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The Importance of Quality Control in Fabrication

May 26, 2016MainPathNewsComments Off

fabrication and manufacturing

Quality is a crucial factor to consider in any industry — particularly designing a product or service. The higher market competition becomes, the more quality is identified as the market differentiator for consumers seeking dependable companies and resources.

In the fabrication and manufacturing industry, companies construct components for numerous industries, using the techniques of quality control and quality assurance to maintain consistent results. Though accuracy is essential for every market, when it comes to the precision machining used to fabricate products for the military and aerospace, reliability takes on a critical role.

Human lives can depend on the ability of thousands of components to work together as designed; in precision machining there is no margin for error.

Complete Quality Control Begins With Clear Standards

Most precision machining companies use a system of “Total Quality Management” to oversee each step of the production process, from manufacturing floor processes to distribution. This approach considers the responsibilities of each staff member, as well as the tools, techniques, and materials used.

In order to implement an effective quality control program, the enterprise must decide on the specific standards each product must meet. For instance, products for the Military and Aerospace industries must meet rigorous standards for durability and dependability at every turn. Once standards are outlined, the company must find ways to implement and test various factors in each fabricated product, including:

  • Accuracy
  • Precision
  • Effectiveness
  • Consistency
  • Reliability
  • Cost-Efficiency

Ways to Implement Quality Control

In some cases, automated systems inspect the factors determining the overall quality of a product. For instance, using the same CNC software in a laser-cutting machine for certain parts can help to ensure consistency and cost-efficiency. However, the fabrication company is still responsible for ensuring accuracy by selecting high-quality materials and tools, adhering to standards, facilitating precision through the use of innovative technology, and determining reliability through product testing. Implementing quality control measures for these purposes may mean:

  • Enhancing staff training: A high quality workforce is essential to producing high-quality components. Standardized training means that each component is created using the same consistent, standardized set of techniques.  
  • Upgrading machines: Using the most effective tools for precision machining means that products can be created faster, and to a higher standard. Innovative technology such as laser cutters and waterjets are necessary to achieve accuracy in intricate designs, maintain material quality, and develop customized solutions to complex problems.
  • Developing clear company goals: Management have a role in clarifying the standards all staff members should work towards in successfully fabricating parts and machining products. These standards should be clearly explained and upheld, so that everyone works towards the same, uniform goals. At precision waterjet we have a dedicated quality department that stringently inspects finished products to ensure they meet standards.

In the machining industry, one important part of quality control is maintenance. This means investing regular time (and money where necessary), on ensuring that each machine is performing at the highest standard to produce quality results. From examining errors in waterjet cutters, to testing for accuracy in laser jets and CNC machines, maintenance is an unavoidable step in both quality control, and quality management.

Quality Control Is an Ongoing Process

The final step in quality control for any industry is to measure results. While there are many reasons for implementing a quality control process – particularly when machining parts for critical industries like the military or aerospace sector, one reason will be to ensure that each part meets the standards of the company that machined it. Results gleaned from customer feedback can contribute to necessary changes in quality management, while errors documented during production can be essential to preventing further issues in the future.

The driving force behind a machining company should be to achieve the highest level of quality. This could involve more customer service training, leadership development, and higher levels of staffing, or it could mean making changes to the product, service, or production process. Whatever the cost, fabrication companies cannot afford to compromise on quality.

How a Waterjet Works: The Basics

May 19, 2016MainPathNewsComments Off

waterjet

Efficient and innovative machining companies use waterjet technology to shape and cut various materials with a high-pressure water stream. The thin, versatile stream allows waterjets to be fast, accurate, and flexible – leading to clean, detailed cuts in a range of materials without a change to the material properties or the development of a Heat Affected Zone. For companies that thrive on efficiency, waterjets include a quick set-up time, speedy cutting, and highly-controlled cutting accuracy.

Today, we’ll be looking into the technology behind waterjets, and how they work to deliver a precise result — no matter the task. From the parts within the waterjet system, to how those components work throughout each step of the process, this article will provide a comprehensive look at one of the most popular cutting techniques on the market.

