Waterjet Cut Urethane Parts

Waterjet cutting is widely known for its ability to cut virtually any material to near net shape. These materials vary from rubber to plastics, composites to metals. Versatility is a benefit waterjet cutting brings to many businesses, including New Hampshire based company, Plan Tech. Plan Tech has been manufacturing urethane parts for over 30 years, providing products for diverse groups of industries. Urethane is a high-performance rubber that can be molded easily, shaped accurately, and offers many different finishing options. We’ve invited guest blogger Kevin Healy, Vice President of engineering at Plan Tech, to tell you more about how waterjet cutting has impacted their productivity. With their vast experience and in-house capabilities, they consistently deliver tight tolerance custom urethane parts.

Plan Tech has extensive experience manufacturing custom casting urethane products that are found in the automotive industry, or any other applications requiring a high-performance rubber-like material with superior physical properties. In the past, Plan Tech would cast each and every part by hand. This process totaled a cycle time of 30 minutes, completing 10 parts at a time depending on urethane hardness. Once we were introduced to waterjet cutting technology from Flow, it has made it possible for us to produce thousands of parts from just one sheet. We were able to increase our process time by blasting out about 10 parts in 10 minutes, decreasing our time by 20 minutes.

Flow waterjet cutting urethane parts, decreasing Plan Tech's processing time by 20 minutes.

Our 4’ x 8’ cutting capacity Flow waterjet with a 60,000 psi HyPlex® pump has transformed how we design molds and high volume cut urethane parts. Utilizing FlowNest, Flow’s nesting platform, allows us to make thousands of parts from just one urethane sheet. The software saves us labor and wasted material with an increased level of accuracy versus hand casting parts.

Casting urethane products using traditional open cast method leaves room for error. If open cast parts are not de-molded in a timely manner, the finished size of the custom urethane products are changed. Being able to cast a sheet and let it cure to its final size before cutting on the waterjet takes all the guesswork out, yielding perfects parts every time.

Adding a Flow waterjet to our manufacturing capabilities has increased our production rate and has allowed us to work on other projects while the machine is cutting. Using the waterjet has eliminated issues with tight tolerance parts with our urethane parts. What took hours on a manual machine now takes minutes and delivers better tolerances, increasing our efficiency overall. Being able to produce high volume waterjet cut urethane parts with extreme accuracy, while reducing labor and lead time has greatly improved our profit and increased the quality the parts we deliver to our customers.

With Flow’s Dynamic Waterjet® cutting head we have the capabilities to cut hundreds of metal backed urethane sheets with no trimming necessary. The cutting head virtually eliminates the taper normally associated with waterjet cut urethane parts while improving cutting speeds, part accuracy, and tolerances in cutting flat stock materials. Having this capability contributes to our improved cycle time over traditional casting processes. Casting urethane products with traditional methods leave flashing that needs to be trimmed off each part after the product has cured. While trimming flashing might be a quick process, going through the process with thousands of parts requires a full-time dedicated employee to complete the task.

We recently quoted a new project for a glass manufacturing company that uses thousands of aluminum backed urethane pads to move large pieces of glass. We evaluated our options to help us determine which production process will work best for this project. Below is a chart comparing our two methods.


Comparison of waterjet versus molding methods with urethane parts

Our evaluation brought us to the conclusion that we were most competitive presenting the waterjet process when we quoted the customer. Our Flow waterjet gave us a significant advantage to process the order in one day in comparison to three days using other methods, improving our delivered lead time to our customer.

Our expenses to produce these parts on a waterjet in comparison to traditional casting is also considerably lower. The rate to run a waterjet for the duration of a project doesn’t come close to the value of a full-time employee. We were able to see a cost reduction by taking a full-time employee away from trimming flashing, giving us an additional 40 hours a week as a resource to tackle other projects.  As we continue to quote and manufacture more complex urethane parts, it is a key benefit to have the waterjet in our production capabilities.

Plan Tech cutting urethane parts on their waterjet, one of the many services they provide.

Waterjet cut urethane parts are just one of the many cast urethane services that Plan Tech provides. We manufacture a wide variety of custom cast urethane parts such as urethane molded bearings, urethane sprockets, and rollers for industrial applications across the United States.  Almost every vehicle build uses urethane suspension bushing much like the ones Plan Tech reproduces for antique vehicles.

Hope you found this interesting! If you’d like to learn more about urethane cast parts, you can visit our website at PlanTech.com.

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Compass cutting warped material

The Importance of Standoff Height, Especially with Bevel Cutting

Standoff height, the distance between the tip of the mixing tube and the material you are cutting, is important when cutting parts on a waterjet. In a previous blog I provided recommendations for proper standoff height. In general, stand off height should be about 0.100” (2.5 mm), or as thick as a dime. When your jet is perpendicular to your part, straight up and down, then raising the standoff will increase noise, mess and round the top edge of the part. You will lose a little cut power as well.

It’s important to maintain stand off under conventional waterjet cutting.

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Tough Applications Where Waterjet Shines

It is true that waterjets are used for common materials such as steel, aluminum, gasket, and foam. But many people feel the tougher applications are where waterjet really shines. In this post I’ll highlight some that I believe best illustrate waterjet and abrasive waterjet capability.

  1. Stone
  2. Composites
  3. Exotic metal: Titanium and Inconel
  4. Thick insulation
  5. Cement board

The first three are abrasive waterjet related, and the last two use pure waterjet.

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Guest Post: 5 Key Waterjet Terms We Should All Understand

I’m pleased to say that we have a guest blogger today.  Colleen Carnagey is a major part of Flow’s marketing group and she would like to introduce to you a new feature on our website that might be of real value to you as you become more educated on waterjet capabilities.

Over the years waterjet has created its own vocabulary. I’m fairly new to Flow (in Flow terms–4 years isn’t much on 20), and one thing I realized almost immediately is to feel confident in your understanding of waterjet technology as a whole, you must feel confident in your understanding of the terms used to explain it.

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The Vital Role of Manufacturing to GDP

When the governments of the world undervalue manufacturing’s impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the result can be detrimental to the economy. The results can include taxes and laws being put in place by governments without understanding the true impact on manufacturing. A recent study by Manufacturing Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) suggests the US has been significantly undervaluing manufacturing’s contribution to GDP. If you are reading this post outside the US then I hope the topic at least has some relevance to you in your own country.

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Geologic versus Supersonic Erosion

The Colorado River versus Waterjet

Waterjet gives the best edge. The surface is unaltered, exhibiting no heat or stress damage.  This outstanding edge quality it is created by supersonic erosion.

Erosion is an extremely gentle form of material removal, however it achieves amazing results.

For example: the Colorado river can erode the one mile deep Grand Canyon in 35 million years, and the abrasive waterjet can erode over one foot thick of granite at 0.2 inch per minute (5mm/min).

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How to Make Your Waterjet Work Surface Level

Great machinists know the need for proper fixturing. And they also know the fixturing has to be true to the machine tool motion. I don’t pretend to be a great machinist, but I know quite a few, including Curtis Waffle pictured below in an old photograph. Curtis is a master machinist with 35 years at Flow. The large bed of a typical waterjet machine is an XY plane, and that plane must match that of the machine. If the worktable is not flat to the machine motion it creates ongoing headaches and part accuracy and quality issues for the operator.

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