Monday | 01 October, 2012 | 3:11 pm

Compliant cutting

By Nick Wright

MultiCam’s reliable waterjet cuts clean, crisp edges for food inspection equipment

September 2012 - In food processing, there is a litany of regulations governing every aspect from handling to packaging, shipping and storing, all intended to keep consumers safe. Food safety rules likely aren’t on the minds of most shoppers browsing the cereal aisle or picking up a prescription. They pay attention but often take them for granted.

To give consumers peace of mind and ensure what they consume is contaminant-free, Mettler Toledo’s Product Inspection division, Tampa, Fla., supplies OEMs with custom-designed industrial metal detection equipment for food in all forms, such as packaged, bulk, granular, liquid pharmaceutical or powder. Its machines include sensitive metal detection or X-ray conveyor systems designed to root out contaminants.

“Everything that we make has to be up to FDA standards. It’s either stainless steel or plastic construction,” says Carl Melecci, fabrication manager for MTPI’s product inspection division, which includes the Safeline and Eagle product lines.

To make crisp, smooth cuts in stainless steel for parts going into these clean machines, MTPI uses a 3000 Series abrasive waterjet from MultiCam Inc., DFW Airport, Texas. The waterjet’s high pressure, low maintenance and finish devoid of heat-affected edges are ideal for production cutting.

MTPI added its MultiCam waterjet about two years ago to meet production demands. Prior to this purchase, MTPI owned a waterjet from Calypso Waterjet, a company that shut its doors during the Great Recession, says Jim Anderson, sales manager for MultiCam Florida Technology Center. MultiCam hired some of Calypso’s key personnel and engineers, and with them came the MTPI account. MultiCam solved some issues with MTPI’s existing waterjet, which was similar to MultiCam’s software and design of its 3000 Series waterjet. Eventually, MTPI needed to replace a waterjet to seamlessly integrate with its fabrication.

“Due to MultiCam’s service, they requested pricing on a new MultiCam 3000 Series waterjet, which they purchased,” Anderson says.

Clean part workflow

The MultiCam waterjet has helped streamline production. With its waterjet, MTPI cuts stainless steel anywhere from 1⁄2-inch plate down to an 18-gauge sheet; however, it mostly cuts 7 gauge and 11 gauge for conveyor panels, covers, guards or unique brackets.

“We can make anything engineering can dream up,” Melecci says. Previously, parts were outsourced or made on a CNC mill. The hours spent on programming, tooling and setup could take more time than making the part itself. The waterjet streamlines the process.

“Heavier bracketry can be made from a piece of bar or flat stock instead of inventorying large plate,” Melecci says.“We can cut any shape we want and are no longer limited in our design by equipment. Since every system is exclusive to customer requests and specs, we can satisfy demands with distinctive designs and superior quality.”

Depending on the material thickness, the waterjet cuts rapidly while eliminating warping, disfiguration or heat-affected complications that typically are associated with laser or plasma cutting. “That helps us by eliminating tab cleanup steps or removing protective paper film before cutting,” Melecci says.

MTPI also has made its workflow more efficient with the 3000. For example, using an overhead crane system, machine operators can pull material from a point-of-use inventory location, load it onto the waterjet, open the CAD file that was transferred from the engineering department and begin cutting. 

Although the waterjet is loaded with MultiCam’s NC GeoMate software, the company maintains an open architecture and will work with any CAD/CAM software, according to Anderson.

Machinists can nest multiple parts instead of cutting one piece at a time on a mill.

“That process has helped us reduce our scrap to a bare minimum,” Melecci says. “If we have sheet of 4 feet by 8 feet, we can utilize all but a thin skeleton of material or we can put a piece of flat bar on and make use of every inch. It’s become a very lean operation.”

The waterjet-cut parts have reduced the number of operations from four to two when forming sheet-metal flat-pattern shapes.

“Instead of laying out the part, shearing it, marking for bends then forming it, now engineering can send the file to the machine shop and download it to the machine,” Melecci says. “The waterjet cuts it out with tick marks for bend locations (from engineering), then hands it over to the press brake and forms it.”

With the waterjet’s software, MTPI can customize parts to customers’ requirements. OEMs can have their logos cut into covers or plaques, an ability that adds a personalized touch to their equipment, and helps on the sales end, Melecci adds.

Water works

The 3000 Series waterjet blasts through a wide variety of materials with 60,000 psi and maximum cutting speeds of up to 1,500 inches per minute. Its pressure is delivered through the 30-horsepower KMT intensifier, using only 0.52 gallons per minute, according to MultiCam. The machine’s ergonomics make loading and unloading easier because the cutting table is accessible from three sides. Its vertical Z-axis has 10 inches of height clearance.

In Florida, water quality is a challenge because it affects the life expectancy of the internal components of the intensifier, says Anderson. MultiCam provides a water test kit to customers, which is analyzed, and from that, MultiCam can suggest filtration options. Garnet removal is another challenge. Garnet, the grainy cutting abrasive in waterjets, will accumulate at the bottom of the waterjet cutting tank if the customer doesn’t buy the optional garnet removal system with its machine.

“Otherwise, their only other option is to occasionally drain the tank and shovel out the used garnet,” Anderson explains.

MTPI uses commercial water softeners and filters for incoming and outgoing waters so the wastewater is compliant with the EPA and local water regulations. The MultiCam currently uses Barton’s 80 HPA garnet abrasive. “The 80 gives us a clean edge, which helps with our forming and welding by making sure we don’t need to fill in gaps,” Melecci says. “It also makes it easier to fuse metals.”

Specs and service

Because its equipment is for food inspection, MTPI needs to comply with 3-A sanitary standards in its designs and fabrication. 3-A Sanitary Standards Inc. is an independent, not-for-profit group dedicated to advancing hygienic equipment design for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, according to its website. 3-A SSI represents the interests of three stakeholder groups with a common commitment to promoting food safety and the public health—regulatory sanitarians, equipment fabricators and processors.

This translates to how MTPI fits and finishes metal, Melecci says. “There can’t be any pin holes, gaps, rough surfaces or anything that could allow bacteria to form.”

The 3-A regulations also outline minimum radii requirements to eliminate sharpness. This is another bonus the waterjet possesses because if sheared or machined material needs radius operation, it can be cut into the shape. The intent is to keep workers at a food processing plant, for example, from injuring themselves on a sharp edge and potentially contaminating the food.

Because of MTPI’s experience with waterjets, its operators generally handle its maintenance in-house. But Melecci says from day one, MultiCam has provided top service. “This area of Florida is big in aerospace, and MultiCam is pretty popular with those companies, so it led us to believe they had a good reputation,” Melecci adds.

Before MultiCam installed the waterjet, it evaluated MTPI’s facility and setup and then recommended a configuration. Upon installation, they brought in piping, valves and hooked it up. “They were very helpful with that,” says Melecci.

As business has grown for MTPI, having an equipment vendor with reliable service is indispensable. Two years ago a machinist retired, and MultiCam came in and provided additional training without cost. In addition to a call line, MultiCam can help with troubleshooting online.

“MultiCam’s been very helpful,” Melecci says. “To me, 90 percent of the sale is whether we can get support later on.” He says the company is attentive and available whenever there are problems. “They’ve always been there.” MM

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