Step 1: Setting Up the System

Waterjets manufacture components to exact specifications, which requires the use of a computerized system responsible for following a design. Technicians place a client’s material on a bench top unit beneath the waterjet nozzle, and during the cutting procedure, that material will either move to facilitate a fixed head, or the nozzle itself will move to follow a pattern. Most moving waterjet heads use a Computer Aided Design program for enhanced accuracy.

When used properly, waterjets can cut through:

  • Plastic
  • Foam
  • Stainless Steel
  • Granite
  • Rubber
  • Stone
  • Marble
  • Metal
  • Wood

Step 2: Creating the Stream

Waterjets use water forced through a tiny hole, known as the “jewel” or “orifice”, to concentrate extreme pressure over a small space. The speed at which the water moves through the orifice creates a high-velocity jet. Creating this stream involves two primary steps:

  1. The intensifier or pressure-pump pressurizes water at levels of up to 60,000 PSI. The water moves into the system through a filter and booster pump. The filtering process is crucial, as water must be clean before it reaches ultra-high cutting pressure to protect components from damage. A water-treatment system removes harmful minerals from the water.
  2. Secondly, the filtered water flows through the small orifice to create the cutting stream. Direct drive or intensifier pumps can create the high-pressure required for cutting. Some machines use hydraulic oil pressurized at 211kg per square centimeter to power a piston.

The cutting stream can move at a velocity of Mach 3 – three times the speed of sound – depending on the water pressure. This process is applicable to both pure, and abrasive jets.

Step 3: Adding Abrasive Material

While pure waterjets use the stream of water exiting the orifice to cut through materials like foam, fiberglass, or soft rubber, they’re not effective for cutting harder materials. An abrasive jet works much like a pure waterjet, but as the stream of water leaves the orifice, an abrasive material such as garnet, mixes into the stream. The water beam accelerates those abrasive particles to speeds fast enough that they can cut through much harder materials. The resulting jet moves through a “mixing” or “focusing” tube to create a far stronger cutting mechanism.

Waterjets can use various abrasive materials, including diamond, corundum, garnet, and olivine – so long as the particle size is between 0.2 and 0.5 mm. Usually, the machine stores the abrasive substance in the pressurized hopper before it travels into a metering assembly which controls the level of particles fed to the nozzle.

Step 4: Making the Cut

Once the component design is integrated into the waterjet cutting machine through the use of CAD software, the device can program tool paths that map out the cutting process. Following the cut, the residual energy from the cutting stream dissipates into a catcher tank, which stores spent abrasive and kerf material.

In some circumstances, professionals fill catcher tanks with materials like ceramic – designed to slow the jet and reduce the chance of damage to floors and underlying fixtures.

Using a Waterjet

Waterjets are effective and environmentally friendly processes for machining that create precise, clean results, without giving off hazardous waste or vapors. As you can see above, the process for setting up and using a waterjet is simple enough for a professional to follow, assuming he or she has the right training and equipment.

If you’ve used waterjet cutting before, how did you find it compared to other machining practices? Do you have experience using a waterjet machine yourself? Let us know in the comments below.

 

What Is ISO9001 Certification?

May 12, 2016MainPathNewsComments Off

ISO9001 certification

A network of the international standards institutes of 162 nations across the world, ISO formed in February 1947. Forty years later, the network published its initial series of ISO 9001 standards for quality management — and since then over a million organizations across 178 countries have achieved ISO9001 certification. However, in spite of this, some companies still question the value of the certification — designed to help companies enhance customer satisfaction by meeting regulatory and customer requirements and continuously improving their performance.

It is difficult to overstate the benefits of ISO9001, as companies large and small have used the standard to great effect. One UK-based survey determined that 78% of 596 certified organizations found significant improvements in their business processes — from better quality management skills, to increased efficiency, customer satisfaction, and employee motivation — after receiving the ISO9001 certification. In other words, IS09001 not only makes a company better for its customers, but also improves the success of that company overall.

