A bespoke cover from machine protection specialist Beakbane is helping a water jet cutting company reduce costs, prevent breakdowns and ensure quality.
Cheshire-based Aquacut was established in the 1990s and pioneered the use of water jet cutting in the building sector.
Building, construction and architectural work still accounts for 90% of its work, as Managing Director Stuart Middleton explains: “The majority of what it does is cutting porcelain and ceramic tiles – which can be as simple as trimming them to size or it can involve cutting them into complex shapes. We also cut all sorts of stone – limestone, sandstone, marble, granite, and slate – as well as metals, glass, composite materials, rubber, plastics and even paper.”
The cutting process involves generating a high-pressure jet of water, which picks up a fine abrasive garnet sand and is projected out of a focusing tube onto the workpiece at around three times the speed of sound. This cuts all kinds of materials quickly, cleanly and with almost no thermal input.
The cutting head moves along a gantry, driven by a rack and pinion and running on rails and bearings.
However, as Stuart Middleton explains: “Before the jet breaks through the material that you are cutting there will be a lot of splash-back. This is a combination of three things: the water, the highly abrasive garnet sand and the very fine powder that has been abraded from the workpiece.”
This mixture can get into the drives and bearings of the machines and acts as a grinding paste which can destroy the mechanical components.
Stuart says: “The bearings are quite expensive – it can cost £300 to change a set of bearings – so you don’t want to be grinding them away. It isn’t just the cost of the bearings themselves, it is the downtime too.
“And if you have a catastrophic bearing failure when you are cutting you might even ruin the job you are cutting, and for some of these materials that could work out expensive. So there are a number of benefits if you can avoid the problem.”
That is when he called in Beakbane to come up with a solution. After measuring up the machine, examining the old covers and looking at the working environment, Beakbane proposed a set of polyurethane-coated polyester folding fabric concertina covers which would withstand the wet environment and prevent any abrasive dust or slurry from getting into the drive mechanism.
After taking measurements of the machine on site, Beakbane designed and manufactured a bespoke set of covers and fitted them to the machine.
Stuart Middleton concludes: “We are very pleased with the covers. They have worked extremely well and paid for themselves within a year. I am absolutely delighted with the quality of the service from Beakbane.”