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Monday | 09 January, 2012 | 1:52 pm

Offshore optimism

By Gretchen Salois

The future looks bright for this bayou-based job shop

December 2011 -  In the heart of the Gulf, the offshore business has only gotten better, says Dewain Salter, co-owner of Water Cut Inc., Abita Springs, La. The company has experienced a significant increase in business during the last two years. Using two Elgin, Ill.-based Bystronic waterjet machines, Salter says the company has been able to take on larger projects.

“We are a job shop and have all kinds of customers,” Salter says. “We work with bulletproof armor plating, architectural projects, machine shops, refineries and chemical plants as well as crane manufacturers, signage companies and offshore fabricators—it changes from day to day.” Customers send Water Cut an RFQ or purchase order with a drawing of the material needed. “If it’s a CAD-type drawing, we can take it and program it into the computer,” Salter says. “Once the drawing is programmed into the machine, we can cut from that.”

In business since 1994, Water Cut has expanded its customer base. The variety of projects the company takes on partly is because of its large waterjet machine. “We’re able to do much larger parts than other companies that have smaller tables,” Salter says. The company operates on a 3-acre custom production facility. Using 60,000 psi of ultra-high-pressure water, the company is capable of a minimum taper on cuts as a result of the Bystronic Height Control System, “which gives us the optimum cutting height throughout the cut, increasing the quality of the cut while increasing speed,” Salter notes.

Water Cut has two tables, a 10-foot-by-26-foot large table and a 5-foot-by-10-foot smaller table. “Both are dual heads, which gives us the opportunity to cut two parts simultaneously,” Salter says, adding one key benefit to working with Bystronic is each head is programmable independent of the other. “Back in the day, we had one machine cutting one part at one time,” he continues. “Since we’ve gotten the Bystronic, it’s made us more productive as far as meeting delivery deadlines. We get calls for big parts because we have a big machine. While we always did big parts, we didn’t have a machine that was really capable of handling each project or was easy to program,” he says.

Cutting metals ranging from 1 inch to 6 inches thick, the company uses its waterjets to cut stainless steel, steel or exotic metals such as titanium, Hastelloy, copper and nickel. “The one thing that impressed us about the machine was the quality and easy-to-use software,” Salter says. Bystronic writes its own software and offline programming software, BySoft.

Brody Fanning, Bystronic’s vice president of sales, says the company is the “only waterjet manufacturer that develops software that interfaces seamlessly with downstream press brake forming operations.” The company also works toward providing user-friendly software that allows more efficient cutting.

“The quality of manufacture of the Bystronic machine was beyond our expectations,” Salter says. “After they delivered and commissioned it and had it going, they sent their waterjet expert from Switzerland to inspect the installation. He fine-tuned the machine to correct the rail tolerance to 0.0004 inch through the length of the 26-foot cutting table,” he adds, noting Bystronic’s lights-out operation is another “huge benefit” for Water Cut.

The lights-out operation uses sensors that monitor virtually all machine functions from abrasive flow to water pressure to high-pressure pump operation and anti-collision height control. “We were able to run jobs after-hours without an operator monitoring the machine,” Salter says.

Built for breakthrough
One out of 10 Bystronic employees work in research and development to ensure the company is propelling innovation. “Bystronic has an army of bright and dedicated design engineers in Switzerland continually pushing the product performance envelope forward,” says Fanning. “In the case of our waterjet division, we have released a new product to the market every year for the past five years.” The ByJet Smart is the company’s latest offering. According to Fanning, Bystronic has “brought to the market a machine built to the exacting standards of the laser world but priced closer to a more conventional waterjet machine.”

In addition to more precise cuts, companies like Water Cut look to improve efficiency on day-to-day maintenance and upkeep needs. “Another thing we liked about the Bystronic machine is the removable bulkhead option,” Salter says. “It makes cleaning a lot less time consuming.” Water Cut operators can remove the end of the machine and “drive a Bobcat up there to pull abrasive out of it. With other machines, you have to pump it out or remove it by hand,” he says. “It takes us longer to take the grates off than to clean it out, and it used to be the other way around.”

According to Bystronic, the company came up with this product design based on customer feedback and its own in-house use. “We have a waterjet running multiple shifts in our factory making parts for our machines,” Fanning says, adding Bystronic both manufactures and uses the machines. “Because of that, we know how difficult it can be to manually clean out a waterjet tank. For our large-format machine, we offer the ability to remove the end bulkhead, which makes cleanout of the spent abrasive much easier.” The company also offers an automated sludge removal system that eliminates the need to clean the machine manually. “These abrasive removal systems are very popular on our smaller-format machines,” he adds.

Water Cut uses the ByJet Classic, allowing for automatic adjustment of the distance between the cutting heads, making work more efficient because the cutting heads can be programmed separately. According to Bystronic, the feeding of the abrasive is CNC-controlled. The CNC-controlled drill spindle allows for pre-drilling of expensive composite materials and other laminated materials, decreasing the chance for delaminations.

Bystronic’s ByJet Smart offers low acquisition and operating costs, high-end assemblies and materials for long-lasting high precision and minimal space with good accessibility overall, according to the company. With a cutting range of 3,048 millimeters by 1,524 millimeters, it can handle large projects without using excessive workspace.

As business looks better for job shops, Bystronic has seen an uptick, as well. “Every supplier in the machine tool market segment noticed a drop in sales in 2008,” Fanning says. “This has been the toughest machine tool market in history. For Bystronic, however, our waterjet sales have picked up nicely in 2010 and 2011 and we have high forecast expectations for 2012 due to some of the new products we have introduced.” MM

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