Defining the ISO9001 Certification

Simply put, ISO9001 is the international standard for all Quality Management Systems — most recently updated in 2015. A survey of the certification that took place in 2012 determined that, despite the global recession, the level of companies interested in implementing the ISO9001 quality management standard continues to show a positive trend world-wide.

To those who are aware of it, ISO9001 is the internationally recognized standard for creating, managing, and maintaining a system for quality management in any company, and it is intended for use within organizations in any industry or size. As an internationally recognized standard, it is the basis for any company seeking to develop a system that ensures customer satisfaction and internal improvement. Because of this, the ISO001 is the basic requirement of most companies in taking on an organization as a supplier.

What Does the ISO9001 Certification Mean?

Because the ISO9001 means that you are auditing your processes, and had a certification body audit them, your customers will not need to audit your company. What’s more, the clients or customers of an IS09001 certified company experience the peace of mind that comes with working alongside a business with an approved quality management system.

The ISO9001 certification improves efficiency, saves time, and ultimately enhances customer relationships. First and foremost, it allows consumers to see that the organization they are working with has been recognized and certified by a reliable body. They will understand that you have implemented a system dedicated to meeting customer requirements, improving their trust that you are capable of delivering what you have promised.

What’s more, one of the primary principles of the ISO9001 QMS is that it shows a company’s focus on increasing customer satisfaction by recognizing and meeting customer requirements. Businesses with an ISO9001 certification show their dedication to a culture of continued improvement and express a respect for high-quality service, and the customers that they work to serve.

Getting an ISO9001 Certification

In order for any company to obtain an ISO9001 certification, they must have implemented quality management system standards for each area of the business, from equipment and services, to training, facilities, and staff.

To begin with, the company must have a clear understanding of their business objectives and how they can improve their system to deliver a commendable level of service to all customers and clients they engage with. The business must also incorporate quality management systems into each area of the business, and inform staff of their expectations and roles at each level. The ISO9001 application will require a documented quality management system, alongside a collection of procedures and policies used within the company.

After the completion and implementation of documentation, a company hoping to gain an ISO9001 certification will need to conduct an internal audit to evaluate their QMS processes. What’s more, a formal review by management will evaluate the system and make appropriate decisions for the assignment of new resources. Following the review and audit, the company will resolve any issues, and document how and where they were dealt with.

Precision Waterjet and Laser is ISO9001 certified, and is committed to exceeding our customers’ expectations for quality.

 

What Are the Capabilities of a CNC Mill?

May 5, 2016MainPathNewsComments Off

CNC mill

The term “CNC” stands for “Computer Numerical Control”. With CNC milling, a software program controls and manages the behavior of a machine — eliminating the possibility of human error, and producing results that are more detailed, in a shorter period of time.

CNC mills are the most common option for computer numerical control machining, and are capable of performing the functions of both turning, and drilling machines. Most CNC mills are categorized according to their number of axis, and use specific codes to represent certain behaviors. But what can a CNC Mill do that makes it so special, and when might your project require the use of CNC?

Following, we’ll discuss the capabilities and processes of CNC Mills, to help you determine where these innovative machines could fit into your business.

Can CNC Mills Work with Your Material?

CNC Mills function by taking a block of solid material, such as wood or metal, and using rotating sharp tools or cutters to remove any parts that aren’t needed. These machines can work on various materials, including:

  • Metal alloys – such as: aluminum, steel alloys, copper and brass
  • Hardwoods and softwoods
  • Thermoplastics
  • Modeling foams
  • Acrylic
  • Machining wax

While CNC mills need specific cutting tools for certain materials, the tool-to-machine interface is often standardized, making the setup of CNC mills simple, and straightforward. Most businesses can use CNC mills to quickly manufacturer prototypes in their chosen material, so that they can immediately begin testing a new product or component.

Are CNC Mills Versatile and Adjustable?

The defining feature of CNC Mills is that they are computer-controlled. Computers feed them code taken from CAM (Computer-aided Manufacturing) software, which controls the cutting tools.

