Metal fabrication and manufacturing industries constantly seek out new technologies to improve production, but the answer isn’t always about finding faster solutions. Often, a job well done has more to do with quality than the amount of time it took to complete. Waterjet, for example, is never going to cut anywhere near as fast as fiber laser, but then nobody is asking it to. Sometimes, the job requires obtaining excellent cut quality and holding tight tolerances on highly complex parts made with exotic metals, which is why so many companies with aerospace and defense contracts utilize waterjet technology.
With no heat-affected zone and the ability to tackle some of the toughest projects, it is easy to sell a metal fabricator on waterjet, but there is also an expectation of service beyond the sale and implementation. Manufacturers already have a tough time with production delays caused by factors out of their control (supply chain issues being among the most prevalent). They don’t need the hassle of delays related to a machine breakdown.
This is where Jet Edge touts its value. Durability and precision are important to the company, but so too is the level of service customers receive that allows them to avoid unexpected production delays.
Meeting strict demands
Waterjet technology is used to cut everything from food and foam to stone, rubber and plastics, but Jet Edge’s niche is abrasive waterjet, which means the company is focused on serving customers that cut all types of metals, from stainless to exotics and anything in between. Steve Murray, president of Jet Edge, says the aerospace industry, which is a big customer for Jet Edge, values accuracy and repeatability.
“That dwarfs all other requirements,” he says.
Many customers, even those outside of the aerospace industry, are looking for near net shape, which means the quality of the cut is extremely precise. Precision can’t be achieved with excessive vibration, so Jet Edge has taken steps to reduce vibration.
“(The catch tank) is isolated from the frame,” Murray says, “so you don’t have any of the vibration you might get from a cutting head that is attached to the frame. Most equipment out there doesn’t have that – the head is incorporated into the catch tank and vibration impacts accuracy.”
The nuclear option
Some Jet Edge customers have more intense needs than others. One example is Framatome, a company that manages roughly two-thirds of the world’s nuclear power plants. For more than six decades, Framatome has designed and supplied nuclear equipment, maintenance and engineering services.
Framatome had a very specific and complex problem involving reactor vessels and their susceptibility to primary water stress corrosion cracking. Company leaders knew they could replace or repair components that were damaged, but it would be a costly endeavor and likely result in outages. But they were also aware of a third option, which is called ultra-high-pressure cavitation peening.
This third option involves a process that utilizes waterjet to work the surface of reactor vessel components, creating shock waves that stress the metal, resulting in cavitation peening, which prevents corrosion cracking initiation. Framatome went to Jet Edge for the technology, which pre-dated the release of the Hero series.
“They needed a 200-hp pump for their peening application,” Murray says of the IP60-200 waterjet machine they bought, “and wanted to integrate it with remote controls so they can do it remotely. They had a number of customizations on it.”
And that is indicative of what Murray considers Jet Edge’s place in the market. What separates the company from others is that they do a lot of custom-configuration, and a lot of companies, “come to us when they have something that is unique,” he says, which is definitely the case with Framatome.
Available since 2022, the Hero line of intensifier pumps includes the Hero 50 and 50+, Hero 100 and 100+, and Hero 150 and 150+ models. As the name of each model indicates, the electric motors range from 50 to 150 hp and the plus sign indicates more advanced features, such as remote analog pressure control and electronic hydraulic pressure control, among others.
To meet the company’s durability standard, Jet Edge utilizes heavy-gauge sheet metal covers on the Hero pumps as well as a rugged and all-steel welded framework. Each pump offers 60,000 psi and standard features include a new Jet Smart control panel (older models of pumps used a handful of control buttons that offered limited functionality). The new touchscreen panel hosts pump controls, but also provides the user a view of how the pump is performing.
“It has numerous automated service reminders,” Murray says of one of the more crucial aspects of the new pump series and the Jet Smart controls. “In manufacturing, they talk about predictive maintenance, which is anticipating failure or service needs prior to a failure. The whole premise of this is to provide more real-time user data, including operating hours and cycles and prompting them for service prior to a failure.”
Aside from water and garnet, one of the most significant consumables on any waterjet system is the pump seals, which wear out over time and must be replaced. Getting ahead of that replacement before a big job is a best practice. For example, if a user is 38 hours into a 40-hour job on a large and expensive piece of exotic metal and the pump suddenly fails, following the maintenance prompts will warn the user in plenty of time to replace a potentially warn out part, whether it’s a seal or a part related to the hydraulics.
To ensure users are getting the right parts, Jet Edge has established an e-commerce site where users can find and order the parts they need. Utilizing the “My Equipment” program established by Jet Edge provides users access to all the manuals they need for their machine, whether it’s the intensifier pump or the catch tank or rail system that guides the waterjet nozzle(s). All the materials, structures and schematics are there and users can look up their pump and which seals are used in them. They can enter the part number and rest assured that they have the right part coming to them.
“Our salespeople are going to sell you on a machine’s capability,” Murray says. “Our post-installation support is to make sure that what we promised you gets delivered.”
Jet Edge offers a maintenance care program and application training, including videos to help users navigate all types of issues. The company also offers blogs on a variety of topics, from a closed-loop system for water recycling to garnet removal and garnet disposal.
But what if something goes wrong and the user isn’t getting what they need from the “My Equipment” program? Jet Edge, which is headquartered in St. Michael, Minn., and where its solutions are designed and manufactured, can connect to the machine remotely and make a diagnosis.
“You can take your PC and plug it in to the Ethernet port and we can access it that way,” Murray says, “We dial in and do a remote view on it.”