Waterjet Cuts Fast in High-Speed Sport
Michael Waltrip Racing partners with Jet Edge
By Jim Lorincz
The supersonic speed of a powerful stream of water and abrasives is becoming commonplace in NASCAR team fabrication shops as they adopt precision waterjet cutting systems to meet the demands of fast turnaround times for parts, while increasing productivity and reducing cost.
A waterjet system from Jet Edge (St. Michael, MN) has been installed by Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR; Cornelius, NC) as a vital component of its recently completed fabrication shop to cut parts for its three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams and Nationwide Series team. Sprint Cup teams are the #00 Toyota Camry, #44 UPS Toyota, #55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, and the Nationwide Series #99 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota.
"The Jet Edge waterjet system was selected because of the accuracy of its cuts and high degree of repeatability over a wide range of materials," explains Eric Warren, MWR's vice president and technical director. The waterjet has enabled MWR to scale up its manufacturing capabilities and bring parts in-house that were formerly outsourced, saving time and money.
MWR builds about 14 cars per team each year, a total of 56 cars for four teams. "Seventy-five percent of the car is manufactured in-house, and 20% of those parts will be cut with the Jet Edge waterjet," says Warren. "Some of the items that Michael Waltrip Racing will cut with the waterjet system include chassis parts, duct work, crush panels, windows, support boards, and foam, to mention a few," says Warren.
MWR selected Jet Edge's 4 x 8' (1.2–2.4-m) High Rail Gantry waterjet system that is powered by a 50-hp (37-kW), 60,000-psi (414-MPa) IP60-50 intensifier pump. The three-axis programmable system features dual Permalign II abrasive cutting heads on a 4' (1.2-m) spreader bar that are capable of cutting complex parts out of virtually any material. The system is equipped with a DRO for multihead positioning that displays cutting head positions, eliminating manual measurement, as well as a pneumatic drill for automatic pre-piercing of materials prone to delamination prior to cutting them with the waterjet.
The system also features SigmaNEST CAD/CAM nesting software developed by SigmaTEK Systems LLC (Cincinnati), plus a closed-loop filtration system and abrasive removal system manufactured by Ebbco Inc. (New Baltimore, MI), and a bulk abrasive storage system from GMA Garnet (Houston).
MWR has put the Jet Edge system to work making horizontal 1/2" (12.7-mm) polycarbonate splitter panels, now required by NASCAR to provide front down force. The first panel was made in less than 13 min, including waterjet cutting and milling time. MWR goes through 9–12 each race weekend, because they get chewed up on the racetrack. Steering spindles made from 2" (50.8-mm) 4140 steel are rough-cut on the waterjet in 30–35 min, a process that used to take 3–4 hr with a band saw.
Warren says that Jet Edge's 24/7 service availability was an important consideration given MWR's demanding schedule. "Michael Waltrip Racing is a 24/7 performancebased company. If something goes down in the middle of the night, we need instant response, and that is something that Jet Edge can provide. Service technicians are available 24/7, 365 days a year, and that was a critical factor as to why we added the Jet Edge waterjet system."
This article was first published in the September 2008 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.