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New Technologies Push Waterjet Productivity

October 2012

Despite the economy, waterjet manufacturers have been diligent about updating their technology and introducing new models that include advances resulting in more productivity and efficiency, while also offering less maintenance to lower costs.

Here’s a sampling of equipment that could put more money on your bottom line.

Bystronic

One of the chief innovations of Bystronic’s newest waterjet system, the ByJet Smart, is its high-pressure seals – typically, these seals are quite maintenance intensive on a waterjet.

“You usually have to replace seals every 300 to 500 hours,” says Frank Arteaga, Bystronic’s head of product marketing. “But with the ByJet Smart, we’ve increased that interval to 2,000 hours. If you think about the downtime associated with that – a couple hours every time you have to change the seals – that’s a huge improvement, and it means more green-light time for the customer.”

Bystronic now makes the seals from metallic-based as opposed to ceramic-based materials. They are much more predictable than any other type of seal says Arteaga. But Bystronic also uses a cooling circuit integrated into the pump that circulates chilled water around the seals to counteract the heat generated by the water pressurization.

“The predictability of the metallic seals allows customers to accurately schedule their seal replacement, too,” says Arteaga. “They can be proactive about it instead of reactive.”

The ByJet Smart includes a direct-drive pump, allowing the machine to deliver a consistent, lag-free pressure signal. Arteaga says that while some companies use a pressure attenuator to buffer any deviations in that signal, their system doesn’t require one thanks to that pump.

Additionally, double cutting heads are also included on the bridge of the system, and the linear drive incorporated on the cantilever axis allows the CNC to quickly cut two pieces at once. Depending on the parts being cut, the spacing between the heads will adjust automatically, as well.

Having two cutting heads also doubles the machine’s cutting speed.

Arteaga also points out that probably the most costly aspect of operating a waterjet comes from the abrasive required to run it. To that end, the ByJet Smart includes a CNC abrasive metering feature that helps a job shop use only what’s needed for an operation.

“It doses the exact amount of abrasive that’s required for each different type of material thickness,” explains Arteaga. “So, you’re really getting the exact dose. It controls against the high pressure drawing more abrasive than needed.”

The CNC will also automatically adapt based on the material thickness, whether 0.25-in. stainless or 1-in. stainless, and will dose the required amount, thus reducing costs for job shops.

Another feature of the ByJet Smart is its synthetic-granite-composite frame that dampens vibrations and ignores temperature fluctuations through its low, thermal-expansion coefficient.

The ByJet Smart also includes two motors – an 18kW and a 37kW. Depending on whether the user is doing single or double head cutting, they can provide 2.5 liters or 5 liters of water, respectively. However, both deliver 55,000 PSI to the cutting head.

Flow Waterjet

The past 24 months have been a busy time for Flow Waterjet.

“In that short amount of time, we’ve had the biggest product launch in Flow’s history,” says Brian Kent, Flow’s product manager. “When the world went into the recession about two and a half years ago, our CEO made the commitment to invest in R&D. He knew that we’d eventually come out of that recession, and by making that investment in R&D, we’d have new products by the end of it. So we turned the economic downturn into R&D time.”

The new products are Flow’s HyPlex Prime waterjet pump and their Mach 2c and 4c Series waterjet models.

HyPlex Prime

The HyPlex Prime Pump is unique in two ways. First, it’s a rotary-style-crankshaft pump. Compared to a traditional-style pump, the rotary-style pump means that the HyPlex Prime can be more efficient and quieter says Kent.

“Traditionally, rotary-style pumps offer a lower entry point into the waterjet market,” he says.

The second way that the HyPlex Prime Pump is unique is in how Flow has adapted some of the technology from their HyperPressure high-pressure intensifier-style pump designed for large-volume production.

“Our 94,000 PSI HyperPressure pump offers the fastest cut speed with the highest pressure available on the market,” says Kent. “We took both its seal technology and its loading tool technology and converted them for our rotary-drive HyPlex Prime pump. Our 60,000 PSI HyPlex pump now has the same seal technology and loading tool technology as our 94,000 PSI HyperPressure pump.”

Having the same seal technology as the HyperPressure pump means that the HyPlex Prime enjoys greatly extended seal life and maintenance intervals. In addition, Kent says that when maintenance does end up being required, it’s easier to perform thanks to the loading tool technology.

