Direct Waterjet, Inc.
After running their waterjet job shop for a couple of years, Direct Waterjet now cuts predominantly prototype projects, and the business redirection has been a real eye-opener for the owners. Trudianne Temple and Billy Wawak’s original business plan was to provide glass cutting services with their OMAX® 5555 JetMachining® Center, but now they only cut glass for themselves after discovering there is an ever-present demand for cutting random material prototypes. Furthermore, their business teaches their clients how to be good customers for larger job shops if higher production volume ever pushes them toward an alternative mass capacity service.
"We consider ourselves a stepping stone," Trudianne said about their current job shop services. "We teach our customers what is required to cut successfully on a waterjet. It takes a lot of work at the beginning, but we've developed a very loyal customer base this way and also by producing prototypes in general.”
Their shop pupils include high school students cutting material for their science projects; students from the Art Institute of Chicago cutting artwork; wind turbine prototype engineers cutting metal components; and desperate glass customers who have been turned down by other job shops because their cutting request was not considered an economical project.
"A lot of places won't touch anything unless they are making 1,000 pieces. They don't want to deal with the little guy," said Billy.
"The main thing I like about prototyping is that it's a different part every time. I could never work on an assembly line. It's another reason we won’t do jobs that involve cutting 1,000 parts. I don't want to see a 1,000 of anything."
Since they offer service for small project runs, they take the time to explain the necessities of fixturing, suggest the best cutting paths, and teach their clients about what to expect from the final outcome of waterjet cutting. Helping people through the learning curve has been a way for them to give back to the community, they said.
The owners of Direct Waterjet are both creatively inclined, but in different ways, they said. Billy loves solving mechanical fixturing challenges when cutting on their waterjet. Trudianne enjoys coming up with fixturing ideas, such as the one for securing glass when cutting designs for a fused glass bowl project. The symbiotic partnership can be seen in their video submittal for the 2010 OMAX/MAXIEM Material Cutting Challenge, which they won for best entry. Wawak designed a fixturing tool to hold a circular shaped piece of glass, not your typical ready-made shop tool. The fixturing was a fence design which included rivets, stainless steel metric screws, and an area where the part could be extracted.
"The fixturing is kind of fun. For me, it's like coming up with a piece of functional sculpture," Trudianne said. "I can come up with a basic concept and Billy is the one who makes it practical."
Their collaborative skills helped them find a way to cut a 75-inch long wind turbine blade on their waterjet with only an X-Y cutting travel of 55 inches x 55 inches. They acquire 12 inch x 12 feet metal sheets that are sheared to the stock size that fits in their Model 5555 tank. Three sheets of material are then stacked on top of each other and then cut on the waterjet. The Intelli-MAX® Software, installed on every OMAX waterjet machine, includes a stack height calculator which helps the operator compute the optimum number of specific material sheets that can be stacked for successful abrasivejet cutting. The software feature also calculates the best cutting time per part based on the material settings.
"That's part of the beauty of our waterjet machine," said Billy. "With Intelli-MAX, you set up the design diagonally on the material for tool pathing. You can cut the design in half, and then you use the Precision Optical Locator to ensure precision cutting of the continued design on the other sheared stock. We've been able to take the Model 5555 and cut things you would think you would need to cut on a Model 55100.
We're cutting ¼ inch thick blades, so I can stack them three high. We cut parts that are welded together, such as the frame of the wind turbine. Other than the generator, I’d say we cut 90% of the wind turbine parts.”
Their wind turbine client who regularly brings prototype concepts to them appreciates the tight fit of the components achieved by the waterjet’s Tilt-A-Jet® accessory. Since the Tilt-A-Jet removes material taper, interlocking pieces fit properly when assembled together, Trudianne said.
"Anything we cut that is 3/16th inch or thicker that needs zero taper, we use the Tilt-A-Jet," said Billy.
Direct Waterjet is an owner-based business with no head count in their job shop. This gives them to flexibility to work any hour of the day or night they want to accomplish the various prototype deadlines. When asked if the OMAX helped them maintain their small-business concept, they responded by saying they are not really a small company.
"We're the front people. We have OMAX behind us," Trudianne said. "We have a great technical staff; we have engineering support; we have folks knowledgeable about materials. Customer support is one of the biggest reasons we went with the OMAX. The quality of the waterjet machine is definitely a plus; the customer support is how we made it as a business."
Direct Waterjet Inc.
Location: Union, Illinois
Specializes in: Supporting the manufacturing and creative communities through green precision cutting