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Splitting airs: with the addition of a waterjet, a shop expanded its business into NASCAR aerodynamic components, and it ended with a profit race to the bottom line.

Versatility is a necessity for success. For ITEN Industries, versatility meant looking beyond normal machine tools to solve a problem it faced dealing with a new material.

Founded in 1922, ITEN, based in Ashtabula, OH, is a vertically-integrated plastic parts producer with the mission of understanding and achieving its customers' expectations.

The company's focus has been producing parts for the electrical insulation industry. Parts are punched with hardened steel dies designed and built by the company's tool makers. Close tolerance parts up to 80 [ft.sup.2] are machined from phenolic, epoxy, melamine, silicone, and glass polyester materials.

In 2006, it expanded its business and capabilities to include the fabrication of composite parts for ballistics applications by purchasing a waterjet from WARDJet, Tallmadge, OH. ITEN's first job for the new machine was machining a custom air-splitter for NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow.


Time to Split

The splitter, which is fastened to the front of race cars, makes the car easier to control by using the pressure of on-coming air to force the front end of the car downward. Initially designed to be made from stainless steel, NASCAR later elected to go with composite materials. While the change made the part cheaper and lighter, it also made it more difficult to fabricate.

"When cutting the composite materials with traditional mechanical means like saws, the material delaminates, melts, and in some cases even catches fire," Dan Miller, ITEN machining product manager, said.

The company investigated other machining methods and found that waterjet cutting offered a solution.

"With the waterjet, there is no heat involved in the cutting process, letting us cut complex, high-tolerance parts, such as the air-splitter, from composites, phenolics, and ballistic materials with no side effects," he said.

Other cuts in the part included interior holes and slots that needed to be machined around the splitter's perimeter. When trying to pierce holes with the waterjet, the company found that due to the nature of the material--composed of separately laminated layers--the lateral forces generated from the waterjet stream would delaminate the material.

To combat this, it had to pre-drill the holes. Normally, this would mean a separate machining process. However, the company found it could save time, money, and effort by using a WARDJet waterjet.

Their waterjet cutting machines let customers add multiple tooling processes to the machine's gantries. With WARDJet's cutting systems, it is possible to start with a standard cutting head, which is what ITEN chose, then expand the machine to include multiple cutting heads, multiple Z-Carriages, and tapping or drilling capabilities as options.

15 Heads are Better than One

"Some of our customers run 15 cutting heads on one machine," Richard Ward, president and owner of WARDJet, said. "Others have machines with tapping tools, drills, laser alignment guides, and height sensors installed on a single Z-Carriage, or separate Z-Carriages. Some are even running multiple 5-axis heads at upwards of 3,000 ipm."


ITEN's waterjet began with a standard cutting head, and it added a drill option to its machine. This let the machine pre-drill the required holes at a specific offset from the cutting stream, then move into position and use the waterjet to cut from inside the hole, eliminating delamination.

The shop added another cutting head on a separate Z-Carriage, with its own drill and height sensor, doubling it production capacity. It could cut and drill multiple parts simultaneously on the waterjet, from within the same program. With height sensors on each cutting head, the waterjet operator did not have to manually set the nozzle height. That saves hours of setup time each day. The operator hits "go", and the machine orients itself, lowers into position, and starts cutting parts.

The cutting system has two 50 hp pumps, with a full 50 hp allocated to each of the two cutting heads. A 0.014" orifice combined with a 0.04" nozzle, each running at 60,000 psi with 1.3 lb/ min of 120-mesh garnet abrasive generates the cutting streams.

With the waterjet, the company can make products it never had been capable of before, giving it an advantage over its competition.

"Anywhere from five to 10 percent of our business now involves manufacturing ballistic and composite materials," Dale Maynard, director of sales and marketing development of ITEN, said. "Without a waterjet, we would not be able to produce these parts. Investing in a new waterjet allowed us to grow our business, and open up new possibilities for potential jobs as never before." WARDJet

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Title Annotation:WATERJET
Publication:Modern Applications News
Article Type:Company overview
Date:May 1, 2009
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