“You don’t have to call in a service technician to perform the pump maintenance,” he says. “It’s easy to do in the shop.”

Another benefit that the HyPlex Prime offers is that it’s fully modular. Kent points out that the needs of the customer for a waterjet pump can greatly vary, and this is what drove the choice to make it modular.

“Some people want this horsepower or that horsepower, some want it to run on 230 volts and some on 460 volts, some want really elaborate sensors and onboard diagnostics, while others don’t want onboard diagnostics,” comments Kent. “Rather than build, four different pumps to meet all those needs, we made the HyPlex Prime modular. So we have about eight to 10 different modules that you can combine into 1,064 different pump combinations to truly meet the needs of your business.

“If you later decide that you want something that you didn’t originally buy as part of the pump, you can go ahead and buy the additional module and attach it.”
Flow’s HyPlex Prime can also be used on any of their or their competitors’ waterjet systems.

Mach 2c

Beyond the new HyPlex Prime pump, Flow has also introduced two new tables: the Mach 2c and the Mach 4c, mentioned earlier, with the Mach 2c table being built for smaller job shops or those just getting started with a waterjet system.

The Mach 2c features the same core technology as Flow’s higher level Mach 3 and Mach 4 Series waterjets, since it was built from the ground up as a waterjet.

“There are machines out there in this industry, at the same price point as the Mach 2c, that will often use off-the-shelf components in their construction,” he says. “Most of these systems were converted from something else, like a plasma table for example. They just add a waterjet head.

Being built with the same technology as Flow’s higher level waterjets means that the Mach 2c features the same Dynamic waterjet cutting technology, as well as higher cut speeds– 800 IPM. In addition, the system features a full roll-around control console, meaning the operator can roll the controls anywhere around the machine.

Mach 4c

 Flow’s Mach 4c Waterjet System, like the HyPlex Prime Pump, is built on a modular principle, allowing it to be customized. It’s available in any size from about 6.5 ft. by 6.5 ft. (2 m by 2 m) to 13 ft. by 46 ft. (4 m by 14 m) and any combination in between.

 “If you have a small shop today and you purchase a 6.5 ft. by 13 ft. machine, and you get a large contract and you need a 13 ft. by 20 ft. machine, you can just add 13 ft. of base section.” says Kent. “The catcher tank is expandable and the entire machine can expand to 13 ft. by 20 ft. in the future without much additional cost compared to buying it at that size when you first purchase the machine.”

The Mach 4c features a cutting speed of 1,400 IPM and also includes a variety of operator convenience features like under-bridge LED lighting to illuminate the workpiece, a toe-kick at the front of the catcher tank to allow operators to stand closer to the machine when loading and unloading and OSHA approved steps to allow four-sided access to the table.

Jet Edge

Within the past 18 months, Jet Edge has introduced both the ECO-JET Direct-Drive Waterjet Pump and the Mini-Rail Gantry Waterjet System.
ECO-JET

The first of these, the ECO-JET, is a waterjet pump that’s environmentally friendly, hence its name.

 “The ECO-JET is a direct-drive pump that will actually produce the same volume of water as one of our 50-hp intensifier pumps at only 30 hp,” says Jeff Schibley, regional manager for Jet Edge. “It’s more environmentally friendly, because it uses less energy to run at 55,000 PSI than an intensifier pump. Same pressure and volume of water, but less horsepower.”

Schibley mentions that the only drawback of the pump is that it requires more frequent maintenance than an intensifier pump. However, the ECO-JET is designed for ease of service to offset this – it can be serviced with standard shop tools.

“Our cylinders are designed so that they can each be serviced individually,” says Schibley. “Therefore, you only fix what’s leaking – you don’t have to do an entire rebuild on the pump just because you pulled it apart. You can enter and only service the areas that require it.”

The ECO-JET also includes what Schibley calls the largest pressure attenuator on the market. This enables them to create a consistently smooth pressure signal through the circuit, increasing the component lives.

“If you have spikes – peaks and valleys in the pressure signal – in the system that cause a fluctuation in the pressure, it causes components to fatigue prematurely,” points out Schibley.

The smooth pressure signal combined with the ability to individually service the cylinders helps lower the cost of ownership of the ECO-JET says Schibley. He also says that it’s about 30 percent less costly than a comparable intensifier pump.

