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Waterjet
Wednesday | 16 July, 2014 | 9:00 am

Avoiding abrasives

By Gretchen Salois

Above: The 90,000 psi MWX4-612 is a fifth generation waterjet line by MC Machinery Systems Inc.

Keeping a pulse on innovation means a cyclical approach to replacing equipment

July 2014 - Searching the supermarket bread aisle can be daunting when confronted with whole grain, 12-grain, fortified country white and a host of other consumer choices. Getting those neatly packaged loaves on shelves requires a series of processes beginning with a fabricator that makes food conveyor machine components.

C&C Tooling Inc. fabricates multiple types and sizes of metal and plastic substrates. The Addison, Illinois-based company also provides automation solutions from concept to finished product, from prototype to full production quantities. “We’ll do just one piece if that’s what’s needed; not everyone can do that,” president Jack Corsello says.

To shape larger parts, C&C Tooling vice president Dave Larson compared the available machine options and selected a 90,000 psi MWX4-612 Mitsubishi waterjet from MC Machinery Systems Inc. (a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp.) of Wood Dale, Illinois. “We wanted the latest and greatest and felt the Mitsubishi waterjet had the best fit for us.”

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The fifth-generation waterjet has a mono-block design base with KMT PRO60 90,000 psi intensifier pump and Mistubishi M730 CNC controller with three-axis joystick and full keyboard. Some standard features on the MWX4 series include True-Shape Nesting and CAD/CAM, accuracy of motion +/-0.001 per feet and positioning speed of 0.787 inches per minute. It has a 670-pound pressurized abrasive hopper and adjustable slat table, and height is adjusted by a dial-indicated flat bar. The dial indicator measures the flatness of incoming material and determines whether the material is properly aligned. Accuracy is taken into consideration with the Z-axis touch probe to set Z height and it can also “step touch” for any bowing or warpage of the workpiece. There is also a collision detection system and laser pointer for edge pick-up. 

Quicker turnaround

Companies that choose a higher pressure waterjet often have previous experience using lasers, says Steve Szczesniak, national waterjet product manager at MC Machinery. 

Fabricators like C&C Tooling were using conventional plasma or laser cutting until they learned waterjets cut faster, including on thicker aluminum and steel. “They discovered versatility with a waterjet they couldn’t achieve before,” fabricating a greater variety of metals while better controlling scrappage rates.

“It’s a greener process because they can get more yield out of a piece,” he continues. “Chip rates are minimized, translating into fewer man hours used to deal with scrap—time that could be better used elsewhere.” 

Execution relies heavily on the structure the waterjet sits on. “Being a toolmaker, I designed the machine knowing you have to build blocks for it to stand on,” Szczesniak explains, adding that in order to position or move accurately, a repeating machine must have a solid base. “The machine base is something you don’t really see—it’s under the covers—but it’s an integral part of why our machines work so well.”

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The operator station is also a strong point for the waterjet as “it doesn’t mind water or the environment, which is often dirty. The personal computer does the programming and a network computer unit communicates with motors, whereas many other waterjet table manufacturers use PCs for both purposes,” Szczesniak says. 

C&C Tooling makes every effort to stay abreast of advances in cutting systems. “You need to keep track of innovation in this industry—we have to be a high-tech machining company,” Corsello says. “We have to buy the latest technology so we have to make money and put it back into the company.”

Tackling inaccuracies

Touch probes can be particularly helpful—or hurtful—to operations if not functioning properly. The waterjet has a touch probe that can set nozzle height automatically. Step touch feature, collision detection and laser pointer (which makes it easier for an operator to locate the edge of the sheet) comes standard with any MWX4-612 model. Mitsubishi compensates for inaccuracies using software and measuring with laser compensation. These compensation values are stored by software and automatically realign the machine to compensate for any inaccuracies, Szczesniak says.

Abrasive can build up on a sheet and if the probe touches the abrasive, it can result in a false reading. The MWX4-612 uses a washing function, spraying the abrasive out of the way so the result is an accurate touch on the material surface. 

“You end up getting better results when everything is aligned and accurate,” Szczesniak says. “Mitsubishi’s wash-down for the touch probe adjusts for abrasives buildup or will wash abrasives off. If the touch probe is not at the correct pivot point in a part, it is because you’re measuring the top of the abrasive rather than the top of the workpiece,” Szczesniak explains. It is necessary to achieve an accurate touch from the top of the workpiece to the bottom of the focus tube because that is the fulcrum for all the pivoting calculations for the taper compensation system.

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Since acquiring the waterjet cutting system, C&C Tooling can churn out orders faster. “We’re able to lower our prices and we’re getting purchase orders we couldn’t compete on before,” Corsello says. “Our waterjet allows us greater efficiency, versatility and productivity. Whatever the shape or material, the jobs have become easier. Our waterjet requires us to do less fixturing and tooling—performing other machining on parts,” which saves time and money and raises equipment efficiency. 

There is more to survival than keeping orders coming in. “You had better come to the table with cost-effective solutions that provide customers with quality and deliver what they’re looking for,” Corsello says. “When this Mitsubishi reaches five to six years old, we will again start the process of looking for the next machine tool that gives us the competitive edge. You can’t fall behind.” MM

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