Who would have thought that an OMAX JetMachining Center could set the mood for a bakery in San Diego, an outdoor kids park in Laguna Beach, or a race track venue in North Carolina? Ted Spuhler, owner of Hydrocut Waterjet, is someone who is not limited by his imagination, particularly when providing services with two OMAX Model 55100s.
He knows his machines can run the gamut of customized cutting work. So it's no wonder why he receives return business from architects catering to Hollywood celebrities or restaurant franchises. Year after year, artists who are commissioned by southern Californian communities seek for Spuhler's advice on cutting the design concepts for unique metalwork such as bus stop benches or stainless steel décor for an outdoor theme park. Even if a race car driver needs customized parts for his Falken Tire Ford Mustang, Spuhler can rely on his OMAX's rapid waterjet cutting to deliver replacements immediately to the driver to continue the racing season.
Before he started his own business, Spuhler worked for a wire EDM shop looking for precision cutting alternatives to help customers save money. He and his colleague discovered the OMAX JetMachining Center at a tradeshow, and decided waterjet technology was the primary solution to meet customer demands.
After helping his colleague build a successful business, Spuhler started his own company in 2003 by offering only waterjet cutting services. When it came to furnishing his shop, the obvious choice was an OMAX machine, he said. Equipped with a Model 55100 and a Tilt-A-Jet, he generated countless projects on his own. Most of his customers are familiar with abrasive waterjet technology since he took the time to explain the advantages of rapid prototyping. There are many waterjet job shops in southern California, he said, but his OMAX allows him to stand out.
"One thing that sets me above everybody else is the capability of my Tilt-A-Jet. I can do a lot of things with my tilt head that a lot of people can't do," Spuhler said. "The motion control that OMAX has is superior to other machines that are out there. The things my customers comment the most is the quietness of the machine and its accuracy and repeatability."
Repeatability of tight tolerances became essential in creating structurally sound, interlocking pieces or sections for large scale projects. Architects for Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego requested Hydrocut Waterjet to cut 4′ x 8′ aluminum panels with a pattern of different shaped holes to resemble air pockets in a cake. These panels were placed as window facades of a building. The panels cast shadows inside the bakery enticing any visitor with a weakness for sweets to take a bite out of the building. To manufacture this project, Spuhler stacked multiple sheets of aluminum onto the 55100 table, allowing him to cut the bubble patterns exactly the same when using the Tilt-A-Jet. This became a cost-effective process with benefits passed on to the customer, he said.
Another instance when he utilized his OMAX to create sections of a larger project was a stainless steel fence for a public art project in Laguna Beach. Bluebird Park was an idea visualized by an artist who wanted to capture a child's perception of approaching a carnival scene. Spuhler"s waterjet cut the whimsical, geometric images of kites flapping in the wind, the profile of a distant carousel, and birds flying overhead. Part of the solid structure stood 30′ long and 16′ high. He had to break the design into several 4′ x 8′ sections to reach a scale that was small enough to fit onto their 55100.
"It was all done in ¼" stainless steel. It ended up being eight or nine panels that all needed to be welded together," he said. "We found as we do these large scale art pieces, the word gets out, and other artists come to us asking if we're capable of doing certain projects. It's becoming a signature thing that we do."
"When we get material that is bigger than what we can cut (on our table), it's never an issue because I can break it down into smaller pieces which make it easier to handle. You don't have a massive piece, but sections you can take to the site and assemble there."
To make assembly easier for his clients, Spuhler maps out the project with his own drawings and uses the etch feature on his OMAX to mark identification numbers on each part. He is currently working on a 4′ x 12′ stainless steel door which contains 400 to 500 interlocking parts. The design comprises of square openings filled with mirrors and glass. His assembly drawing instructs how the contractor can build the door in columns and cross sections, without Spuhler overseeing the project at the site.
Although e-commerce is just a portion of his business, he says maintaining a website allows him to appeal to customers across the country. It's no longer necessary for him to be a local business to be considered for out-of-state cutting projects, even if they are located on the East Coast.
Recently, Spuhler received an emergency cutting request from Autosport Dynamics, Inc. in North Carolina, a race car fabrication shop that builds suspension for 4-wheel drive vehicles. His client submitted software files to him via email, quickly followed by a frantic phone call from the driver.
"He was racing a Mustang in a race back East, and ended up breaking the E-brake mechanism that they custom designed for the car," Spuhler said. "I got a request from him on Friday, and he said he needed to be in trials on Tuesday. I was able to respond by cutting the part so it could be shipped immediately to his shop by Monday morning. We're across the country and he got his part with time to spare. Doing business like this is fun!"
There are plenty of opportunities to be waterjet cutting hero, especially when you are collaborating with a fabrication shop who needs rush processing. Deadlines and multiple race crashes require his client to work faster with their cars, he said. Most parts for the Falken Tire Ford Mustang must be custom-made. So Hydrocut Waterjet expedites in cutting light weight components out of 1/8" or 3/16" cold rolled steel or 3/8" aluminum, such as bumper vents, front suspension parts, spring, break caliper, and shock mounts.
Spuhler said many auto machine shops do not have all the capital equipment to get the job done as quickly at competitive prices, when compared to contracting out waterjet cutting services. It's also possible they do not have the ability to cut thin material, a key element for keeping the race car light. Therefore, Hydrocut Waterjet can answer the call to these quick turnaround requests with specific material on their 55100s.
"The OMAX software is so easy and simple to use, I can generate drawings really fast, print them out, and send them out in an email to my customers," he said. "I have nothing else in my shop but two OMAX machines; both have Tilt-A-Jets; and both have Solids Removal Systems (SRS) on them, another feature OMAX has that nobody else has for some reason."
The SRS equipment is a suction line flushing system that removes garnet from the OMAX tank into a catcher tank. Since he processes numerous projects in a month, Spuhler avoids machine downtime when operating the SRS. From his experience, he only digs out the metal scraps and abrasive from his tanks every two or three years.
"I can remember I guy I worked with who had an OMAX without an SRS," Spuhler said. "He took days to clean out that tank once a month. That's a lot of down time. In three or four days, I can make a lot more stuff. The first time I didn't have to dig the machine out, the garnet removal system paid for itself, easily."
Spuhler also credits emulating OMAX's business model for his job shop success. His philosophy is that if you treat customers properly, they will trust your business and return in the future, instead of shopping around for services elsewhere.
"OMAX kind of look at things that way too," he said. "They deal with customers; they take care of their customers; they support their systems; and the work ethic is a partnership with their customer."
Hydrocut Waterjet will continue to grow their domestic clientele as a wider audience understands the capabilities of abrasive waterjet technology. Spuhler can pass on the confidence of OMAX JetMachining Centers to his customers across the country, a place he thinks appreciates craftsmanship and long-term business relationships now more than ever.
Owner: Ted Spuhler
Location: Huntington Beach, CA
Specializes in: Abrasive waterjet cutting of conductive and non-conductive materials