From an efficiency and productivity standpoint, the MicroMax was designed to cut highly accurate parts and intricate geometries,” he says. “The cutting speed and easy fixturing can significantly accelerate part production. Our IntelliMax software suite facilitates importing files, pathing parts and machining parts for users of all abilities.”

As for materials fixturing, the machine helps “significantly cut preparation time.” While making accurate cuts consistently is vital, Bruner believes the system’s software and technology are nearly as important. “Some prospective buyers say that this product goes beyond what they need in terms of accuracy.”

Such customers can turn instead to Omax’s Maxiem lines of waterjets. But for those who do need it, “the development of this product, and pushing the limits of what waterjets can do, has significant collateral benefits to our entire product portfolio.” FFJ 

Sources

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