Water jet cutting is now the technology trusted by Boeing, Airbus and the other giants of manufacturing aircraft.
This is an industry where the standards are exacting. Parts for planes have to be cut with 100% accuracy but also cut in a way whereby there is no risk of structural damage or micro abrasions. The fact no heat is created in the cut is crucial, a technology such as laser instead burning the edge to create the cut.
This same accuracy is required for smaller planes too and those that carry fewer, if any, passengers. Safety is still paramount.
Manufacturers of smaller planes use water jet cutting too, and have found it also offers cost savings, this because it is an incredibly efficient form of cutting. Typically, parts would be outsourced, a specialist water jet cutter fulfilling the brief.
However, we were interested to learn of a US airbase where they have invested in their own water jet-cutting machinery.
At Laughlin Air Force Base they are typically working on around 10 planes at any one time. They had found that bottlenecks existed as they waited for specialist parts to be produced.
However, they had skilled mechanics and engineers and so took the decision to invest in water jet cutting machinery and train the existing engineers in their use.
We are talking high-quality water jet cutting machinery, not the desktop-type units that are starting to shift (and, we must admit, we have reservations about).
Buying a water jet cutting machine – a proper, high-quality one – is not cheap. You need a decent budget, something we assume the US air force has.
Generally, it is rarely worth a business investing in its own water jet-cutting machinery. It would take a huge amount of time for the outlay to justify itself compared to just outsourcing cutting jobs to an expert as required. As well as the cost of the machine, there is maintenance, training, calibration, installation, the cost of the abrasive garnet and more.
For an enterprise such as an air base, with dozens of planes, super-skilled engineers and a budget that would make your eyes bleed, it makes full sense.
On the air base’s website, the move is explained.
“A couple of years ago, we only had a few pieces of old equipment that we could use,” said David Mercer, 47th Flying Training Wing fabrication shop supervisor. ”So we needed to find a way to make things run smoother and make more parts better, faster, and with less manpower. This machine makes it easier on our three machinists in the shop to get the job done.”
Of the benefits, he adds: ““I’d say we’re working on about ten different aircraft every day,” said Mercer. “The easier we make it on ourselves to build this stuff the better. It’s going to be better for productivity because we’re working smarter and faster to get things done.”
What’s the takeaway from this? If you are a US air force base then having your own water jet-cutting facility might well be a good investment.
For most, it makes a lot more sense to find a trusted water jet-cutting expert to engage in conversation with. Speaking of which…
At TMC, we are a water jet cutter who serve the whole of the UK and increasingly Europe too, with clients across the content trusting us to work on their projects.
Despite our success, we remain a company that focuses on every client and work on projects of all sizes. If you think water jet cutting might be of use for your project, please do get in touch for an obligation-free chat.
Call us on 01625 610 441 or use our Contact Form.