Waterjet machines use a precisely controlled stream of extremely high-pressure water, containing a small amount of abrasive particles, to rapidly cut metals and other materials.
Waterjets can offer several advantages over traditional machining, including environmental benefits, flexibility in operations and materials, and material benefits such as low cutting forces and no heat-affected zone.
The Non-conventional Machining group at the AMRC with Boeing is investigating new applications for using waterjet technology to cut metal and composite materials for aerospace and other industries, and developing new techniques to improve its performance and productivity.
The AMRC’s GCM-series machine, provided by member company WardJet, is a giant gantry-style composite milling centre. It combines WardJet’s proven waterjet technology with five-axis machining at up to 24,000rpm, providing highly efficient and flexible cutting of composites and metals.
With over 1.5 metres of vertical travel for the cutting head, four metres of cross-beam travel, and up to eight metres of horizontal travel, it is one of the world’s largest combined waterjet-machining centres.
Our GCM boasts an array of advanced features that extend the capabilities of waterjet machining, and is particularly suited for shaping large composite parts. Water and abrasive can be precisely controlled at pressures of up to 60,000psi, enough to cut the toughest aerospace materials.
The five-axis waterjet head can rotate an unlimited number of times without having to unwind pipes or cables, allowing efficient machining of complex three-dimensional shapes.
We are exploring innovative applications for waterjet machining for metal and composite materials, such as cleaning, milling and drilling. We are also developing techniques to improve performance, such as increasing the power of the waterjet to enhance producivity and precision, and using non-mineral abrasives to reduce problems with embedded particles.
The AMRC with Boeing is currently engaged in several international collaborative projects, funded under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programe (FP7), to extend the capabilities of waterjet machining:
• Reform – developing environmentally efficient techniques for manufacturing composite components. reform.eu.com
• Eneplan – developing intelligent systems to make sure that machining processes are energy efficient and environmentally friendly. www.eneplan.eu
• Admap-Gas – investigating the use of waterjet cutting for fir-tree profiles in jet turbine disks. www.admapgas.com
Dr Gustavo Escobar-Palafox – project manager
Gustavo graduated from the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Mexico and came to the University of Sheffield for postgraduate study. He leads the AMRC Non-conventional Machining Group, a new team developing a range of novel manufacturing processes. His research interests include process optimisation, machining sensitivity to process variables, and optimisation using artificial intelligence.
Dr Shaoming Yao – research associate
Shaoming received a PhD from the Harbin Institute of Technology, and joined the AMRC in 2008. His research focuses on computational fluid dynamics and advanced fixturing. He also created the concept of precision abrasive waterjet, and developed online inspection and intelligent control techniques for waterjet cutting.
Gaetano Contrafatto – machining technician
Gaetano worked in industry as a CNC and CAD/ CAM programmer before joining the AMRC in 2013. He is responsible for programming and operating the waterjet machine.