It is possible to outfit CNC milling machines with a variety of tool heads. Some of these tool heads may include rounding mills, cutters, ball-end mills, and fluted mills. CNC machines even utilize rotating tool ends that can change their angle according to the task, and the computer programming communicates with the machine to request tooling changes.

The tooling used in CNC machines depends on your desired outcome, and component material. Because materials like steel and wood have unique physical properties, they need different pieces to avoid damage.  

Can CNC Mills Produce Detailed Components?

CNC milling can be the ideal solution for detailed prototypes or the temporary production of complex parts. CNC mills are also useful in the fabrication of unique, precise, components.

Although CNC Mills can cut many materials, the majority of the work done by these tools is on metal. As with any other machining practice, the detail and accuracy of the component produced will depend on planning measures and expertise.

When Should You Use CNC Mills?

As mentioned above, CNC Mills are not ideal for long-term, or large production runs. However, a company hoping to create a piece of precision equipment with the help of blueprint plans can be well-served by these tools. A CNC milling machine is capable of doing everything a regular milling machine could do, with the added benefits of computerized precision. CNC mills, when used in the right setting can deliver:

  • Speed - CNC Mills quickly produce parts that would normally need multiple manufacturing steps.
  • Cost efficiency - CNC Mills allow operators to take advantage of raw materials, and minimize waste through increased accuracy.
  • Safety - The automated fabrication process means that the operator can avoid harm.
  • Efficiency - CNC Mills use internal quality assurance detectors to prevent the waste of material when a deficiency is found.

The Unique Capabilities of Waterjet Cutting

April 28, 2016MainPathNewsComments Off

For any business or industry, it’s crucial to have access to the latest, and most valuable tools on the market. While there are many different manufacturing processes that can complete complex projects and produce parts, waterjet cutting is a solution that is rapidly growing in popularity, thanks to its various unique capabilities and benefits.

waterjet cutting

Waterjet cutting is capable of shaping a wide range of different materials, by working similarly to the environmental process of water erosion. The process focuses a thin stream of water, accompanied by an abrasive material such as diamond, on a particular area of a piece of material, cutting it into the shape desired. The numerous benefits and impressive abilities have allowed waterjet cutting to find applications in a diverse number of industries, from aerospace, to mining, architecture, and more.

Following, we will cover just some of the unique capabilities of waterjet cutting — and it may be able to offer for your upcoming projects.

Feature 1: Capable of Cutting Virtually Any Material

Abrasive waterjet machines are incredibly versatile cutting solutions that are capable of cutting almost many materials. These machines are ideal for constructing complex and highly detailed shapes quickly and precisely. Often, waterjet machines offer an ideal alternative for materials inappropriate for thermal or laser cutting, and are exceptional for projects which require little to no thermal stress.

The versatility of the waterjet makes it appealing to almost all industries – as there are very few materials that it cannot work with, including tempered glass, and some forms of advanced ceramic.

Feature 2: Efficient and Fast

The process of using a waterjet machine is fast and efficient, completing complicated and extensive tasks within as little time as possible. Waterjet machines can be set up quick due to the use of advanced and easy-to-learn technology. From there, the cutting head can move carefully across the material according to the shapes and results required.

Because most material cut with a waterjet will require the same head and the same process, there are no changes needed in between material alterations. What’s more, the movements of the machine can use computer programming, which means that workers simply have to stand back and watch as stunning parts form.

Feature 3: Little to No Heat Generation

Unlike many other forms of cutting, the waterjet cutting process is “cold”, meaning that there is no thermal pressure generated in the zones surrounding the cut. The use of a cold cutting process means that metals and other materials can be shaped to standard without accidentally changing the intrinsic properties of those materials through warping or distortion. Unlike plasma, laser, and flame cutting, waterjet and abrasive jet procedures place no heat or mechanical pressures on the material used, meaning that companies can achieve the ideal results, without risk.

Feature 4: No Fixturing Required

Because the waterjet process utilizes a very precise stream of water to erode and shape materials, the need for fixturing is often reduced. In other words, with waterjet cutting, companies will not have to worry about weighting the materials in place or clamping them to avoid mistakes.

