Adding Abrasive Waterjet Can Increase Profitability for CNC Milling Operations

Manufacturing companies with CNC mills often find that adding waterjet machines to cut near-net shapes before milling decreases their cost per part by reducing overall part production time, reducing the amount of wasted work material, and reducing the cost of consumables.

Adding waterjet capability can also enable a shop to expand into new markets, cutting materials they previously couldn’t handle, or taking on quick-turn prototyping work.

How Adding Abrasive Waterjet Increases CNC Milling Profitability

Abrasive waterjet machining is one of the fastest growing machining technologies in manufacturing, partly due to how well it complements a shop’s existing machine investments, such as CNC mills.

Smart businesses continuously look for purchases that will increase their productivity and reduce production costs. An abrasive waterjet can do exactly that by streamlining workflows and wasting less material.

Better Material Use Reduces Production Costs

Waterjet machining is a cold process that doesn’t warp, harden or stress the material during cutting. The cut edge quality is very good and typically doesn’t require secondary operations to smooth the edge finish.

Since there’s no heat-affected zone and a small kerf, waterjet cut parts can be tightly nested on a workpiece.

With thermal cutting processes such as plasma and laser, the cut edges are melted, which means more space is required between nested parts, so more raw material is needed per part.

The by-product of waterjet cutting is a slug of material or a skeleton. That scrap material can often be used later for other, smaller parts. Or, it can be sold as scrap to a recycling service. The by-product of CNC milling is chips, which can’t be used as-is for additional parts. If sold to a recycling service, the chips are typically worth less than the same amount of scrap from a waterjet because extra processing is required to decontaminate the chips.

More Capabilities Means More Business

Many shops find their abrasive waterjets bring some windfall advantages to the business. “It certainly has made our whole operation look differently at how we manufacture,” says Roger Hasler of Machintek, Corp. “Components we used to do on drills or mills we’ve moved to the waterjet because it cuts features more efficiently.” With a multi-axis A-Jet cutting head, an OMAX waterjet can easily cut beveled edges, angled sides and countersinks in materials that are difficult to machine on traditional CNC equipment. Some shops now use their waterjets to cut components to repair or enhance other machines on the manufacturing floor. The OMAX CAD/CAM software has tools to automatically generate part drawings for gears, sprockets, cams and other components that can be customized and cut from almost any material. This reduces machine downtime that might occur while waiting for an ordered part to arrive. For other shops, the waterjet addition has meant expanding into new markets because they’re now able to take in quick-turn prototype jobs at a healthy profit.