West Coast Steel Fabricators began operation in 1979 and does custom fabrication work that includes conveyors, bins, hoppers, tanks, trusses, ductwork, silos and much more. In essence, listing what products the versatile 50-person shop has not created would be easier. Besides his regular customers, Hough shares the shop’s fabricating expertise and capabilities with all his other divisions, including the Top Alcohol Funny Car racing team.
A few years ago, Hough looked to expand and diversify his business in the face of the new economic reality. He wanted to expand his custom steel product offerings and elevate component quality to higher levels. That is when he incorporated his first abrasive waterjet cutting machine.
With abrasive waterjet technology, Hough now handles a wider range of production runs, including fast prototype development. He is able to quickly turnaround highly accurate parts without the hassle of tool changes or complex fixturing. Plus, as compared with his other production equipment, abrasive waterjet cutting generates much smoother surface finishes, which eliminates the need for secondary machining in many instances.
“I had long been interested in waterjet cutting, so when I was ready, I contacted OMAX® Corporation. The company appealed to me because it is nearby in Kent, Washington and is a close-knit, family-oriented, United States-based company,” said Hough. “Once I decided on a machine, OMAX had it here within three days, and that day, I was up and running.”
Hough’s machine is a MAXIEM® 1530 JetCutting Center. First introduced in 2009, the MAXIEM line has proven its ability to meet customer demands for cost-efficient, versatile waterjet cutting technology. More than 20 different sizes currently comprise the MAXIEM line, and each model incorporates OMAX’s proven direct drive pump technology and Intelli-MAX® Software Suite. Hough’s 1530 model employs an X-Y cutting travel of 10 feet 2 inches by 5 feet 2 inches.
“Where the MAXIEM 1530 really shines is in producing parts that are beautifully finished right off the machine. We have eliminated up to two hours of finishing time from most parts, as well as gained back the man-hours usually spent deburring and cleaning parts,” explained Hough.
The shop recently added the OMAX Collision Sensing Terrain Follower accessory to its 1530. Since its implementation, Hough’s team has made extensive use of the Terrain Follower. The accessory has especially been an asset at OTI, Hough’s anaerobic digestion equipment division, which contends with uneven part surfaces on a daily basis. Prior to adding it, the shop’s operators continuously experienced instances where the machine’s cutting head would encounter an uneven surface height and automatically shut off the machine.
“Initially, we did not realize the need for the Terrain Follower. Fortunately, OMAX designs its accessories to retrofit onto any machine already in the field, so adding it was fast and easy. Now if our plate stock has a bit of a wave to it, the machine just follows along seamlessly and without any issues,” said Hough. “No special programming is necessary, it just works when we need it to.”
Prior to waterjet, Hough’s businesses had relied on high definition plasma cutting. And while that process still accounts for a large amount of his daily operations, it is unable to compete with the MAXIEM waterjet in terms of accuracy, especially when cutting the shop’s mild and stainless steel and aluminum.