Feature 5: Safe, and Environmentally Friendly

During the cutting process, a waterjet machine eliminates smoke, fumes, and airborne dust particles, ensuring that contaminate cannot be released into the atmosphere and lead to operator exposure risks. This can make the process of cutting materials like fiberglass and asbestos much safer and easier.

What’s more, waterjets produce no hazardous waste, meaning that companies can minimize disposal costs, and maximize upon the use of reusable scrap material often lost to traditional cutting methods. Similarly, parts can nest closely together to maximize the value of materials, and the water used during the process can be recycled through a closed-loop system.

Feature 6: Incredible Precision

Finally, waterjet cutting is extremely precise, with typical tolerances of around +/-0.1mm for many materials. Waterjets give manufacturing companies the ability to routinely cut parts with precision, through the use of computer software. What’s more, they are capable of tight tolerances, even when the requirements of the projects force them to stray from straight-line geometrics.  

In Conclusion…

Waterjet cutting systems are some of the most versatile and beneficial tools on the market. The process provides companies with a wide range of unique capabilities and advantages, making it an ideal solution for tackling problems that other technologies simply cannot address.

 

The Best Way to Cut Fiberglass with Safety and Precision

April 21, 2016MainPathNewsComments Off

Fiberglass is a complex and often messy composite to work with, primarily because it contains tiny fibers made of glass and other materials. Because the reinforcement fibers used within fiberglass are abrasive, they often clash with other abrasive tools, shortening the lifespan of the machinery in question, and potentially damaging the material in the process. Many cutting methods also heighten the risk of overheating during the cutting process, leading to further damage.

fiberglass
There are numerous factors to consider when selecting the right method to handle fiberglass, from the discomfort and danger that can result from irritating dust fibers that come into contact with workers’ skin, to the possibility of delaminated composites ruined by burrs, edge chipping and poorly trimmed edges. With that in mind, companies who want to achieve the perfect finished product must take care in selecting the perfect tool.

Waterjets Could Be the Best Method for Cutting Fiberglass

Cutting methods that rely extensively on the use of “heat” generate a great deal of friction, which typically heighten their chances of damaging composite materials. On the other hand, waterjet cutting is a controlled-erosion, low-temperature alternative that doesn’t introduce heat-related stress to the materials involved.

Waterjet technology works by using a thin stream of water directed towards a material at a high speed, under significant pressure. By eroding the material alongside an abrasive material intended to make the tool more effective at shaping harder materials, waterjet cutting offers smooth edges, and precise results. Waterjet systems are capable of penetrating a wide range of different materials, from steel and armor plating, to fiberglass and ceramic tile.  

Waterjet cutters can actively eliminate airborne fumes, contaminates, smoke and dust particles from the materials it is working on. In other words, waterjets improve the working environment, and reduce the risks associated with operator exposure.

The Advantages of Using Waterjets to Cut Fiberglass

Waterjet technology is capable of cutting virtually any material, without superheating the area adjacent to the cut in order to keep material integrity intact — an important factor in many cutting projects wherein excessive heat could damage remaining material. Not only is waterjet technology a “green” option, but it can also minimize costs for companies by cutting off large pieces of reusable scrap material that traditional cutting methods may ruin.

Waterjet cutting also expends minimal force on the fiberglass, reducing fixturing and ensuring that the material remains in place throughout the cutting procedure, producing the same results time and time again with expert precision. Following are just some of the benefits of using waterjet methods to cut fiberglass materials:

  • Environmental concerns related to cutting hazardous materials are reduced as airborne contaminants are eliminated or reduced
  • The erosive process of waterjet cutting reduces rough edges and burring, meaning that additional finishing operations are not required
  • There is no risk of thermal distortion of parts with waterjet technology, or thermal stressing to the material
  • Waterjets are capable of achieving a significant degree of accuracy, and cutting profiles are not confined to straight-lines, meaning that part complexity can be as high as required

Handling Fiberglass Projects with Safety and Precision

The versatility of waterjet cutting allows it to be a useful application in almost any industry. Not only are there a wide range of materials that waterjet machines can cut, but the evidence suggests that the results of cutting materials like fiberglass can be highly improved with waterjet technology.

