Nuclear Alloys Corp. relies on waterjet cutting because of its efficiency and accuracy
March 2012 - Supplying parts to the Navy’s nuclear program means a company needs to have a highly accurate production process as well as the ability to handle the documentation required by the military. Manufacturing to these specifications is the specialty of Nuclear Alloys Corp., Wilson, N.Y. The company maintains a quality program in accordance with MIL-I 45208A Quality System, MIL-I 45662 Calibration System and nuclear standard 10 CFR 50. The quality program is audited regularly by the company’s diverse customer base, which includes Navy and commercial nuclear, power generation, aerospace, filtration, medical and food-processing applications.
Jeff Rohring, president, says the company has been supplying the Navy’s nuclear program with high-temperature metals since 1976. Following the end of the Cold War, Nuclear Alloys diversified its operations to meet changing customer requirements. The company purchased its first waterjet in 1989, establishing itself as one of the first job shops with waterjet capabilities.
Nuclear Alloys prefers waterjet technology because of its efficiency and ability to produce clean, accurate cuts. In addition, with waterjet, there are no heat-affected zones or distortion, which can eliminate secondary finishing operations. The company routinely cuts a variety of materials up to 14 inches thick.
Smaller pump, smaller footprint
Currently, Nuclear Alloys has four waterjet machines in its 22,000-square-foot facility and installed its newest model from Techni Waterjet, Lenexa, Kan., in late February 2011.
“It’s a custom-made machine,” says Dennis Schmidt, general manager at Techni Waterjet. “If a customer has a unique application, we will make a machine to fit his needs.”
Techni’s Techjet waterjets are built to withstand tough working environments because they use minimal moving parts, and the machines are manufactured from corrosion-resistant materials.
The Techni waterjet offers Nuclear Alloys five-axis capabilities, including chamfers and weld bevels on large-size plates as well as a “large table size with a small footprint,” says Dave Schulz, general manager of Nuclear Alloys.
Although the waterjet has a 10-foot-by-25-foot table, Schmidt says the overall footprint of the system is reduced by the machine’s smaller pump and “because cabinets for the controller and electronics are intelligently incorporated, which keeps the waste of space at a minimum.”
The waterjet is equipped with Techni’s Quantum ESP (electro servo pump), which has a patented servo-driven pumping system. According to Techni, the Quantum ESP “incorporates a servo motor that envelops a high-load precision ball screw. The ball screw directly houses the ceramic plungers, which reciprocate back and forth to create the pumping action in much the same way as a hydraulic cylinder works on an intensifier pump.”
This technology creates a pump that is up to 60 percent more efficient than standard hydraulic intensifiers. It also needs up to 75 percent less cooling water and provides companies with quiet operation, all while taking up 50 percent fewer square feet.
“With this new electric solution, we had the chance to completely avoid the use of inefficient and dirty hydraulics,” Schmidt says. “The increase in efficiency allows us to offer a high-pressure pump that achieves the same pressure and flow rate as the hydraulic intensifiers while using less energy and cooling water. Our experience in service and maintenance enabled us to engineer a high-pressure system that can be serviced within a few minutes to reduce our customers’ downtime.”
“There’s no doubt the machine uses less water and energy,” Schulz adds.
Nuclear Alloys uses its Techni waterjet mostly for “higher-precision, complex parts and those requiring better edge quality,” Schulz says. “It’s a high-tech piece of equipment and uses cutting-edge technology for precise and tighter tolerance work.”
In addition, Schulz notes the machine’s five-axis capabilities allow the company to cut weld bevels on large-size plates—work that it would previously contract out to other job shops.
The PAC 60 five-axis cutting head can cut complex geometries with beveled edges up to 60 degrees, Schmidt says, noting the design offers users flexibility, accuracy and speed.
Schulz cites the laser mapping option as another advantage the Techni waterjet has over the company’s other machines.
The PAC’s laser sensor helps operators achieve accurate bevels because if flatness varies over the length of the material, the dimensions of the bevel also will change.
“To achieve highly accurate bevels, the distance between the tip of the tool and the material needs to be accurate,” Schmidt says.
As a result, instead of just measuring the stand-off distance at the pierce point, “the laser sensor measures the high and low spots of the sheet along the cut path before cutting. Our in-house-developed software uses that data to create a 3-D map of the material to be cut,” Schmidt says. “The cutting head not only will follow the contour of the geometry but also move up and down according to the 3-D map.”
Although Nuclear Alloys’ employees are familiar with waterjet cutting, there was a training period to help them fully understand the five-axis cutting and beveling capabilities.
“The fact that they already owned waterjets makes it easier for them to understand our technology,” Schmidt says. “We only had to train them on the differences in our software and how we program beveled parts. Our software offers many features, but it’s very easy to understand at the same time. [Nuclear Alloys] has used their Techni machine very successfully from the beginning.”
Nuclear Alloys’ history of providing high-quality parts that meet military specifications has pushed the company to expand and supplement its waterjet cutting capabilities with complementary technologies, such as roller leveling and flattening, to produce stress-free parts, along with machining capabilities as a secondary or final operation.
The addition of a Hammerle TRM 80/1250 roller leveler allows the company to flatten material and parts from up to 3⁄4 inch thick, 49 inches wide and 20 feet long, eliminating the cost of further processes such as heat treating or grinding.
“A lot of our customers, including laser, stamping, sheet metal, welding and fabrication companies, request leveling and flattening capabilities both before and after machining of parts,” says Louis Soos, sales engineer. “An additional benefit is that the flattener stress relieves the material, and parts are stress free when customers receive them. We can achieve flatness to less than 0.010 inch in both raw and finished parts.”
From waterjet cutting to leveling and machining, Nuclear Alloys’ 18 employees have the skills they need to handle customers’ requirements. The company prides itself on being an extension of its customers’ manufacturing process and will continue to strive to provide a high standard of service and meet rigorous quality standards. MM
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