Many customers purchase an abrasive waterjet without really considering the maintenance that will be required, and the best ways to reduce downtime. It’s important to keep in mind that with a waterjet you have a machine that’s combining 60,000psi of pressure with abrasive and water and essentially slowly eroding itself. Virtually every component will need replaced at some point, but this doesn’t mean waterjet owners can’t be incredibly profitable. With a little bit of preventative maintenance, many waterjet owners are purchasing 3rd and 4th machines because of their high profitability.
Water Quality – probably the single biggest factor that can affect the life of waterjet components is the quality of the water being put through the system. It’s important to both test water prior to installing a waterjet, and then at other times during the first year of operation as water quality can change seasonally. Hard water can reduce consumable life by up to 50% while a water softener is an easy and relatively inexpensive solution. Check the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines for specifics but generally low TDS levels and soft water are best.
Check for Leaks – regularly inspect the high pressure pump as well as the cutting head for any water leaks. If leaks are found they should be addressed immediately. A leak at high pressure can quickly cause more serious damage to that component and others around it. A repair of a failed seal is just a few dollars however if left untreated it could easily turn into a repair costing hundreds.
Replace Wear Items – take a look at the table slats and the mixing tube on a regular basis. These items are going to wear and as they do they will affect the machine’s ability to hold tolerances. It’s generally not worth trying to get a few more hours of run time from a worn component when the result could be scrapping a thousand-dollar part.
Use the Software – most abrasive waterjet manufacturers offer preventative maintenance software. Given the number of components on the system that need to be replaced at various times it can get confusing in a hurry. The software will make sure every machine operator is on the same page with when maintenance has been completed and when it’s due. Most of the time this is a free piece of the software that gets under-utilized.
Complete Maintenance in a Clean Space – this is especially true when taking a part the high pressure pump or cutting head. Move these items to a clean room before starting the rebuild. The worst scenario is the dirt and dust particles from another machine tool getting into these items during a rebuild and completely voiding the whole process. It’s worth the time and effort to make sure these items stay clean.
Buy quality waterjet cutting parts & abrasive – poor quality abrasive can have paper and other particulates in it which will travel through the system and end up clogging the cutting head or causing other damage. In addition, higher quality abrasive tends to cut faster making it worth the few extra cents. Replacement parts are just as important. Buying cheaper parts that aren’t guaranteed to meet manufacturer’s guidelines could void your machine warranty and cause irreparable damage to your system. Be sure you’re getting high quality parts.