Located in the heart of Minnesota's famously scenic Brainerd Lakes Region, Precision Waterjet Concepts has built a thriving business cutting precision parts from nothing but sand and water. No toxic gases. No noxious fumes, just sand and water, pressurized to 60,000 psi.
When company co-founders and brothers-in-law Joe Quaal and Seth Jackson started their Pequot Lakes, Minn., abrasive waterjet cutting business in 2002, their primary goal was to be able to make a good living without leaving the northland they love, and without doing it any harm. From the very start, sustainability was built into their business plan. They chose abrasive waterjet as their tool of choice because it is the most environmentally friendly industrial cutting technology, and is capable of cutting virtually anything, from rubber and foam to titanium and armor plating. The enterprising partners even devised an ingenious system to heat their building using hot water generated by the waterjets.
"Going green is important to everyone," said Quaal, who serves as the company's president. "We're not hurting the environment with gases. We cut with water and sand, and the water is filtered, cleaned and reused. The garnet abrasive sand can be safely landfilled, but we are planning to recycle it as well."
During the waterjet cutting process, the water can become very warm. Many waterjet shops use a water chilling system to cool it down. This reduces water consumption by minimizing evaporation, and prolongs the life of waterjet system components. But being true Minnesotans, Quaal and Jackson decided their waterjet chilling system could do double duty and help heat their building.
"During the cold months, we take the heat that is generated by the waterjet pumps and use it to heat the building with a chiller," Quaal explained. "We cycle the water through the chiller and take the hot water and disperse it throughout the building."
Going green with waterjet cutting technology has paid off big for the Northern Minnesota business. Under the leadership of Quaal and CEO/partner Joe Glenn, the company has grown 20-30% every year, and has had to relocate three times to accommodate its growth. In 2008, Precision Waterjet Concepts built a state-of-the-art 19,000 square foot headquarters, designing it especially for the waterjet cutting process and for future growth. The company has 10 full-time employees and provides waterjet cutting services to a wide variety of industries nationwide.
Quaal attributes his company's success to an overall increase in awareness about waterjet technology as well as to his company's ISO9001:2008-certified quality assurance program and its full-service solutions approach that includes CNC programming, intricate 3D cutting, high-volume 2D cutting, CMM inspection, final machining and welding. The company even machines its own 5-axis fixtures on a vertical machining center to ensure parts are cut to customer specification.
Precision Waterjet Concepts has five waterjet cutting systems, including three 5-axis waterjets capable of cutting 3 dimensional parts and two Minnesota-made Jet Edge 2-axis water jet cutting machines for high volume cutting, including a workhorse High Rail Gantry waterjet machine with four cutting heads and 9'x13' work envelope and an 8'x13' Mid Rail Gantry system with dual abrasive waterjet cutting heads that are set up for mirror cutting large parts twice as fast. Both of its Jet Edges are powered by 60,000 psi, 150hp Jet Edge iP60-150 waterjet intensifier pumps.
Precision Waterjet Concepts originally started as a 5-axis only shop, but added its first Jet Edge system in 2006 after determining that many customers also needed high-volume parts cutting services that were impractical on a 5-axis system.
"We chose Jet Edge for our 2-axis systems because they are easier to run and maintain than the competitor systems that we looked at, plus we were looking for a manufacturer in Minnesota that could get someone in here quick if there was a problem," Quaal said. "We went with a Mid Rail Gantry for our second system because of the mirroring system and programmable head spacing. We cut a lot of extremely large parts and we can save a lot of time and money by mirroring. Fifty percent of the time, we are mirroring. The programmable head spacing also saves us 10-15 minutes per job on set up time."
Quaal noted that Jet Edge's mirroring system holds much tighter tolerances than competitor systems that he had considered.
"When we bought the second system, I got quotes from four companies and visited them all," he said. "The Jet Edge's tolerance was impressive. It met our specifications. The other machines that do mirroring don't come back into spec. Some of them are off by .030' to .040". You can't have a step like that on a part. Their head spacing tolerance had too much slop."
Quaal also noted that his Jet Edge intensifier pumps have been much less expensive to maintain than a competitor pump that powers his 5-axis systems.
"Our Jet Edge pumps cost 20% less to maintain than our other pump because the Jet Edge seals are less expensive. The seal life is similar, but we save $8,000 to $9,000 a year. The Jet Edge iP60-150s are the best thing on the market. I will keep putting them in."
For more information about Precision Waterjet Concepts, visit www.waterjetconcepts.com or call 218-568-5052.
For more information about Jet Edge, visit www.jetedge.com, or call 1-800-JET-EDGE (538-3343).
About Jet Edge
Established in 1984, Jet Edge is a global designer and manufacturer of waterjet systems for precision cutting, surface preparation and coating removal. Jet Edge systems are used around the world in a broad range of industries, from the world's leading airlines to automotive, aerospace, industrial manufacturers, machine and job shops. Jet Edge waterjet systems are proudly made in the U.S.A. For more information about Jet Edge, visit www.jetedge.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-JET-EDGE (538-3343).