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.

Manufacturing Trends Waterjet Technology Overview
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.

How Waterjets Work

The Waterjet Control: Inside the Brain Behind a Waterjet

In 1984 the abrasive waterjet was released as a commercially available product. It was powerful, it was incredibly versatile; but it took a special operator to run it.  Someone who was into it – who had caught the waterjet bug. Why? Because at the time, waterjet wasn’t all that easy to run.

I had the unique opportunity to be such a waterjet operator by getting into abrasive waterjet just one year after it was released.  While in undergrad and grad school running the waterjet laboratory and demo center I could reference basic cut speed tables for what was believed (at that time) to be the best operating parameters. The table included water pressure, orifice size, mixing tube size, abrasive size, abrasive flow rate and the maximum cut speed for a dozen common materials at one or two thickness levels.

How Waterjets Work Programming Waterjet Technology Overview
Dynamic Waterjet

Dynamic Waterjet: The Story of a Problem Worth Solving

Taper left on a part was by far the biggest complaint from our customers across the world. As we have learned in prior posts, the faster you cut through a material with an abrasive waterjet, the greater the v-shaped taper. At the time, the only solution was to slow down your cut speed. The problem was, slowing down only minimized the taper – but rarely get rid of it; and slowing down costs shops a lot of money per part.

Waterjet Technology Overview