- Created: 2018-10-08
The possibilities of having an abrasive waterjet in every machine shop
by Joshua Swainston, content marketing writer, Omax Corp.
“Precision abrasive waterjet cutting is now recognized as a viable and versatile machine shop process on every continent of the earth,” wrote Dr. John Olsen, co-founder of Omax Corp., in a 2009 blog entry. “But I’m really not satisfied. I still haven’t accomplished what I set out to do.
“Even though Omax systems have demonstrated the ability to quickly and economically produce precision parts from virtually any material,” he continued, “the abrasive waterjet is still not a universally adopted technology. There are tens of thousands of machine shops in the world, and abrasive waterjets are found in only a small percentage of them. My dream of an abrasive waterjet in every machine shop is still not even close to reality.”
Dr. John Olsen founded Omax alongside Dr. John Cheung in 1993, having found a way to revolutionize the abrasive waterjet machining method. A new type of motion control technology and proprietary software ushered the development of the first truly affordable waterjet system to offer fast, precise and consistent results.
Although the public is becoming more familiar with the concept of abrasive waterjet technology, the tool is not yet ubiquitous. Over the years, Omax has developed a multi-layered family of waterjets to meet a variety of customer needs. From larger machines to personal units, the company continues to work on fulfilling the dream of an abrasive waterjet in every shop.
A full line
The Omax JetMachining Center (JMC) is the company’s flagship line. The JMC line showcases new accessories and technologies while pushing the limits of size and functionality.
The largest machine, the 160X-3 bridge system, features a cutting envelope of more than 46 ft. by 13 ft. With that size of machine, customers are adding dual bridge capability and cutting several very large (65-in.-dia.) parts all at once. Some customers have reported cutting parts from several 8-in.-by-20-in. plates in succession for quick turnaround times.
A lot of the larger bridge machines, such as the 120X and the 160X, are used in the fabrication of tankage and architectural metal. Fabrication shops often look toward the larger abrasive waterjets as a way to increase capability. The benefit of a larger JMC is that it retains the precision (±0.001 in.) and versatility of a smaller machine while giving customers more working space.
That is not to say that the JMC line only has larger bridge machines. The line also carries highly precise cantilever machines. The Omax 2626, for example, is powerful and compact with a cutting envelope of 2 ft. 5 in. by 2 ft. 2 in. Some manufacturers of medical equipment and lightweight plastics have turned to the cantilever Omax machines to fulfill a need for high accuracy (±0.001 in.) without having to pay for a larger cutting envelope.
The JMC line also includes the MicroMax and the Mobile JMC. The MicroMax is a fully enclosed ultra-precision abrasive waterjet that is used in medical, technology and other industries to machine extremely small high-precision parts.
The Mobile JMC is a complete mobile unit comprised of the pump, controller, table and filtration that is used for on-site oil field maintenance, high-rise steel construction, forward military deployment, shipbuilding and any commercial industry where easy transportation of a tool facility is required.
“Over the years, the Omax system has evolved based on the needs of precision machine shops that desired ever higher levels of accuracy and precision,” Dr. Olsen wrote. “They asked for and received closer tolerances, automatic taper control and special features such as programmable Z-axis control and a controllable rotary axis.”
Similarly, when customers asked for an abrasive waterjet to be precise, space conscious and lower cost, Omax listened and developed additional product lines. As an example, the Maxiem line was introduced in 2009.
Offering the advantage of abrasive waterjet machining as an efficient solution with a multitude of available accessories, Maxiem is a sleek, versatile option. This machine is good for job shops, fabricators, metal service centers and others that need to scale their waterjet investment but also want a quick, efficient way to process parts from a range of workpiece materials and thicknesses.
With cutting beds ranging from a 2-ft.-7-in.-by-2-ft.-6 in. cutting envelope to a 20-ft.-6-in.-by-10-ft.-2-in. cutting envelope, the Maxiem line lends itself to all sorts of waterjet machining applications. Customers have been using these products to fabricate for the automotive, oil and gas, mining and other industries. There is even a Maxiem 1530 unit working in Papua New Guinea where it is used to fabricate custom steel replacement parts.
The next product line to debut was the GlobalMax series in 2017. Some machine shops may not have production volume or part complexity that would benefit from a full-size Omax or even a Maxiem. Therefore, the GlobalMax line was designed around simplicity and durability with a minimal overall footprint to give even more options to shops looking to add waterjet capabilities.
The GlobalMax is designed for educators, job shops, fabricators and manufacturers that need an economical, industrial abrasive waterjet. The GlobalMax leverages Intelli-Max software, uses Omax direct-drive pump technology, and is built and tested alongside Omax and Maxiem product lines in Kent, Wash.
The range of cutting envelopes for the GlobalMax is from 2 ft. 7 in. by 5 ft. to 13 ft. 3 in. by 6 ft. 8 in. Customers have been using the GlobalMax in fabricating for water treatment, transportation and blanking out parts for complimentary machining.
Omax’s newest abrasive waterjet addition is the ProtoMax. The compact footprint (3 ft. 5 in. by 3 ft. 3 in. with a cutting envelope of 1 ft. by 1 ft.) maintains the waterjet’s material versatility making the ProtoMax good for prototyping, educational applications or as a complement to a larger machine shop. Unlike other waterjets, the pump and cutting table are combined in a single unit with both components on casters for easy relocation.
Omax has seen a great reception for the ProtoMax from engineering, material sciences, robotics and arts programs in universities and trade schools. The ProtoMax allows students to experience hands-on innovative technology and fabricate in a way they may not have thought possible.
One point where ProtoMax excels as a teaching tool is that the software license for Intelli-Max Proto allows for unlimited seats. Another benefit is that students learn on essentially the same software as the larger Omax waterjets, allowing a smooth transition to larger industry application. There are also additional safety features built into the machine with the clamshell cover and submerged cutting. The ProtoMax is a safe and quiet (approximately 76 dB) light-industrial machine.
Another avenue where the ProtoMax has excelled is in personal customization and artistic applications. Some customers use the machine to make and sell custom key chains out of titanium. A customer in the Pacific Northwest is using his ProtoMax as the centerpiece of a motorcycle customization business. There is yet another customer out of the Virgin Islands that uses the waterjet as a method for cutting creative glass flatware.
Family of four
At its core, all Omax products share the same DNA. Everything Omax develops comes out of the company’s Kent, Wash., campus. Being designed, built and tested in the same facility allows for tight integration and rapid innovation. All Omax machines use versions of the Intelli-Max software, all use variations of a direct-drive pump and all are supported by an extensive service network.
The Intelli-Max software is developed in-house. The developers built Intelli-Max around each of the Omax JMCs to provide a seamless transition between software and hardware operations. The software team welcomes feedback as they develop updated versions of the software around customer response.
Omax abrasive waterjets use direct-drive pumps. Everything from the largest Omax to the ProtoMax effectively uses the same pump technology. Omax’s direct-drive pumps consume less electricity and use up to 75 percent less water than intensifier pumps, translating to lower operating costs. In addition, direct-drive pumps convert more than 85 percent electrical power to hydraulic horsepower and deliver it straight to the cutting nozzle ensuring efficient power use.
With four product lines reaching into diverse industries, solid software development, top-notch customer service and innovative pump technology, Dr. Olsen’s dream of a waterjet for every machine shop is quickly becoming a reality.