As more manufacturers have come to appreciate the production capabilities of abrasive waterjet machining, the process has grown increasingly viable as an alternative to other material cutting technologies. But the waterjet machining industry has remained fragmented with a multitude of operators. Waterjet consulting group Easijet, Inc. (Tallmadge, OH) is trying to bring a single face to that industry, however, with the launch of the "Waterjet Connection." This new venture combines the resources of existing waterjet machining companies across the United States, acting as a single agent through which their services are marketed.
According to Easijet's Richard Ward, this consortium makes sense as it couples nationwide production capabilities with deep process expertise. He says, "Because the group has members specializing in nearly every application addressed to date, customers can be assured of being directed to the provider who can professionally meet their requirements. From smaller high tolerance two-axis CNC systems to multiple-head three-axis systems on tables over 20 by 8 feet, to large five-axis ultra high-tolerance machining systems."
Mr. Ward also argues for the viability of the process itself: "With the versatility of abrasive waterjet machining, virtually all materials known--from composites to standard sheet stock of alloys--can be cut efficiently. The waterjet machining process can be described as an accelerated erosion process under controlled conditions. There is no heat generated by the process, so there are no heat-affected zones, and burring can be reduced or eliminated depending on the applications. In the past, it has been difficult to hold tight tolerances, but with the development of machinery specifically for waterjet machining, it is now common to have tolerances of 0.003 inch specified, and met."
Included in the network are businesses specializing in stone cutting, architectural work and steel suppliers offering pre-blanked stock. But also included are more traditional fabricating shops that additionally offer laser, plasma, milling, welding and some assembly capabilities.
The Waterjet Connection has begun advertising in national magazines, with all ads listing the central office phone number in Ohio. Callers are asked for their location and then directed to the nearest qualified waterjet business. Meanwhile, the data about the caller is forwarded to the waterjet business via E-mail or fax. If the local provider comes to realize that the work could be performed more efficiently by an associate member, the work is referred to the associate. This, says Mr. Ward, provides one-stop service for the customer as well as very competitive pricing since it allows each shop to concentrate on its key strengths.
Another cost advantage is that the Waterjet Connection utilizes the combined buying power of the group to purchase consumables in bulk. It takes no finders fee or commission from its service, instead generating revenue through subscription fees to its members. Mr. Ward claims that the savings on the bulk purchasing alone is enough to cover the membership fee, which has gotten the venture up and running quickly.