Expanding the World of Waterjets at Omax
By Patrick Waurzyniak
Abrasive waterjet machining technology has evolved greatly over the past two decades, led in part by the many innovations from waterjet machine tool builder OMAX Corp. (Kent, WA).
Celebrating 20 years of operation, OMAX showcased its technologies for customers, employees and media attending the company’s anniversary open house August 20. On display were new additions to OMAX’s Intelli-Max software suite for waterjet machining, a new MicroMax micromachining waterjet system, and several customer successes in applying the company’s OMAX and Maxiem waterjet machining systems. After a plant tour and technical discussions, the event also included a visit to the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Founded in 1993 by John Cheung, OMAX chairman and CEO, and John Olsen, vice president, Operations, the company’s growth has been fueled in part by its developments in precision waterjet machining enabled by a new type of motion control, and using its innovative proprietary software and direct-drive pump technology.
Early waterjet nozzles lacked precision and were difficult to program. “In the early days, abrasive waterjets were the tool you turned to when nothing else worked,” said John Olsen while discussing the evolution of waterjet machining. “It was not at all user-friendly technology.”
Today’s waterjets offer such precision that a machine shop can cut tiny, intricate features for medical and other micromachining applications. Waterjets produce no heat-affected zone and no changes in material properties, while cutting at low forces and producing very narrow cuts. At the event, OMAX introduced its latest MicroMax JetMachining Center for ultra-precision abrasive waterjet machining. The new machine cuts parts with position repeatability of better than +/-2.5µ and positioning accuracy of approximately +/-10µ at a traverse speed of approximately 2.5 m/min.
Aimed at R&D and prototyping applications, the new MicroMax machine comes with a high-precision 7/15 Mini Maxjet5i nozzle that features a 0.007" (0.18-mm) orifice and 0.015" (0.38-mm) mixing tube combination for quickly and accurately cutting delicate, complex patterns. The system’s jet stream uses an extremely fine abrasive with the nozzle producing a kerf width as small as 0.015" and the machine also features advance pressure controls for piercing delicate materials.
Since its founding, OMAX has delivered more than 3000 systems in over 60 countries, noted Cheung. The company continues refining its micromachining technology, he said, with developments from Peter H.-T. Liu, senior scientist, who has been experimenting on very small, delicate parts. Production gains also have been realized with installation of a new ERP software system, developed by Olsen and written entirely in-house, which Cheung says will help significantly improve the company’s products, keeping them cost-effective to produce at the company’s headquarters.
Improvements in the OMAX’s software continue opening doors for the technology. With developments like the company’s 3D machining functionality (see http://tinyurl.com/3D-Waterjet-Programming) and its Rotary Axis head for six-axis cutting, the waterjet builder is expanding programming for 3D pipe cutting. With these and other enhancements, waterjets can compete more effectively with other metalcutting technologies, noted Cheung, including fast lasers and highly precise wire EDM machines.