Mini-Rail Gantry

Jet Edge’s Mini-Rail Gantry is exactly what its name would probably make people think.

“It’s a small footprint gantry with a 4-ft. by 3-ft. cutting area,” elaborates Schibley. “It can be coupled with our ECO-JET Direct Drive Pump or an intensifier pump, whichever the customer desires. The system is a unitized construction between the tank and the rail systems, allowing the Gantry to ship complete.”

If water and power are readily available, Schibley says that they can complete installation and have a customer cutting within a matter of hours. We can come in if the power and the water are available.

The Mini-Rail Gantry is ideal for applications where the material is suited to its smaller 4-ft. by 3-ft. working area. The system can also process thicknesses up to 6 in.

To complement its size, the Mini-Rail Gantry also boasts a lower price point, and even more so when coupled with the ECO-JET pump.

“It’s a very cost effective system to allow customers into the waterjet field where they might not have been able to afford it previously, because the cost of a mid- or high-rail-gantry system was too prohibitive,” comments Schibley. “It also allows people who are limited on floor space to get a waterjet.”

The Mini-Rail Gantry can also work with CAD programs.

“The system’s software has drawing capabilities as well as the ability to import drawings that were created in a DXF or DWG file format,” says Schibley.

Jet Edge has also introduced a lights-out monitoring feature that works with their entire line of waterjets, including the Mini-Rail Gantry. The feature functions through two sensors – one in the high-pressure-water circuit and one in the abrasive-feed circuit. These then monitor the system to ensure that there’s an adequate flow of both.

“It frees up the operator to perform other functions,” notes Schibley. “If the water or the abrasive stops flowing for any reason, the machine will go into a feed hold condition and flash a beacon so that the operator can go over and address that interruption in the production cycle.”

WARDJet

The newest waterjet offering from WARDJet is their G-Series System. It’s the perfect waterjet for fabrication when size does matter, as it’s built to handle the largest jobs for waterjets possible – the “G” in its name stands for “gigantic.”

The G-Series is ideal for companies looking for large cutting envelopes where either 5-axis waterjet or a combination of 5-axis waterjet and 5-axis milling is required. The machine’s Z-axis travel of 5 ft., cross-beams anywhere from 13 ft. to 20 ft. and beyond and unlimited length, all integrated with unlimited rotation on the 5-axis waterjet and a 24,000 RPM 5-axis spindle, make it a versatile offering. The newest G-Series waterjet, the GCM, focuses specifically on the cutting and milling of all composites, including industries such as aerospace and automotive manufacturing.

“The Z-axis travel is quite unique and makes for a large working envelope, but we’re also big on customization and flexibility,” says Benjie Massara, WARDJet’s marketing director. “We can make machines of any size – we don’t like to put restrictions on the customer.

“We’ll ask them what their requirements are, and then we’ll give them a quote based on that.”

WARDJet will customize the G-Series to help their customers accomplish what they need.

“We’ve done a wide range of things like putting drills on the machine,” explains Massara. “Sometimes customers might need to drill a part after a waterjet cut, so rather than having to take that part off the waterjet and go to a drilling station to drill holes, they can drill it right on the waterjet.”

The G-Series also includes multiple heads and has the ability for one of them to be fitted with a milling router.

“By adding the milling head, you’re essentially getting two machines in one,” comments Massara.

According to the WARDJet website, other features that the G-Series includes are an optional 5-axis CNC mill up to 20 hp, an Atlanta Drive precision ground helical rack drive system and a 3D probe that can be integrated with laser sensing to use the CNC to measure parts.

Also, the G-Series’ controller accepts any type of CNC file, and WARDJet has integrated it with WebEx – as with all their waterjet systems. With this, WARDJet can easily monitor the status of their customers’ waterjets.

“In many cases, WARDJet is able to connect to the customer with the integrated controller webcam and WebEx functionality to diagnose potential issues and resolve them remotely,” says Massara. “This is a much better option than waiting for a support tech to visit their site. Our approach is to use whatever technology we can to reduce downtime and cost to the customer.”

WARDJet also offers an Android app to allow their customers to monitor their machine while away from the shop, or perhaps even just on the other side of it.

“It allows customers to see what’s running on the machine and kind of gives them an overall feel for what’s going on with it, as opposed to having to be at the controls,” he concludes.

Bystronic
Flow Waterjet
Jet Edge
WARDJet