Flow wins supply contract with MHI

Flow's Composite Waterjet machine tool will be used by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to cut carbon fiber wing components.

Flow International Corp. (Kent, Wash.), a developer and manufacturer of industrial waterjet machines used for cutting and cleaning applications, announced on Nov. 27 that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has awarded the company a second round multi-million dollar contract to supply MHI with Flow's Composite Waterjet machine tool to cut the carbon fiber wing components for a major commercial jet aircraft program.

Flow's Composite Waterjet machining system for the precision machining of carbon fiber composite stringers will measure 80 ft long. It will be equipped with multiple patent-pending "side-fire"nozzles. The system will be built and tested in Jeffersonville, Ind., one of Flow’s six manufacturing plants. The UHP pumps that provide the ultrahigh-pressure water will be made at the Kent, Wash., headquarters.

Flow reports that waterjets eliminate cutting problems associated with advanced aerospace composites because abrasive waterjets cut by erosive action rather than friction and shearing. To cut carbon composite aircraft parts, a thin stream of water moving at three times the speed of sound is emitted from a small, jeweled orifice in the tool head of Flow’s machine. The 1-gal/min water flow draws in a separate stream of fine garnet particles that slice into the surface being cut. The result, says flow, is good edge quality, free of frayed or delaminated areas, which minimizes costly secondary finishing. Waterjets’ low operating temperature doesn’t affect the material being cut. Furthermore, because waterjets exert less lateral force on the material than conventional machines, tooling and fixturing requirements are simpler and less expensive, claims the company.