Through waterjet precision, companies cutting fiberglass parts can reduce the environmental hazards of fiberglass dust and contamination, while achieving a finished piece free of distortion, burring, or the harsh, damaged edges caused by other cutting methods.

Waterjet or Laser Cutting – Which is The Right Option for My Project?

March 31, 2016MainPathNewsComments Off

When planning a new project, it is important to identify the best processes and machinery to use to carry it out. There is often some confusion about whether to use a waterjet or a laser to complete projects that involve precise cutting of materials. Both laser and waterjet are effective, powerful and capable of producing numerous different types of finalized machinery, but they also have strengths and weaknesses. When deciding on which option to use for your project, consulting with an expert is often the best course of action; but you can also read below to understand the differences between each technique, and the advantages and disadvantages they have to offer in preparation.

waterjet or laser cutting

General Guidelines

The differences in laser and waterjet cutting capabilities lies in the material type, thickness of the material, and the precise accuracy required.

Determining whether to use lasers or waterjets for your next project will depend entirely on your specifications. This means asking yourself a number of questions, including:

  • What kinds of materials will you be using?
  • What is the thickness of your materials?
  • What sort of edge finish and tolerance are required for your task?
  • Will heat impact the part?

With the answers to these questions in hand, you will be more prepared to evaluate which option is the best for your project.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Laser Cutting


To cut material with a laser, CO2 gas energy creates a rapid heating process, which either vaporizes or melts the metal into shape. The beam of the laser focuses on a specific area through the use of a lens, in order to allow for precise cutting, excellently finished edges, and highly efficient results.

Laser cutters work best with materials between 0.12″ and 0.4″ thick, and can handle a wide variety of materials including glass, wood, plastic, and metal. However, it’s important to note that some sensitive metals may warm under high temperatures – leading to delamination, metallurgical changes and discoloration. What’s more, composite materials are often not a good fit for the use of a laser.  

Because, at their core, laser beams are intense beams of light, they will not cut reflective materials. However, in the right circumstances, laser cutting can provide exceptional precision — especially when cutting small items or thinner materials. Because of the high-pressure water flow of a waterjet, thinner materials can bend under the force of the stream – making lasers the better option.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Waterjet Cutting

Referred to sometimes as “abrasive jet” cutting, waterjet cutting adds an abrasive material (like garnet) to a water stream in order to shape harder materials. Perhaps the most significant thing people appreciate about waterjet cutting is that it requires no use of heat, and therefore cuts sensitive materials without the threat of warping. What’s more, because waterjet machines produce such a clean cut, there is no need for sanding or grinding around the edges — leading to reduced costs, easy production of prototypes and great efficiency.

Waterjets are capable of cutting almost any material — including composite materials that may not be appropriate for lasers. They are ideal for ablation, structuring and cutting with thick metals, ceramics, and stone, or materials between a thickness of 0.4″ and 2.0″.

Unfortunately, however, some people find that waterjet cutting isn’t always as precise as laser cutting, as the minimum cut-size slit is .02″. Similarly, because of the high level of force used, smaller, thinner parts may not fare as well. Though burring will not occur in the cut, and thermal stress isn’t an issue, the surface of the material can appear sand-blasted as a result of added abrasive to the jet.

On the other hand, waterjet cutting produces almost no waste whatsoever, and releases no harmful residue or chemicals — leading to increased protection for the environment — as well as the people working near the machine.

Making the Right Choice


Unfortunately, there is no basic answer on whether waterjet or laser cutting is the right solution for your new project — as only you can determine which is ideal for your needs by working with an expert. Hopefully, the above guidelines will give you some direction when determining what your upcoming project needs and what to expect.

If you’ve used laser and waterjet cutting before, let us know what you thought of each method, and whether there was a particular element you preferred in the comments below!

 

Precision Waterjet and Laser
Toll Free 888.538.9287
Fax. 714.289.4449

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