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Third dimension

For tube and pipe processing, waterjet cutting expands into 3-D

For a fabrication shop, versatility is key for taking on as many jobs as possible. The more often a shop can say “yes” to potential jobs, the more successful they will be. The easiest way to achieve greater versatility is by expanding capabilities. Shops that focus primarily on flat 2-D work, for example, can add an articulated cutting head and/or rotary axis to their waterjet, which provides the opportunity to do 3-D work without taking up additional valuable floor space.

Fabricators can add an articulated cutting head and/or rotary axis to their waterjet to expand their capabilities into 3-D work without taking up additional floor space.

The benefits of purchasing a waterjet with an articulated cutting head or a rotary axis or adding them to an existing system are numerous. Cutting with a waterjet allows for weld-ready parts without the need for secondary procedures, speeding up part production for pipe fitting applications. Using a waterjet to cut 3-D shapes does not limit material capability like laser, plasma or some traditional CNC machines. Furthermore, the right waterjet software makes it easy to start cutting in 3-D space.

Weld-ready parts

Today’s pipe fitters and pipe fitting suppliers face the challenge of meeting increasingly demanding weld regulations. Faults in weld-prepping pipe are usually associated with heat-affected zones (HAZs), including hardening, oxidization, increased brittleness and lowered material strength. By performing fewer processes to prepare a pipe for welding, the finished piping assembly will be finished faster and, because it contains fewer faults, is less likely to require secondary operations and more likely to meet certification.

The ability to process 3-D parts such as tubes and pipes on a waterjet has enabled many fabrication shops to expand into new markets. Moreover, once in those markets, being able to produce quality parts builds a company’s reputation and encourages repeat business.

The Omax Rotary Axis allows manufacturers to cut cylindrical surfaces, including pipes, tubes and bars. The majority of pipe cutting tends to be for fitters who intend to weld the pipes together after the product leaves the fabrication space. By producing finished pieces that are ready to weld, a shop is ensuring value-added finished products.

The Omax A-Jet multi-axis accessory gives fabricators features the flexibility to automatically compensate for taper and cut angles up to 60 degrees off vertical.

With Omax’s A-Jet cutting head, a waterjet user can easily cut beveled edges, angled sides and countersinks. Advanced features in the Omax IntelliMax software suite allow the A-Jet to compensate for the taper caused by the physical properties of water, improving part precision in addition to creating complex 3-D shapes, including bevels from 0 to 60 degrees. With its high level of positioning accuracy, the A-Jet cuts multi-axis parts that require no secondary finishing, significantly reducing part production time.

Material matters

Traditional CNC machines impart heat and leave behind burrs, oil or coolant when cutting any type of metal. Cutting with laser, plasma, EDM or traditional saws creates slag or chatter marks while also creating a level of heat that must be addressed in a secondary process. With abrasive waterjet, which works without additional heat, the cut product has no HAZ or material distortions, which often removes the need for secondary machining.

To achieve optimal welds, workpieces should be free of foreign contaminants such as oil and grease. In general, cold-rolled steel parts require little cleaning while hot-rolled steels may require special cleaning. Aluminum alloys require wire brushing or etching before welding to remove oxidation in order to produce the highest quality welds.

Frequently, when cutting workpieces for pre-welding on a waterjet, the only cleaning needed is for the material to be dried or blown off with high-pressure air. The finished piece requires no additional cleaning.

There is no way to know what the next wave of fabrication will entail, but fabricators can ensure they have the tools to handle it. Where EDM specifically cuts conductive substances and CO2 laser is limited to non-reflective materials, abrasive waterjet cuts virtually every material available. Omax machines are currently being used to cut stone, brass, carbon steel, glass-refined plastics and so much more. With abrasive waterjets, there is no need for special coatings or other considerations.

Cutting tube and pipe with a waterjet results in weld-ready parts that don’t require secondary procedures, which, in turn, speeds up part production for pipe fitting applications.

No guessing

Articulating cutting heads and rotary axis units provide the waterjet machine motion needed for 5-axis and 6-axis cutting, but improvements in machine programming have significantly advanced the cutting capabilities of these machines. With the easy programming built into IntelliMax Layout and IntelliCAM, a shop can create perfect parts the first time. Omax’s software upgrades are free, so shops don’t have to purchase subscription-based programs.

With IntelliMax software, the operator only selects the material type and thickness, and the software calculates and controls the cutting. The IntelliMax software suite allows shops to easily program and cut 3-D patterns for several applications, from the peripheries of tubes and pipes to fitting operations, prep cuts and bevels. To make waterjet cutting even more user-friendly, advanced control software has a multitude of tube and pipe cut subroutines embedded in the machine control.

The parametric shapes command included in IntelliMax lets users load pre-configured shapes that use equations to machine a shape without having to create the tool path first. For example, if a fabricator needs to make a 2-in. washer and a 1-in. washer, users can skip the steps of starting Layout, creating the tool path and then loading it into IntelliMax Make. It’s as simple as just loading the washer parametric shape and telling the program the diameter of the washer. There are many pre-made parametric shapes for common operations, including advanced pipe and tube cutting, available in the software.

IntelliCAM is a highly advanced CAM software program with two tools in one that can generate 2-D or 3-D tool paths from 3-D models. Simply import a 3-D file from one of the many supported file types, such as CATIA, SolidWorks, 3-D DXF or DWG, and the 3-D object appears in an interactive window. From there, generating a 2-D profile from any face or slice of the 3-D shape is just a click away.

The other side of IntelliCAM shows that 3-D pathing is just as easy. With the AutoPath function, the program automatically creates the waterjet-reasonable tool path and applies the required attributes for 3-D cutting before exporting directly to IntelliMax Make. IntelliCAM is free and part of the intuitive and powerful IntelliMax software suite, which expands the operator’s capabilities.

When a potential customer asks about capacities, a fabrication shop never wants to say they can’t do something. By adopting 5-axis and 6-axis abrasive waterjet cutting, these shops diversify their businesses. After all, the more resources a shop has, the better off they will be with respect to market fluctuations, emerging industries, materials science advancements and the countless other complications produced by ever-changing economies.

It’s simple – the more a shop can do, the more work they can take on. With a waterjet cutting 2-D flat stock, many shops produce everything from custom signage to short-run automotive parts. With the addition of an accessory or two, a fabrication shop’s 2-D cutting machine becomes a powerhouse of versatility, whether it’s producing decorative railings for a new restaurant or complex steel pipes for an oil facility.

With expanded 5- and 6-axis cutting along with the ability to machine nearly any material available now – and likely well into the future – fabricators can equip themselves for tomorrow, today. The accessories available for Omax abrasive waterjets can open doors to new industries while ensuring shops have the potential to say “yes” to new work. When it comes to pipes and tubes, waterjet is a great solution for cutting, now and into the future.

The A-Jet is available on the Omax and Maxiem waterjet lines. The Rotary Axis is available only on the Omax line.

Omax Corp.