On the Cutting Edge: High-Pressure Waterjets

Two areas of business, one solution. thyssenkrupp Materials Services and Uhde High Pressure Technologies worked together to develop a standardized cutter that uses a high-pressure waterjet.

There’s hardly a material in existence that can withstand this waterjet – despite the fact that the jet is just 0.25 millimeters thick. The water hits the surface of the metal at a pressure of 6,000 bars, and it cuts like a hot knife through butter. The jet slices through the 25 centimeters of aluminum as though it were mere foam.

The system has been a huge boon to Rob Faraci’s business. He is the Plant Manager for Copper and Brass Sales Division in South Bend, Indiana. From its location in Indiana, the plant ships out parts to the automotive, aviation, oil, and medical technology industries. “We used to use contour saws to cut forms out of aluminium, copper and stainless steel,” says Faraci. “But the waterjet is much more precise and efficient, and it produces less waste.”

Tapping Expertise

Faraci’s plant is home to one of two new waterjet cutters that were developed as part of a partnership between Copper and Brass and Uhde High Pressure Technologies, the Group's own specialist for industrial high pressure technology. It was a cross-division project – and a year ago, no one would have thought it possible. “The Group unfortunately isn’t aware of just how extensive our expertise is,” says Andreas Bröcker, CEO Uhde High Pressure Technologies. “The contact for this project came about because we manufacture high-pressure pumps. The fact that we are also capable of producing entire waterjet technology systems came as a pleasant surprise.”

It also led to the creation of an international thyssenkrupp standard. Thomas Materna, who heads the Technology division at thyssenkrupp Materials Services in Mülheim, was looking for technology to cut a wide range of materials quickly and flexibly. “We realized that we could improve our chances on the market if we were able to deliver precisely cut components instead of the roughly formed raw materials we had previously provided,” he says. “We are able to service our customers better with components that are closer to their final form.”

The waterjet is much more precise and efficient.

Rob Faraci, Plant Manager for Copper and Brass Sales Division in South Bend, Indiana

Pooling Expertise

Cutting technology that uses a high-pressure waterjet turned out to be an ideal solution. “It offers significant advantages compared to traditional technologies such as sawing, milling, and drilling,” says Materna. “With such high levels of precision, we can even cut 3D shapes more quickly.” The angle of the jet can be altered to accommodate slanted edges. And unlike with laser cutting, the material will not be compromised by heat.

Materna unexpectedly found the expertise he needed within his own Group. Together, the project partners built up thyssenkrupp’s cross-border expertise in waterjet technology – it took a lot of hard work and persuasion, but in the end, they achieved their goal. “The result was a state-of-the-art system with two cutting heads that can operate independently of one another. They are each supplied with water by two pumps. Similar requirements and materials mean that they can be used around the world,” says Uhde Product Manager Holger Werth. A service network and a guaranteed spare parts supply were set up for this purpose. “The standard is an internal benchmark. It allows thyssenkrupp to present itself with a new competence on international markets, to approach new customers and to generate additional business.” This is already a reality for Rob Faraci. “We are given value-added contracts.” That’s because waterjet cutters are able to produce special, often very complex forms from a customer’s drawings. “We could never take cutting jobs like this before because they were simply too complex.” Now they are able to deliver materials that are practically finished products. James Baber is responsible for special projects at Copper and Brass, and he is delighted with the new business area. Says Baber: “We are able to take over an additional step for the customer. So they save time and costs, and we expand our service offering.”