AMRC adds waterjet capabilities

The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at the University of Sheffield (U.K.) has increased its waterjet capabilities with the addition of a WARDJet GCM-series waterjet cutting machine.

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The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at the University of Sheffield (Sheffield, U.K.) reported on Feb. 1 that more than 100 manufacturers visited the facility in January to find out about the capabilities of its giant new waterjet machine.

The two-day open house (held Jan. 30-31) was organized in partnership with WARDJet (Tallmadge, Ohio, USA), a Tier 1 member of the AMRC with Boeing, which has provided its world-leading waterjet technology to the centre.

The AMRC's GCM-series waterjet machine is a giant gantry-style composite milling center that combines WARDJet's proven waterjet technology with high-speed 5-axis machining, providing highly efficient and flexible cutting of composites and metals. With more than 1.5m/4.9 ft of vertical travel for the cutting head and 4m/13.1 ft of cross-beam travel, it is one of the world’s largest combined waterjet-machining centers.

To show the abilities of the 5-axis waterjet cutter, Adam Carder of WARDJet used the GCM to cut the two partners' logos into a large cylinder made of carbon fiber composites (click here for video). The design was then finished using the center's milling head.

"The cylinder had a two-and-a-half foot vertical wall, which made it a challenge – you can't do that with the usual five-axis machine," says Carder. "It shows the unique capabilities of this 5-axis, and the sophistication of the software to programme it."

The GCM was tailor-made by WARDJet to fit the available space at the AMRC Factory of the Future, and to showcase the state of the art in waterjet machining.

"This machine combines CNC milling and waterjet, so we can put a part down and get the best of both worlds," Rich Ward, president and founder of WARDJet, told delegates at the event. "We're also looking at putting metrology onto that machine, so we can carry out 3-D imaging of the part and compare that to the model, cut and measure the part and then compare that to what we had before."

WARDJet joined the AMRC with Boeing in 2009, and recently renewed its membership for another three years. AMRC researchers will use the GCM to explore innovative applications for waterjet cutting of metal and composite parts for aerospace and other industries, and new techniques to improve performance and productivity.

"We are exploring different processes such as waterjet cleaning, milling and drilling, and also investigating ways to increase the power of the waterjet," says Dr. Gustavo Escobar, waterjet project manager at the AMRC with Boeing. "This will increase productivity, and allow precision cutting to accuracies of a few microns. We want to bring the waterjet process closer, in terms of accuracy and surface quality, to competing technologies such as conventional machining and wire EDM."