Friday | 13 February, 2015 | 11:04 am

In-house advantage

Written by By Brian Damm

Above: The Omax Maxiem waterjet machine cuts 12-gauge stainless sheet, grade 304, measuring 4 by 12 feet.

Delays from outside suppliers prompted shop to revamp operations

February 2015 - At the scheduling mercy of three separate outside suppliers for its cutting work, Walsh Manufacturing needed a material-cutting strategy that would help boost its business.

While its service providers made efforts to provide quick turnaround, their ever-changing schedules meant that Walsh’s delivery times to its own customers were uncertain. Cleveland-based Walsh was unable to meet extremely tight customer deadlines and frequently lost bids to perform certain jobs. Bringing all cutting work in-house seemed a logical solution. 

The fabricator initially sought to buy either a laser or plasma cutting system. “For us, lasers seem more suited for high-volume production work,” says Walsh Manufacturing owner Michael Herman. “Our lot sizes are as few as one piece or as many as 100, and jobs change over often and daily. We were simply unable to justify the cost of a laser system, and it lacked the flexibility in terms of material types and thicknesses we’d be able to cut.”

Walsh typically cuts thicknesses up to 1.5 inches in grade 6061 aluminum and up to 2 inches in carbon steel. The company also processes stainless steel, titanium as well as industrial rubber and foam.


Plasma seemed the best option until Joe Trzaska, a mechanical engineer at Walsh, attended a comparative cutting seminar at a trade show and learned about the benefits and capabilities of abrasive waterjet cutting.

“We really hadn’t given a waterjet machine much thought. But after the seminar, we knew we wanted one,” Trzaska says. “We considered several brands, including Maxiem from Omax Corp. The Maxiem machine price point was right in our range, and to get its level of accuracy with a plasma cutter would have been at a cost that far exceeded that of the waterjet machine.”

Custom engineering

Founded as a welding shop over 50 years ago, Walsh now employs 19 people. In addition to welding and fabrication, the company produces cleaning/washing systems, paint lines, dust-collection systems as well as other custom machinery. Half the shop’s jobs are custom-engineered single- or multiple-stage manufacturing lines, while general contract fabrication work makes up the remainder of its production. 

Walsh serves a wide variety of customers from walk-ins to coating, stamping, fastener and automotive supply companies. The shop primarily focuses on North American business opportunities but some of its custom-built lines are finding homes in European factories.

The shop might build a full custom manufacturing line within 18 weeks or knock out an order for two fabricated brackets in a couple of hours for same-day delivery. Some months, over 50 projects will circulate through the shop, while other months only five or so high-volume projects make up the bulk of the work. No matter what the workload, day-to-day short-run fabrication orders are typically interspersed within those scheduled jobs, ensuring fast turnaround.

Tech breakdown

Walsh installed the Maxiem 2030 JetMachining Center during early 2014. The waterjet quickly and accurately cuts sheets of material—singles and stacks—up to 10 feet by 6 feet, in workpiece thicknesses that range from 10-gauge up to 2 inches. The unit holds tolerances within +/- 0.005 inch.

The company accessorized the machining center with a large-capacity garnet abrasive-collection hopper unit and Omax’s Collision Sensing Terrain Follower. The sensing system automatically adjusts machine Z-axis heights to accommodate uneven stock surfaces and changing thicknesses without the need for special programming.


No matter how thick the material being processed, the shop relies on the terrain follower. The sensor prevents nozzle damage in the event the material bows or warps as parts are cut from it. The terrain follower also allows the shop to load the machine with multiple sheets, even material of different gauges. The Maxiem 2030 processes the stack while automatically adjusting its Z-axis height accordingly.

Maxiem machines come equipped with the Intelli-Max Software Suite that eliminates the need to comprehend complicated G-code, a common programming language used to get machine tool axes to move where needed. Walsh also relies heavily on SigmaNest Companion part nesting software to maximize material use.

Working in conjunction with the Maxiems’s Intelli-Max software, SigmaNest contributes to faster part processing for Walsh. The shop can cut multiple jobs/parts from one sheet and in single setups. The software nests/arranges parts inside one another, so slug material that was once discarded can now be reclaimed and used in a different run featuring smaller parts. This breakthrough gives Walsh a vastly improved yield per sheet and, for some jobs, the resulting material savings has been as high as 50 percent.

“The waterjet machine cuts parts so fast and accurately that I no longer give it a second thought, and operator errors are basically nonexistent,” Trzaska says. “Part programs go from a front office computer to the Maxiem 2030, and as long as we have our numbers right, there are no scrapped parts. Whatever we draw, the machine makes perfectly.”

The Intelli-Max software also gives him the capability to enhance part designs and do so without adding to the programming time. For instance, the software streamlines the addition of simple part features such as chamfers or radii, according to Trzaska. “With the Omax software, there’s no need to make full detailed drawings. If you can copy and paste, you can use the software. And in most cases, I send part programs to the waterjet machine over our internal network, and the job is cut by the time the actual part prints make it out to the shop.”

Walsh uses its Maxiem to accurately cut overall part profiles, holes and other features that may then be finished on milling machines or in other secondary operations. This is especially beneficial with parts that may require up to 100 tapped holes. In these instances, the waterjet machine cuts the tap-sized holes, which accelerates the tapping function of part processing and ensures the holes are located in precisely specified positions.


Increased efficiency

According to Trzaska, the waterjet eliminates having to farm out the cutting portion for all of Walsh’s jobs, thus reducing lead times. The machine shortens changeover time from one job to the next and handles a wide variety of raw material.

The efficiency achieved after acquiring the Maxiem has significantly increased Walsh’s ability to take on more work. The shop now offers its waterjet cutting services to other small manufacturers and peers and tackles completely new and different types of jobs—such as prototyping—that weren’t feasible before.

Walsh has experienced a reduction in material handling time. For one job, the shop stacked eight individual sheets of material and got 11 parts out of each for a total of 88 parts generated in about the same amount of time previously required to cut one sheet. These parts measured 16 by 25 inches, and each required five holes and profiles. Trzaska says the multiple-sheet setup and speed of the Maxiem equated to pumping out one completed part in under 30 seconds. 

Both Herman and Trzaska remark that in today’s efficiency-driven world, “fabrication shops must continuously improve their operations to be able to process parts faster, better and cheaper than the competition.” MM

Brian Damm is the Regional Sales Manager at Omax Corp.


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