Six-Axis Robotic Water Jet Cutting

Six-axis robotic water jet cutting uses an industrial robot with six degrees of freedom and a very high-pressure jet of water that’s mixed with an abrasive. Abrasive water jet cutting is used for hard materials such as metal, and for cutting thick soft materials.

Comparing Cutting Methods

Abrasive water jet cutting and guillotine cutting can both produce 45° cuts on bulb trim seals, industrial rubber products that may contain metal wires. Abrasive water jet cutting uses a high-velocity, high-pressure stream of water and abrasive to cut through rubber, metal, and many other materials. Guillotine cutting uses a miter saw or metal blade instead. Like abrasive water jet cutting, guillotine cutting can cut through rubber profiles that contain metal reinforcements.

For buyers of bulb trim seals, choosing the right cutting method involves a comparison of manufacturing costs. Compared to guillotine cutting, abrasive water jet cutting has higher hourly rates. Yet abrasive water jet cutting can also produce higher volumes of better-quality cuts in less time. Cutting a 45° angle is challenging, even for an experienced guillotine operator. If the employee cuts too quickly, the wires won’t cut cleanly. This requires surface finishing, which adds labor costs and extends cycle times.

As you’ll see, abrasive water jet cutting can cost less than guillotine cutting for 45° cuts on bulb trim seals. Let’s look at an example to understand why this is the case.

Abrasive Water Jet Cutting vs. Guillotine Cutting Example

A mobile equipment manufacturer needs 30 bulb trim seals. Each rubber profile contains segmented steel cores and requires a 45° cut. A gasket fabricator presents two options for cutting.

Option A is an abrasive water jet cutter that uses an industrial robot for automated operations. The rate is $100/hour and the robot can cut 1 part every 2 minutes for 30 parts per hour. The mobile equipment manufacturer says that the rate seems expensive. The gasket fabricator explains that it includes the cost of the abrasive, water, operator, and the equipment itself. The cutting is especially fast, the fabricator adds, and the abrasive-water mixture makes cleaner cuts.

Option B is a semi-automatic guillotine cutter. The rate is $25/hour and the operator can cut 1 part every 10 minutes for 6 parts per hour. The lower rate may seem attractive, the fabricator says, but there’s more to cutting than slicing through the profile. For each cut, the operator must carefully align the material with the miter saw. The operator must cut slowly to avoid deforming the profile and then surface finish any metal wires with jagged edges. Surface finishing, the fabricator explains, can add significant costs.

For both cutting methods, the material usage and corresponding material costs are about the same. If the hourly rate for Option A is higher than Option B, why would the mobile equipment manufacturer choose abrasive water jet cutting? Where’s the cost savings? Here are the numbers.

Option A, the abrasive water jet cutter, can cut 1 part every 2 minutes for 30 parts per hour at $100/hr. In other words, Option A can cut all the gaskets that are needed for $100.

Option B, the guillotine cutter, can cut 1 part every 10 minutes for 6 parts per hour at a rate of $25/hr. To cut 30 gaskets then, Option B requires 5 hours for a total of $125.

Clearly, Option A ($100) is less expensive than Option B ($125). There may be additional savings, too. Because abrasive water jet cutting makes cleaner cuts, subsequent operations such as splicing can take less time. For the mobile equipment manufacturer, abrasive water jet cutting is the right choice.

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