Waterjet Technology
Engineer takes the reins of the family business and aims to push fab shop to the next level

etal asteroids? Most are made from rock or ice but in recent months, NASA approved the next fabrication and testing phase of its spacecraft and subassemblies for its mission to explore Asteroid Psyche, an asteroid scientists believe to be metal. It originates from a planet possibly as large as Mars. It is voyages such as these that innovate technology that then flows down into everyday manufacturing operations.

At Space Metal Fabricators Inc., engineers use the latest technology to work with customers to take concepts and fabricate them into actual products that outfit the manufacturing, automation solutions, control systems, nuclear fuel and food service industries.

The family-owned shop is staffed by engineers, tool makers and fabricators.

Joseph Mosser recently bought out his relatives in the third-generation family-owned business. “It was my chance as [the younger generation] to grow and expand the business and do some new things,” says Mosser, an electrical engineer and president of the Columbia, South Carolina, company. “It’s very important to me that the next generation of Space Metal Fabricators is successful. Adding a waterjet has excited our customer base, and we are doing things that we were never able to do before in house. We are progressing as a machine shop, metal fabricator and automation supplier, and we are excited to see what the future holds.

Instead of taking hours, we can cut the same profiles in a matter of minutes.
Joseph Mosser, Space Metal Fabricators Inc.
“Up until recently, we farmed out our CNC table cutting needs. We realized years ago that we would eventually need a table cutting system, but the volume wasn’t quite there for us to justify the purchase,” he adds.

Space Metal considered both waterjet and laser technologies. “The per-hour costs might be higher but the versatility of a waterjet to cut a variety of metals and other materials is what shifted our focus to that technology,” Mosser says.

After shopping around, Mosser says OMAX’s water level adjustment system drew him in. “Air gets pumped into a box and it displaces the water so all the cutting happens below the surface of the water,” Mosser explains. “Piercing material above the surface of the water allows water and spray to go everywhere. Being able to raise and lower the water level in the tank very quickly became a big deal because we don’t have a lot of extra room in our shop and we don’t want to be dealing with a machine that makes a huge mess.”

The OMAX Maxiem 2040’s A-Jet is software controlled with a cutting range spanning 0 to 60 degrees and can cut beveled edges easily.
The waterjet does not require tool changes and minimal fixturing significantly reduces setup time.
Space Metal uses its waterjet to cut materials
Space Metal uses its waterjet to cut materials for Denver Equipment Co. of Charlotte Inc. to use in its turnkey food-service remodel designs.
Mosser also favored OMAX’s pump technology. “Instead of a hydraulic pump, which can be pretty loud, the direct-drive pump is a variable speed AC motor and drive so it’s quiet and efficient.”
The Maxiem 2040 abrasive waterjet uses an A-Jet 5-axis cutting head and IntelliVisor system monitoring to help in scheduling maintenance downtime. The A-Jet is completely software controlled with a cutting range spanning 0 degrees to 60 degrees and can cut beveled edges easily. The software also compensates for taper and generates 3D shapes. IntelliVisor has modules of custom-programmed parameters that collect data from the sensor suite and process it according to user limits. Once a limit is reached, the module logs data and sends an alert to the controller PC with or without an Internet connection to an email address or a cell phone. The modules also allow the user to pause the waterjet to protect the cutting head as well as the part being cut.
Space Metal no longer farming out its cutting jobs
Space Metal no longer farms out its cutting jobs and can provide accurate, consistent results to its customers with shorter lead times.
“The complete Maxiem 2040 system is a robust, versatile machine,” says Joshua Swainston, content marketing writer for OMAX. “One minute a shop can be cutting 3-in.-thick stainless, the next they are cutting foam, copper or ceramic.,” Swainston claims.

The all-in-one controller computer comes with a 23-in. screen. Its drive systems are sealed against water, dirt and grit. The waterjet does not require tool changes and minimal fixturing significantly cuts down setup time.

The bulk abrasive delivery system moves garnet from the assembly’s large hopper into the “zero downtime hopper” located on the Z axis. Software allows Space Metal Fabricators’ mechanical engineers to use the software to drop files and programs easily.

“The easy programming and file access has improved processing time,” Mosser says. “We chose to network our machine so sharing files between the designers and the shop is very smooth.

“Instead of taking hours to machine profiles, we can cut the same flat profiles in a matter of minutes on the waterjet,” he continues. “Being able to shorten lead times and increase volume is the name of the game in today’s market. Our customers expect us to perform in a timely manner to keep their processes going.”

The type of machining and fabrication the shop performs “eventually leads to automation and process assistance,” he continues. “Our shop didn’t start as a three-part business; it evolved over time.”

Mosser’s skilled people are using the new technology to keep up with increased demand. “Before installing the Maxiem, our team had to wait on parts that we farmed out,” Mosser recalls. “This way they’re able to keep up and keep moving on to more complex projects.”

OMAX Corp.,
Kent, Washington, 253/872-2300, www.OMAX.com.
Space Metal Fabricators Inc.,
Columbia, South Carolina, 803/786-0048, spacemetals.com.