Shop Solutions: Waterjet Shop Tests Beta Software
Trupart Manufacturing Inc. (Ventura, CA) has been using abrasive waterjet cutting machines for well over 10 years. The job shop first adopted waterjet technology to remain in business when most of its long-run stamping work migrated offshore. The decision paid off and today the shop is a thriving and very diverse business.
The shop’s markets include automotive, signage, aerospace, defense, navigation and guidance systems, medical, consumer products, architecture, construction, alternative energy, motorsports and more. Its jobs can encompass single-part prototype work as well as low, medium, and high-volume production. The materials the shop cuts can range from diamond impregnated copper to wood, plastic and stone to stainless steel, aluminum, copper, bronze for producing components that can vary from diving helmets for the US Navy to furniture that incorporates actual car parts for General Motors.
Abrasive waterjet cutting continues as Trupart’s main manufacturing process. The shop has become quite the expert in terms of using the technology to effectively handle virtually any job imaginable and to do so at a profit. The shop has averaged 30% annual growth over the past few years.
With such experience and success in a very diverse manufacturing environment, it came as no surprise to Shane Prukop, Trupart president, when OMAX Corp. (Kent, WA) asked if his shop would beta test the company’s Intelli-VISOR system monitoring package—the industry’s first abrasive waterjet machine maintenance-monitoring and tracking software.
“We’ve had a very strong relationship with OMAX since 2002. And thus, they were intimately familiar with the work we do and how we maintain our machines,” said Prukop. “But OMAX really wanted us testing the software because of the wide variety of materials and part types we work with. The company let us run the new software through its paces. We then gave details of what we thought needed to be improved, added or removed. This showed that OMAX was open to hearing about both the positive and negative aspects of its software, and we believe this is how the company is able to develop such an effective waterjet software.”
Trupart has three OMAX JetMachining Centers—a 2652, a 55100, and an 80X. The new maintenance monitoring software was tested on the 80X. The result was a 20%, if not more, reduction in maintenance for that particular machine, said Prukop. The software is able to produce such results by functioning in much the same way as service reminder indicator lights on an automobile dashboard. Intelli-VISOR eliminates the need for maintenance personnel or machine operators to keep track of when components will require maintenance or replacement.
“The software alerts us well before situations get serious,” said Prukop. “OMAX is quite precise in its predicted maintenance intervals, and the software has the ability to know exactly how these intervals will vary depending on machine component. For instance, certain components will need maintenance sooner when cutting a lot of holes where there will be more pressure spikes as compared to when simply straight cutting a piece of thick plate.”
Intelli-VISOR makes use of modules that are custom-programmed with parameters for gathering data from sensors and processing it according to the limits set by users. Module data are constantly being recorded and logged, such as when a limit is reached. The machine’s controller PC then initiates an alert that is shown on the machine’s display screen or sent via email/SMS to the appropriate person/people at Trupart.
In addition, with Intelli-VISOR, Trupart enhanced its preventive maintenance planning to reduce production downtime. The shop has the capability to monitor pump pressure, abrasive levels and cutting activity to improve production and accurately predict potential interruptions before even starting to cut a part.
Prior to the new monitoring software, Trupart consistently adhered to OMAX’s recommended maintenance program to avoid experiencing what Prukop refers to as the “trickle down effect.” Such a situation occurs when one machine component is pushed beyond its recommended maintenance time. This then puts stress on another component to shorten its working life, and that component, in turn, causes another to break down much sooner than it should.
With Intelli-VISOR, Trupart’s waterjet machines never reach critical mass stages resulting from ignored preventive maintenance. That is because the software allows the shop to pick and choose “high alert” situations that, if not acted upon, will automatically trigger the machine to shut down completely. For instance at Trupart, if there is a drastic change in water temperature or if the machine’s mixing tube experiences too much wear, Intelli-VISOR will send an alarm and stop the machine.
“This built-in flexibility is what we really liked about Intelli-VISOR,” said Prukop. “It is our decision as to what is and isn’t a high alert, as well as exactly which ones will shut down the machine. The ability to drill into the system and be unconstrained by strictly defined parameters is what really makes this OMAX software valuable. While there are standard templates that work perfectly for virtually all possible situations, the software allows machinists and/or maintenance personnel to tweak settings to specify that notifications are given even earlier in advance. For instance, indicating when a component will need to be rebuilt or replaced.
Intelli-VISOR has the capability to send text message and/or email alerts, in addition to displaying the alert on the machine’s control screen. And according to Prukop, the text and email alert feature is especially beneficial to the shop because it allows the machine operator to step away from the machine and perform other tasks while the machine continues to run.
On the machine display screen, the software not only visually indicates conditions in text but also in clear discernable colors. Green shows normal component function, yellow warns of impending needed attention and red means that the component at any time from that point on could stop working.
Prukop said that the time intervals set by OMAX are quite close to actuality for when maintenance is needed and for which machine components. And he cited high-pressure lines as the perfect example.
“Prior to Intelli-VISOR, we had a rough idea of how long the machine high-pressure lines would last,” said Prukop. “And to be on the safe side, we would change them out a considerable amount of time before that—forgoing any additional line life we might have had. But now, with Intelli-VISOR, we change them only when conditions move into yellow, and we are getting maximum operating lives and have reduced the overall number of high-pressure lines we purchase.”
In addition to high-pressure lines, the software provides feedback for pump pressure as well as indicates drops in filter pressure and supply water tank levels. Machine abrasive supply, bulk hopper supply and carriage hopper levels are also monitored.
For Trupart, Prukop said the software has become the shop’s preventive maintenance tool, as opposed to the more typical practice of just running the machine until components “blow.” He said that being warned ahead of time when maintenance is due allows the shop to plan around the machine’s required maintenance times, shuffling jobs to other machines. Prior to this, such maintenance downtime was often completely unexpected.
Also, with forewarning, the shop can keep certain critical replacement parts in stock so there is no time lost waiting for a replacement part to ship. Parts can be ordered during the non-emergency stages or right before conditions turn to red. ME
For more information from OMAX Corp., go to www.omax.com, or phone 253-872-2300.
This article was first published in the September 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.