When Tualatin, Oregon-based Plasti-Fab, Inc., landed a contract to cut hundreds of circles out of 8,000-pound fiberglass plates, they decided abrasive waterjet would be the best way to address their unique situation.
But first the company had to overcome two obstacles: they needed to find a waterjet manufacturer capable of building the huge 14 by 28-foot waterjet table needed for their application, and they needed to find a system that could be installed outdoors because they had no space available in their building, which already houses two CNC routers.
Plasti-Fab CNC Supervisor Wade Oxford said his company researched several waterjet systems, but only Jet Edge of St. Michael, Minn., was capable of delivering the large system they required. Plasti-Fab selected Jet Edge's Mid Rail Gantry, which features a rugged floor-mounted rack and pinion drive-rail motion system manufactured by ALLtra Corporation of Dewey, Ok., and waterjet cutting components manufactured by Jet Edge. The waterjet system, which is the largest in the Northwest, is powered by Jet Edge's 50-horsepower iP60-50 intensifier pump, rated for 60,000 psi.
Plasti-Fab installed the system under a steel awning equipped with a hoist, then added a swimming pool heater and retractable solar blanket to the waterjet tank to keep the water between 68 and 74 degrees year-round, Oxford explained.
"As installation was going on, it was snowing and hailing," he recalled. "Luckily it doesn't get cold enough to freeze. We might have a couple of days where it gets down to 32 degrees."
Oxford said the Jet Edge waterjet system is hands-down much faster than cutting the parts with a hand router, which yielded poor results after a week of tests.
"It was taking us about a week to do 28 holes," he said. "Now we are doing 212 holes in four hours."
Oxford figures the CNC routers would not have been much faster than the hand router, and noted that he easily prevents delamination of his layered fiberglass parts by running a pre-piercing operation prior to cutting the circles.
This enormous project has helped Plasti-Fab tap into a new market and grow from 45 employees just two years ago to 105 today, Oxford said. In addition to these components, Plasti-Fab also uses their waterjet system to cut steel parts for its metal shop and neoprene parts for its gates department. The company also manufactures numerous waste water treatment products, including flumes, shelters, gages, manholes, gates, stop logs and skimmers.
Plasti-Fab runs its waterjet system 10 hours a day, five days a week, Oxford said. For this project, it is required to maintain a tolerance of 1/16-inch over 24 feet, which is easy to accomplish with an automated waterjet system.
Oxford noted that the Mid Rail Gantry is very accessible and easy to load. He and Plasti-Fab Waterjet Operator Don Logan have become experts at loading and unloading these huge components. They use two forklifts and a hoist to maneuver the parts into position with surgeon-like precision, and are able to load or unload the table in under an hour.
Oxford said he has been very satisfied with the system and follow-up service since its installation in February 2007.
"It was easy to learn and operate, and it is a very reliable machine," he said. "I've been able to pick it up in four months. The system has been running very well is not hard to maintain. I've been able to replace the pump seals with very little explanation. I am extremely happy with the service from Jet Edge and ALLtra. In fact, I am floored with their response."
Plasti-Fab is the recognized leader in corrosion resistant equipment for water and wastewater treatment and control, specializing in Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) equipment for industry and infrastructure.
About Jet Edge
Established in 1984, Jet Edge is a global designer and manufacturer of ultra-high pressure 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 systems are proudly made in the U.S.A.