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Waterjet
Thursday | 28 February, 2013 | 1:11 pm

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By Gretchen Salois

Changing cutting tactics drives business forward

February 2013 - Customer needs are always changing. As technology advances, it is necessary to re-evaluate which markets are ripe for tapping into and which tools will help make that possible. In Waukesha, Wis., Miro Tool & Mfg. Inc. decided to expand its capabilities to include waterjet-cut parts.

Having used Mitsubishi machinery from MC Machinery Systems Inc., Wood Dale, Ill., Miro Tool looked into the MWX4-612 waterjet. When the company began in 1988, it was a tool and die manufacturer. In 1989, Miro Tool expanded its capabilities to the manufacturing market by investing in Mitsubishi wire EDM machines, punch presses and CNCs. In 2001, the company added a Mitsubishi laser machine, and most recently, a Mitsubishi MWX4-612 waterjet.

mm-0213-waterjet-image2“Previously, we used a CNC and wire machines as well as a laser, but our laser can only cut 1⁄2-inch-thick material. If we were building tooling, we had to use the CNC or the wire machine for anything thicker,” says Jeffrey Brown, president at Miro Tool. “The waterjet was a great solution driven by the cost of operating the wire machines. Wires are expensive to run and slow.

“The waterjet cuts quickly, and the accuracy on the new machine is awesome,” Brown continues. “We just finished a production job with 37,000 pieces of each part, which took four and a half to five minutes each to cut, and there were a lot of hole and tolerance requirements. We had to have the pieces within ±0.004 inch and the waterjet let us do that.”

The MWX4-612 has taper control and garnet removal systems, as well as Mitsubishi controls, drives and servos. “This is a new line of machines for us,” says Adam Wysuph, application engineer at MC Machinery. “We have an updated design to our taper control system with six degrees of compensation for taper. The machine footprint is also smaller as the MWX4-612 has a 6-foot-by-12-foot cutting area that fits in the same space as a 5-foot-by-10-foot machine of our previous model.”

Monitoring progress

Miro Tool uses a Micro-Vue Vision System, a high-end measuring machine, to verify the quality of the finished parts produced by the waterjet. “It takes the CAD file and matches it up with the part you just cut and lets you know if you’re a few thousandths of an inch off or right on,” Brown explains. Knowing the level of accuracy is necessary because Miro Tool cuts stainless steel, aluminum, soft and hardened tool steel and other materials up to 6 inches thick.

“The waterjet gives Miro Tool the ability to create parts from almost any material and thickness in a short amount of time,” Wysuph says. “The maintenance has become easier over the years, and the intervals are longer between cutting cycles.”

“The biggest benefit to using the MWX4-612 is how quickly operators are able to set up, program and get the part off the machine,” Brown says. “It’s fast. We can get a part in here in five minutes and before you know it, it’s done. You couldn’t do it like that on any other machine.”

Training operators doesn’t require extensive time and effort because the machine’s software is intuitive and service support is responsive. “The service sells itself,” Brown adds. “We’re a small job shop, so downtime really affects us.” 

“Customer service is very important to us as a company,” Wysuph adds. “We want customers to be successful with their equipment. Fast turnaround is required to reduce the amount of downtime experienced by the customer.”mm-0213-waterjet-image3

Recently, one of Miro Tool’s operators needed to cut several different jobs. They ranged from cutting flash off castings and cutting tool steel die components to cutting steel machine parts and aluminum fixture parts. “He did all these various production jobs in one work day. That’s great turnover,” Brown says.

Previously, Miro Tool tackled similar tasks using wire EDM and CNC technology. Those processes required timely setup. “The waterjet allows us to cut our lead times down, making us more competitive,” Brown says. When working with plate, the company can rough machine quickly on a waterjet, and if something has to be held within a certain thousandth or two, it can use the CNC. “The CNC doesn’t get tied up as much since we use the waterjet for the bulk of the volume. You can program it and walk away, and an operator can work two machines easily, which really cuts down on man hours,” Brown adds.

Core customers

Miro Tool provides products for a variety of industries, including automotive, lawn and garden, heavy truck, electronics, medical and aerospace. “We recently did a big job for an automotive customer that could not have been done elsewhere using a laser, for example,” Brown says. “The key factor for this particular customer was cutting the material without leaving a heat-affected zone while also maintaining a flatness tolerance. This eliminated machining the components later, wasting time and resources. 

“When you cut with laser, there’s a heat-affected zone, and if you need to paint afterward, the paint peels,” Brown explains. “The waterjet prevents that from happening and the material can move from the machining to the painting process easier.” The same avoidance is needed when manufacturing parts for oil coolers, and Miro Tool is responsible for keeping the material flat within a certain level.

“We recently used the waterjet to cut some big die plates for a customer that were 3 inches thick,” Brown says. “Normally that customer would have to go to a machining center and machine these big plates out. However, because of the dynamic head, the waterjet allows him to get a straight wall, as well as maintain taper control. The machine allows you to take any type of taper out in the part so you have a square part.”

Although the machine itself is a basic 90,000 psi two-axis waterjet, its accuracy is what makes it particularly useful for Miro Tool. “Not many machines can cut what the MWX4-612 can and hold those tolerances—it’s very good,” Brown says. MM

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