Abrasive waterjet systems have become increasingly more prevalent in machine shops and fabrication shops and prototyping labs over the last few decades. The cold cutting process used by waterjets has proven to be a popular alternative or complementary method for cutting metals, composites, stone, glass and many other materials. Because there’s no heat-affected zone with waterjet cutting, there’s less material waste and often no need for secondary operations. And systems with great software like OMAX Intelli-MAX are easy to set up and operate, requiring no special programming skills. All these factors can significantly increase a shop’s overall throughput.
Articulating Heads for Five-Axis Cutting
Recent innovations in waterjet cutting heads have brought five-axis capabilities to waterjet cutting. The OMAX A-Jet cutting head can angle from 0° to 60° and makes it possible to create beveled and angled cuts in flat material. Shops commonly use the A-Jet to create weld prep bevels, countersinks, and to bevel two sides of a plate at once.
Rotary Axis for Pipe and Tube Cutting
Adding an OMAX Rotary Axis allows cutting of cylindrical surfaces and turns an abrasive waterjet into a 6-axis cutting machine. With the Rotary Axis, the waterjet can cut flat plate as well as pipes, tubes and bars. OMAX waterjets with a Rotary Axis can even cut shapes that are “wrapped” around a cylinder. The ability to process 3D parts such as tubes and pipes on a waterjet has enabled many shops to expand into new markets.
Software Advancements Make 3D Waterjet Cutting Easy
While 5-axis cutting heads brought exciting new capabilities to waterjet machining, initially it was a complex, time-consuming task to manually program the cutting heads to create bevels, chamfers and intricate shapes. It required the operator to import a 2D file, do complex calculations of multiple angles, manually assign those angles along each line segment, and finally generate a 3D toolpath for cutting. It simply wasn’t practical for most shops to spend the programming and testing hours necessary to cut complex geometries on the waterjet.
Through years of research and development OMAX has created a sophisticated cutting model that does all the complex calculations for the user. With the waterjet-specific Intelli-CAM and Intelli-MAX software, a waterjet operator can directly import a solid 3D model from almost any 3D modeling program, such as Rhino3D, AutoCAD, SolidWorks and Fusion 360. The software automatically calculates the appropriate cutting head angle along each section of the toolpath based on the material type, thickness, and edge quality selected by the operator, and a 3D toolpath ready for waterjet cutting is generated. The software automatically sets the A-Jet cutting head to accurately cut the shape. Today, complex shapes such as blades with multiple thicknesses and angles on a single edge are easy to program on an OMAX or MAXIEM abrasive waterjet. As turn-around times and tolerances for jobs continue to tighten, shops that adopt the latest technologies such as OMAX abrasive waterjets with 3D cutting capabilities will have the best chances at thriving in the industry.