By gretchen salois, senior editor
A steady increase for precisely cut steps and rails for ladders compelled T.R. Welding & Fabrication to invest in waterjet technology.
The Plan Ahead
A capital investment pays off for a new shop owner

t’s a nightmare scenario: you sign the contract for a new waterjet cutter and the following week the country is shut down due to a pandemic. “I signed up for my new machine right before COVID-19 hit and everything went into lockdown,” recalls Tom Racicot, owner of T.R. Welding & Fabrication LLC. His fear didn’t linger, however. Within a week he was back to focusing on the survival of his business with the help of his new machine.

Racicot is used to making risky decisions. After working full-time for 15 years for another employer, he took a leap of faith and started T.R. Welding & Fabrication. The decision felt right when he began to accept requests from customers before he had a welding torch to do the work.

“I was working for my employer during the week and hustling on the weekends,” he says. “I started getting more and more work and realized it was time to rent an actual space and pursue my business full-time.” For months, every dollar Racicot brought in went toward rent and new equipment. “Once I made the commitment, that was it—there was no turning back.”

a machine that is constructed from steel and is ball screw driven
Each Flow machine is constructed from steel and is ball screw driven with THK components (ball screws and rails).
Since then, Wappingers Falls, New York-based T.R. Welding & Fabrication’s workload has kept steady. When demand required precisely cut steps and rails for ladder projects, Racicot decided to invest in a new cutting machine. “The more orders we received, the more we realized we needed to be able to cut parts to keep up,” he says. “We were using an old CNC plasma table and press brake, and it was time to upgrade.”
Making choices
After surveying options at a couple of trade shows, Racicot felt overwhelmed with the choices. “I didn’t know where to begin,” he says. “Versatility was big for me, which is why I stayed away from a laser machine. I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself.”
He watched countless videos of different cutting machines on YouTube, read reviews and decided to go with waterjet technology. Of all the machines he looked at, the Mach 500 4020 with 50 horsepower and a 94,000 psi intensifier pump from Flow Waterjet stood out. “It’s an impressive machine, and it looks great on the shop floor,” Racicot says. “The more I read about it, the more I saw of the machine, I knew that’s what I wanted in my shop.

“I buy my machines like someone else would buy their dream car,” he continues. “Instead of cars, I spend my money on equipment for the shop, and I love it.”

I stayed away from a laser machine because I needed versatility and didn’t want to pigeonhole myself.
Tom Racicot, T.R. Welding & Fabrication LLC
The Mach 500 includes a Dynamic XD cutting head with 5-axis angled cutting capabilities reaching more than 60 degrees. “The high pressure 94,000 psi intensifier pump allows T.R. Welding & Fabrication to cut faster and at a lower cost than a different system,” says Jody Bleiman, regional business manager at Flow Waterjet, headquartered in Kent, Washington. “Our 5-axis DWJ/XD cutting head offers faster cycle times and tighter tolerances than available elsewhere. This machine also has 12-in.-thick cutting capability on any material.”

Each Flow machine is constructed from steel and is ball screw driven with THK components (ball screws and rails). “Waterjets are high pressure systems,” Bleiman says. “We know that the accuracy and longevity of these machines are dependent on the rugged construction.

a cutting head that offers fast cycle times and tight tolerances
Flow’s 5-axis DWJ/XD cutting head offers fast cycle times and tight tolerances.
“Flow waterjets tend to be twice as heavy as the same size machine offered by our competitors,” Bleiman continues. “This is because of our superior robust construction.”
Fast down the line
Since installing the Mach 500, Racicot says processing time has significantly decreased. “Compared to cutting on the plasma, everything is coming off the waterjet faster and ready for the press brake,” Racicot says. “We’re not stalling the process to perform secondary processing on cut parts. It’s ready to move on to the next step.”

There are four other workers on the shop floor in addition to Racicot himself. His wife is the office manager and altogether, the business is doing well. The biggest struggle is finding a larger space. “We’re working on a lot of structural projects and we’re running out of room. We’re operating a 12-ft., 230-ton press brake and a waterjet in a 3,200-sq.-ft. facility,” he says. “Our goal is to find space to accommodate our machines and workload.”

While the long-term effects of the pandemic on his business remain unknown, Racicot is confident in the future. “Right now we’re focusing on sustaining the work we have,” he says. “We’ve been expanding each year and despite the current COVID-19 situation, we’re focusing on keeping everyone here employed. The work is still coming in.”

Flow Waterjet,
Kent, Washington, 800/526-4800, FlowWaterjet.com.
T.R. Welding & Fabrication LLC,
Wappingers Falls, New York, 845/590-4437, trweldingandfabrication.com.