Stephanie (Monsanty) Hendrixson served as a Modern Machine Shop summer intern in 2012 and joined the team as an assistant editor later that fall. She currently works on event news for MMS Online and on the production of the print magazine. She also blogs about additive technology and helps to manage Additive Manufacturing magazine as its associate editor. Stephanie holds an M.A. in professional writing from the University of Cincinnati and a B.A. in English literature and history from the University of Mount Union.
Shown here on display at IMTS 2014, Esab’s Hydrocut LX combines waterjet and plasma cutting for greater efficiency.
One advantage of cutting metal parts with a waterjet is the lack of heat distortion and mechanical stress, which translates into more accurate cuts. However, there’s usually a trade-off in speed for this precision. Depending on the type of material and its thickness, other processes like laser or plasma cutting may be able to cut more quickly and at lower cost than waterjet, though less accurately.
Machines that combine waterjet cutting with other processes can offer higher productivity and faster cycle times as a result. For example, the Hydrocut LX system from ESAB Cutting Systems combines the accuracy of waterjet cutting with a plasma system on the same gantry. The system enables precision without sacrificing speed on every cut, the company says. High-precision contours can be cut with the waterjet while non-critical contours can be cut with plasma for cost and time savings. The waterjet can also be configured with oxy-fuel cutting, plasma or ink jet marking, and drilling capabilities.
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Attendees at this year’s biggest metalworking shows—IMTS and JIMTOF, to name just two—were treated to a slew of machining center releases. The December product slideshow covers some of these new VMCs, HMCs and five-axis machines. Some common features of these machines include configurable options, automatic pallet changers and support for additional automation. Check out the photos and captions by clicking on the photo above, or visit the Machining Centers & Milling Machines Zone for more on machining centers.
It makes sense to cut, mill, drill or tap a workpiece on the machine best-suited to the task, but sometimes it makes even more sense to assemble the machine tool specifically for the workpiece. Suhner Automation offers a range of machining units that can be combined into complete machining systems for large runs of specialized parts, especially those that are bulky or awkwardly shaped such as automotive and aerospace components.
The machining units, which can perform sawing, milling, drilling and tapping processes, can be arranged to operate simultaneously or in sequence. A display at the company’s IMTS booth, for example, showed how multiple drilling units could be arranged to drill multiple holes on the interior of a Corvette door in one pass (pictured above). Meanwhile, a separate demonstration featured a machining center consisting of four different types of machining units to demonstrate how workpieces could be machined complete in a single setup. Each time the machine indexed, it produced a finished part.
Each machining unit consists of a pneumatic spindle and toolholder with a durable cast iron body. The units are available in a range of different sizes with through-coolant variations and can be equipped with servomotors and ballscrews for greater accuracy. Suhner also provides the enclosures and systems necessary to form complete machining centers with the modular units.
Flip through the Modern Equipment Review Spotlight on laser and waterjet machining in November’s issue, and you might notice evidence of a current industry trend: Builders are creating machines that can perform multiple processes. Examples include:
Esab’s Hydrocut LX, a combination waterjet and plasma cutting system;
Trumpf’s TruLaser Cell 3000, a laser cutting and welding machine; and
Tsugami’s S206-II, a Swiss-type lathe that’s also equipped with a laser cutting system.