JetTalk: 5 Tips for waterjet preventative maintenance
Operating an abrasive waterjet, like most machine tools, requires a certain amount of maintenance. However, because this cutting process incorporates both ultra-high pressure and abrasive, “running to failure” can often lead to unnecessary and expensive down-time.
Therefore, a structured preventative maintenance routine will allow operators to get the maximum productivity from their system. Following are a few tips, (in no particular order) for waterjet preventative maintenance that are utilized by some of the world’s most successful waterjet operations.
1. Maintain the Quality of Inlet Water – Ensuring that quality water is being introduced to your waterjet system is critical to ensuring the life of important consumable parts. These include high-pressure seals, check valves, fittings, and cutting head components. Testing the inlet water regularly and employing necessary water treatments such as water softeners and/or reverse osmosis systems, will allow you to maximize the life of many critical components and minimize down-time.
PRO TIP : Water temperature is critical as well. Ensure that you have a chiller sized appropriately for your machine.
2. Designate a “Clean Area” for Maintenance – When performing rebuilds or other maintenance activities, it is important that replacement parts are keep clean and free from debris (particularly abrasive particles!). Designating a clean area for maintenance can help prevent contamination of seals or marring of machined surfaces, significantly improving the life of wear items.
PRO TIP : Wear disposable gloves to prevent natural oils from being introduced to seal materials. They will also save your hands from being stained by thread lubricant!
3. Perform Regular Inspections – Develop a routine for leak-checking in and around your pump, high-pressure fittings, on/off valve, and cutting head. Typically, this can be done at the beginning of each shift but should also be done before starting any jobs with long run times. Repairing any leaks as soon as they are discovered can prevent additional damage from occurring.
PRO TIP : Leaks not visible by the naked eye can often be discovered through the temperature of high-pressure cylinders. Place your hands on both cylinders (or end-bells) of an intensifier pump. If one is warmer than the other, that one is probably leaking.
4. Rotate Your Nozzles – While many waterjet cutting head manufacturers may advertise perfect alignment between the orifice and nozzle, this is not always the case. Even the smallest misalignment between these two elements can cause uneven wear of waterjet nozzles (focusing tubes). By rotating your nozzle ¼ turn at the beginning of each shift (or before long projects), you can counteract the uneven wear, and extend the life of this component.
PRO TIP : Before cutting high precision parts, use a pin gauge to measure the ID of your nozzle. If the nozzle is too worn for that project, replace with a new one. Save the old one if the ID is acceptable for other, rough cutting projects.
5. Clean Your Orifice – The periodic cleaning of waterjet orifice can extend the life of this item. Despite water treatment efforts, dissolved solids can still collect on the inside diameter of an orifice assembly.
This is particularly relevant to long-life orifice materials such as diamonds or tetraCORE. Using white vinegar in an ultrasonic cleaner will allow the orifice to maintain a clean, coherent stream.
PRO TIP : When using long-life orifice like diamonds or tetraCORE, rotate to a second orifice while the first is being cleaned. Catalog operating hours per orifice to ensure you are getting maximum life.
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