Waterjet Cutting

Creative control

By Gretchen Salois

Above: WardJet offers models with multiple cutting envelope sizes, from smaller units like a 2 ft. by 2 ft., 5 ft. by 5 ft., and 5 ft. by 10 ft., as well as large-envelope systems that can cut 10-, 13-, 15-ft.-wide by 40-ft. lengths.

Bringing designs to life, one general contractor begins cutting in house

October 2017 - In 1960s Soviet Russia, any luxury was condemned as wasteful and detrimental to the downcast, hardworking proletariat. Inventive architecture was viewed as an unnecessary frivolity. Instead, quantity over quality warranted the expansive movement to construct low-cost, concrete-paneled or brick prefabricated blockades of housing, known as the “Khrushchyovka” or “Commiebloc.” The quick-to-build and assemble buildings were meant to be just that, quick. Design and longevity were cast aside as the objective was to cram as many souls into as little space as possible. As modern-day Russia continues to raze these deteriorating reminders to the ground, companies like Escobedo Group in Buda, Texas, make it a point to bring the most imaginative designs to life. Each project requires different specifications and requirements because the high-end producer takes a much different approach to pre-built fabrication.

Escobedo needed a cutting method that could be as versatile and customizable as the projects it works on. While researching waterjet machines, an ability to add different heads and gantry is what set WardJet apart from its peers, says David Escobedo, owner and founder of Escobedo Group.

FFJ 1017 waterjet image1

The WardJet Z-3064 allows Escobedo Group operators the time they need to make cuts to exacting precision.

Prior to purchasing a Z-3064 WardJet with a 10- ft. by 20-ft. cutting surface area, the 90 percent vertically integrated, six-division general contracting company was outsourcing its metal-cutting work by sending files to outside machinists.

“We needed the ability to cut multiple, varying thicknesses,” says Cody Elwell, Escobedo’s steel shop foreman. The larger table size allows the company to tackle large-scale pieces, like arched flanges that were used to produce large curved I-beams.

The Z-3064 is equipped with a TC-8 taper compensation abrasive jet cutting head that allows operators to cut with a high level of accuracy by reducing or eliminating taper on materials.

Accessible automation

The WardJet model has a short learning curve, according to Elwell. “If someone is proficient and understands G-code, it’s pretty easy to use,” he says. “Even if I have to stop the program midstream, I can get right back to where I left off and the machine remembers. I don’t have to manually save the job; the WardJet automatically does it.”

The large table size means one-offs are easy to handle. “If we get a job that needs quick turnaround, Cody [Elwell] can take the file, run it on the waterjet and get it cut quickly,” Escobedo says.

“We’ve been able to expand what we are able to do in house, as well as what we can offer to customers, because of the waterjet technology,” he continues. “Processes we had to do manually we can now take care of in a fraction of the time and the precision you get is pretty remarkable.”

Quality standards for Escobedo are strict and the results must be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing.

FFJ 1017 waterjet image2

“We’re able to provide quality that another company might not be able to do,” Elwell says. “We’re not looking to get the most bang for our buck by either decreasing garnet or ramping up speed to get something done. By having our own machine, we can take the time to do the cut with more precision to get the measurement we’re looking for.”

Elwell can easily test a part, cut or calibrate it to make sure he hasn’t cut oversize. “I know if I’m over 0.02 to 0.03-in.—I can control everything.”

Before installation of the Z-3064, “we were at the mercy of our vendors,” he continues. “A cut part might be within the vendor’s accepted tolerance range but it would not be within ours. So we would have to modify the material or send it back to have it redone, resulting in wasted time.”

Not one-size-fits-all

WardJet offers waterjets in multiple cutting envelope sizes, from smaller units like a 2 ft. by 2 ft., 5 ft. by 5 ft., and 5 ft. by 10 ft., as well as large-envelope systems that can cut 10-, 13-, 15-ft.-wide by 40-ft. lengths. “Customers can perform 2D or 3D waterjet cutting applications and we have several options like water recycling systems, abrasive removal systems, drills, rotary axis, routers, and multiple cutting head configurations,” says Eliot Riggins, WardJet regional manager.

WardJet will engineer exactly what customers deem will work best, provide solid models, specs and pricing proposals on each machine order.”

FFJ 1017 waterjet image3

Escobedo’s waterjet joins an arsenal of equipment that allows its metal, stone and wood divisions to cut whatever designs are necessary to achieve the final structure. Water proved to be the most practical in that it cuts with precision. Escobedo opted for the reclaimed waterjet system that recycles water. “We didn’t go with the garnet reclaim because we’re not cutting the volume needed for that,” Elwell says. “But when we decide we’re ready to add that feature, we can do it easily because the machine itself is very customizable.”

Escobedo tries to conserve water as a coolant. The WardJet WRS-3500 water recycling system recycles used water rather than have water come in fresh from the tap and out to the drain. “It’s an expensive feature to add but in the long run, it pays for itself and you’re not dumping thousands of gallons of water into the ground,” says Escobedo. “We consider it a worthwhile investment.”

Having used plasma cutting earlier in his career, Escobedo remembers the man-hours spent grinding down heat-affected edges. “We were able to cut quickly with the plasma but we lost that advantage on time when we had to deburr the edges after every cut. It took a lot of labor to get the steel where we needed it to be.

“We don’t mass produce anything,” he continues. “The waterjet gives us the skillset to take the time and patience needed to finish a part with the precision needed. We no longer have to spend time doing the one-off setup with a jig to figure out how to cut it. We now have the technology to do that for us.” FFJ


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