Bringing Parts to Market Faster With an OMAX
Since 1987, Asterisk Incorporated has been providing quality machining services for a variety of industries. Located less than an hour south of Hartford, Connecticut in Old Saybrook, Asterisk employs many traditional machining tools, including a press brake, vertical milling machine, saws, and a lathe. Because Asterisk provides both engineering and manufacturing services, they are able to provide a "start to finish" process. Traditionally this involved outsourcing some work, but as product life cycles shrank and pressure increased to get parts finished quicker, the costs and lead times of outsourcing became prohibitive. Bringing that work in-house was a priority, and after researching waterjets and taking advantage of the OMAX® test cut program, Asterisk decided to add the OMAX 2652 JetMachining® Center to their workshop.
Asterisk brought the OMAX 2652 into their shop for its internal engineering prototyping work, as it brought quicker turnaround. With its small footprint, it fit well in a shop that already featured a wide range of machine tools. Its cutting area of over two feet by four feet also meant that mass production of parts was possible as well. Asterisk is known for developing and manufacturing automation and document processing equipment, and the OMAX 2652 fits well in that environment, where sometimes many small changes need to be done to parts. "OMAX solved the 'concept to finished part' problem. What used to take weeks now takes only hours," notes Peter Hotkowski of Asterisk. Because of the short design-to-part time frame, Asterisk is able to experiment with several production-quality test pieces in a day, a process that was impossible when outsourcing.
With the OMAX JetMachining Center in their shop, it was not long before the flexibility and ease of use expanded Asterisk's opportunities. "The versatility of the OMAX 2652 solved several design problems and opened up new design possibilities," according to Hotkowski, and this versatility came mainly from working with materials and thicknesses that could not be processed with laser or punching equipment. This resulted in a significant increase in productivity, as part production was faster. Hotkowski remembers that "many parts and components were processed 200% faster once the OMAX was brought in house."
Since bringing the OMAX 2652 in house, Asterisk has expanded their abrasive waterjet operations. Since there are no other abrasive waterjet shops in their area, having an OMAX in their shop sets them apart from the competition. This has led to Asterisk transitioning from being a company that outsourced to becoming the company that others outsource to. Asterisk cuts traditional metals such as stainless steel and aluminum, and often picks up work cutting those materials that are too thick for other local laser shops. They also cut other materials such as glass, tile and more, like foam gaskets for the automotive industry. The OMAX 2652 also gives Asterisk the ability to handle some unique jobs that would otherwise be impossible, such as customizing truck wheels for competition, which required the development of a fixture in order to achieve the required angles and indexes in the thick-walled aluminum wheel. This allows elaborate wheel customization at a reasonable cost. Similarly Asterisk developed fixtures to allow complex shapes to be cut in pipe walls, further expanding the usefulness of the waterjet.
Asterisk also takes full advantage of the extensive features found in the Intelli-MAX® Software Suite. Creating gears with the automatic gear generator is simple, and the lead time from concept to producing these gears in plastic is very short. Another example of the versatility of the Intelli-MAX Software and the OMAX JetMachining Center was a job that required inputting a multitude of intricate artist sketches to cut. By scanning these in and using the Intelli-TRACE™ feature, Asterisk was able to cut over 60 complex and unique shapes without a lot of manual work.
Asterisk originally turned to the OMAX JetMachining Center to reduce lead times and improve quality control, and cost was secondary. The precision and versatility of the OMAX, along with the features found in the Intelli-MAX software accomplishes those goals easily, and helps position Asterisk for the future. "The life span of products is constantly getting shorter, and this puts pressure on the supply chain to bring prototypes and production parts to market even faster," says Hotkowski, "and the OMAX waterjet has allowed us to keep up with these demands."