Waterjet cutting machines are an investment, not only in cost, but in floor space. For fab shops that already have bandsaws, laser cutters, press brakes, punching machines, welders, grinders and more, choosing additional tools to maximize efficiency – and space – is an art. Therefore, it’s no surprise that potential waterjet owners might be skeptical about how one of these machines would fit into their facility and whether the benefits outweigh the cost, learning curve and precious floor space.
Understanding this issue, Omax Corp. developed its GlobalMax 1508 JetMachining Center, which serves as a space-saving alternative to the traditional large-sized waterjet. Designed for anyone who needs an economical waterjet, the GlobalMax provides precision abrasive waterjet technology at a price point that won’t break the bank, in a footprint that won’t take up too much floor space and in an overall package that is incredibly user friendly.
Fortunately, however, prospective customers don’t have to take Omax’s word for it. Ernie’s Welding and Fabrication Inc. as well as i3 Product Design use the GlobalMax 1508, and the owners of both shops can point to the advantages they have gained from adding an abrasive waterjet to their production lines.
Small but mighty
Ernie’s Welding and Fabrication has been operating in Largo, Fla., since 1972. Known for quality work and quick turnaround times, Ernie’s has become a fixture in the manufacturing of quench vents, which are critical in the safe operation of MRI machines.
“We started out as a fab shop,” says Ernie Chonko, owner. “Over the course of several years, we moved into that niche market and since then, it has become our mainstay work.”
In February of 2020, Ernie’s installed its GlobalMax 1508 with 10-hp pump.
“The waterjet replaced a CNC punching machine that we used to make a specific gasket,” Chonko says. “The punching machine was getting older, and we were looking for a way to make the process cleaner and nicer. We looked at a couple options and found that waterjet would be the best choice.”
Like all Omax waterjets, the GlobalMax 1508 can cut almost any material and handles material thicknesses from thin substrates up to 5 in. without creating heat-affected zones. This makes an abrasive waterjet an ideal production option to cut metals and non-metals alike.
In addition to its ability to cut a wide range of materials and material thicknesses, the choice to purchase the waterjet became a matter of pairing the right machine with the shop’s available area.
“We were looking for a small footprint machine,” Chonko says, “but everyone that offered a small machine made one that was very, very small.”
The GlobalMax 1508’s footprint comes in at a slim 5 ft. by 3 ft. by 12 ft., including its pump and controller unit, which is big enough to offer the versatility shops require and small enough to fit nearly anywhere.
“This is an intermediate machine that doesn’t take up too much floor space,” Chonko affirms.
The benefits of a waterjet shine through most when shops are cutting complex geometries on a variety of materials, which is why users appreciate that the GlobalMax waterjet line utilizes the same control software as the Omax and Maxiem lines. Considering cutting performance is based on the power of the hardware as well as the software, proven software is a major plus. Therefore, to get the full performance value from a waterjet, users need both: the best hardware coupled with the best software that is optimized for a specific machine.
Understanding this, Omax developed its IntelliMax software alongside its waterjet hardware. Omax developers use empirical data about how the jetstream behaves at each specific configuration of nozzle, abrasive and material cut, so they can adjust for the actual behavior of the machine at every single point along the cutting toolpath.
In addition to the ideal combination of hardware and software, after-sales service forms another primary point of emphasis for Omax. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Dr. John Cheung, has always ranked after-sales service as a touchtone of the Omax experience. As part of a waterjet purchase, each customer has complete access to Omax’s customer support. From software installation issues to questions on cutting methods, the company’s staff is trained to answer any and all questions that customers may raise.
Swiss Army solution
i3 Product Design is an all-in-one concept-to-creation product design firm located in Sun Prairie, Wis. The shop acquired its GlobalMax 1508 in conjunction with a relocation.
“We moved to a larger facility, so we had more space for our equipment,” says Curt Scadden, director of new product development at i3. “We didn’t have a particular project in mind when we purchased the waterjet, but the biggest reason we bought it was to have that capability in-house. It gives us control of our schedules when it comes to prototypes.”
Scadden points out that now that i3 has its own waterjet, the company can save an abundance of time that otherwise would be spent waiting for subcontractors to make parts.
“If we were to go to a third party for sheet metal parts, brackets and chassis,” Scadden says, “we could be waiting three or four weeks.”
Part of i3’s process consists of rapid prototyping, so workflow management is a paramount concern. When the shop installed its GlobalMax 1508 in 2018, Scadden says they “didn’t need anything too large.” Ninety to 95 percent of what the company processes fits within the envelope of the waterjet. He continues to say that i3 also “needed something fairly basic – we didn’t need top-end features for what we do.”
Furthermore, Scadden adds that they “mostly cut assist brackets and gaskets and that type of thing. We weren’t looking to use it for production work, so if it takes a little longer to cut these parts, that’s fine because they are prototypes.”
Scadden emphasizes that the waterjet offers i3 the ideal combination of configuration and capabilities.
“The GlobalMax 1508 fits well with our space limitations, envelope size, features and what it can do,” he says.
While operators at i3 use the waterjet mostly for sheet metal parts, the company has a press brake in-house for forming blanks that were cut with the waterjet.
“In addition to prototyping, we also use the waterjet to cut things like forms and gaskets,” he says. “The majority of what we cut on the waterjet, however, is sheet metal: aluminum, stainless steel and mild steel.”
In terms of the various materials and projects that i3’s waterjet can handle, the company considers its waterjet like a Swiss Army knife. It can tackle a list of tasks that would otherwise require a full shop of equipment. It can cut with a small kerf like a saw and cut external geometries for near-net production. It can also cut round parts like a lathe, square parts like a mill, slots like a broach and complex parts like a wire EDM. This versatility enables waterjet to be a large multi-tasker to balance capacities and complement other machine tools.
“We want to keep our engineering projects going forward, and if we have to wait three or four weeks,” Scadden says, “it puts that whole project behind schedule. But, if we can make these parts in-house, we can do it in just a few hours. That way we can keep our major projects moving ahead and aren’t waiting on a third party.”
Priced well below a standard-sized waterjet, the GlobalMax 1508 with the 10-hp pump configuration offers all the benefits customers have come to expect from Omax at a fraction of the investment. These hallmarks include innovative drive systems, direct-drive pumps, the IntelliMax software suite and superior customer service. The waterjet also accepts a number of compatible accessories, including a terrain follower, pneumatic drill and bulk garnet feed hopper.
Furthermore, the direct-drive pumps consume less electricity and use up to 75 percent less water than intensifier pumps, which translates to lower operating costs compared to other brands and fabricating equipment. Unlike an intensifier pump, a direct-drive pump only applies pressure to the system while the machine is actually cutting.
Every aspect of the GlobalMax system, including pumps, is manufactured in Kent, Wash., alongside the other lines of Omax abrasive waterjets, to ensure quality and component compatibility.