Tim HolcombClick image to enlargeby Tim Holcomb

6 tips to improve waterjet machine performance


Here are six basic tips shops should consider to ensure their waterjet machines operate at their full potential for maximum productivity.

The tips encompass operators, machines, maintenance and software.

Operators are the most critical component in the abrasive waterjet cutting process. A machine is only as productive as its operator, so the better trained he or she is, the more s/he can operate a machine to its maximum performance. Operators should be trained extensively and on a continuous basis, which is more easily accomplished by working with those waterjet machine suppliers that offer free training.

Prior to even installing an abrasive waterjet machine, shops should have their water tested. This will help determine if certain actions need to be taken, such as adding water filters or chillers to ensure the machine operates with only the highest quality water. It is often recommended and convenient to locate waterjet machines close to drains, as well as water sources within the shop.

When it comes to selecting a waterjet table size, most machine suppliers suggest first evaluating parts intended to be cut on the machine–whether existing jobs or those being considered for the future. A common rule of thumb is to reference the largest part a shop produces or the biggest size sheet material with which it works as a starting point and select a machine table size accordingly.

Level of capability will contribute directly to a waterjet machine's performance and productivity. For instance, the capability to monitor changes in workpiece material surfaces or thicknesses and automatically adjust for them will eliminate the risk of machine damage if an operator momentarily steps away from the machine. Such a function allows for continuous uninterrupted machine operation.

Another is the capability of a machine to actively control taper. This type of function would automatically adjust for the naturally occurring taper of a waterjet stream. Other performance enhancing capabilities include five axis and rotary axis machining, which allow shops to increase their part cutting diversity. Thus, machines gain the ability to process a wider range of part types to further increase their productivity potential.

It should be noted that no matter what the waterjet machine's current capability or functionality, it is most beneficial to have the option to add such systems to existing machines. When machine suppliers make these systems retrofitable, they enable shops to keep machines producing to their full potential–even if they happen to be older models–and do so cost effectively.

For optimum performance, waterjet machines must be kept well maintained and in perfect operating condition. Certain machine control functions offered by some machine suppliers can make maintenance easier and more proactive, as opposed to reactive. Such functions include forms of maintenance management software that monitor machine components for wear and indicate when preventative maintenance is required. With this monitoring ability, shops eliminate unexpected down time through preventative maintenance, as opposed to only doing so when something breaks and the machine is down.

On the hardware side, waterjet machines are basically just pumps, nozzles and worktables. It is the control software that is the key to optimizing a machine's performance in terms of speed and efficiency. Shops should make sure their waterjet systems include the most powerful and effective software. It is most advantageous for shops to work with machine suppliers that continually advance their software and offer free upgrades once new versions are available. Those shops that don't have access to software upgrades will definitely lose

out on potential increased machine productivity. SMT

Tim Holcomb is technical applications specialist at OMAX Corp., Kent, WA



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