Tips to Increase Abrasive Waterjet Efficiency

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There are many advantages to waterjet technology right out of the box. These tips will help you squeeze the most out of your investment

Savvy fabricators with a handful of shortcuts and hacks are able to enhance their productivity while using the same technology that everyone else is using. Here are some tips to increase your design, programming and control know how for more effective use of your abrasive waterjet. 

Optimize computer hardware
The faster your computer – and the more memory it contains – the faster your system responds, especially with large files. If your current hardware is more than 18 months old or does not support 64-bit operation, your shop may be due for an upgrade. Check with your waterjet supplier for compatibility information before you invest in new hardware to ensure a smooth transition.

Industrial software benefits from access to as much memory as possible. Be certain to close other applications when you work with extra large drawings. Especially those that constantly look for updates, such as e-mail software. The more physical RAM you put in your computer, the less it needs to rely onthe virtual memory it creates by using space on your storage device. You’ll also achieve much faster results if your system uses a solid-state storage device, or SSD, instead of a hard drive with moving platters.

Part-design hack
When you design parts to cut on an abrasive waterjet, take advantage of how the technology works compared to other methods. If you cut parts that require heat treatment, treat the material before you cut it. Because abrasive waterjets do not create heat-affected zones, they have no effect on thermal properties. Additionally, an abrasive waterjet handles a broader range of materials and part shapes than virtually any other machining technology.

Verify drawings 
Some CAD/CAM programs do not store units of measure with their drawing information. To avoid costly mistakes, always verify drawings you bring in from other programs. Compare that measurement to the print you received from your client to ensure that you work at the correct scale. Add a dimensioning box to your drawing, especially if others will open or modify your file. Anyone who opens your file can verify that this object remains the size you created it.

Process large drawings 
Large, complex drawings with equally big toolpaths can slow your computer and your overall output. If you’ve optimized your computer hardware and follow best practices while you work, but still experience slowdowns, try turning off non-essential functions for the current task. 

Reduce the number of times you need to pierce your material as you begin to cut it. Depending on what you cut, the piercing process involves more machine time than any other operation on an abrasive waterjet, and it also presents the greatest risk of cut failure. 

Large paths take longer to load than more simple files. Find the command that skips the reload process the next time you start your waterjet control software after working with a complex path. Additionally, when you smooth your drawing, work on it in sections instead of selecting all of it at once.

Work efficiently with files from other applications
Most control software supports files from many other applications, including a wide range of CAD/CAM software formats. While DXF
is a standard file type, CAD/CAM programs vary in how closely – and how completely – they follow that standard. As a result, you should choose a control that has several ways to handle DXF files, such as OMAX’s Intellimax.

When you access the “File” menu and choose “Open” to load in a DXF file, the control might assume that the document abides by the DXF standard. This should work correctly with files that you create in OMAX software and with compliant files from third-party applications, but be sure the technology you choose has tools to fix translation problems.

For best results, use DXF files that comply with the text version of AutoCAD Release 12. Before you save these files in your CAD/CAM program, explode all polylines, blocks and other drawing features you don’t need at the time. If your CAD/CAM program cannot create these files, look for file translation software that performs DXF conversions.

Use keyboard shortcuts
Power users memorize software keyboard shortcuts, which enable them to skip repeated trips to the menu system to access commands.
To see the full list of shortcuts, open the “Help” menu and look for keyboard equivalents.

Create precise inlays
Inlays combine two parts, one inset into the other, and often involve cutting two different materials. Traditional inlay construction uses a grout to join materials and offset stress between them. When you cut an inlay, reduce the offset to create a slightly smaller inset piece that forms a natural grout space.

To achieve a snug fit, cut one of the parts upside down, or invert both to create a tight fit on the front and a gap on the back for glue or grout. Leave at least a little room for movement, especially if your inlay combines both hard and brittle materials, such as metal and glass. Avoid sharp corners to make your parts mate correctly, and use a tool offset that’s compatible with both parts.

With a little practice, you can load up on time-saving, precision-enhancing shortcuts that streamline your process and make your efforts more productive. When you build your knowledge, you make your abrasive waterjet a major contributor to your shop’s success. SMT 

This article was contributed by OMAX. 


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