Let it flow
More and more manufacturers are realizing they can achieve greater efficiency and productivity by implementing ultrahigh-pressure waterjets in their operations. Waterjets can cut a vast range of materials, are generally easy to use and maintain and, unlike many other methods, do not produce excessive heat that can alter the properties of the material.
Waterjet cutting is among the world’s most rapidly growing machine tool applications. While the process itself is fairly straightforward, the materials, technology and design that go into a waterjet cutting machine are quite complex. Waterjet technology uses a high pressure pump to turn tap water into an ultrahigh-pressure stream, which then flows through piping to the cutting head. Abrasive waterjet tools mix an abrasive additive into the water stream before it reaches the cutting head, allowing the waterjet to cut through virtually any material on earth.
Four times faster than the speed of sound
Flow International Corporation is a waterjet technology pioneer supplying the aerospace, automotive, job and machine shop, paper, food, art and architecture, industrial cleaning, surface preparation and food processing industries with systems installed in over 60 countries. They recently partnered with B&R to develop their latest waterjet innovation, the Mach 4c waterjet system.
Equipped with the most advanced components available, the Mach 4c features HyperJet® pumps, which allow the machine to maintain up to 87,000 psi of continuous operating pressure while the water travels at four times the speed of sound. The waterjet also integrates Dynamic XD for bevel and 3D cutting, enabling virtually any shape to be cut more quickly and precisely. Currently, the Mach 4c is the world’s most accurate and user-friendly waterjet machine.
Tim Fabian, Director of Customer Care at Flow Waterjet
"We selected B&R as our supplier because of their products' performance, their global presence and their ability to support and service our customers with parts, service, and technical information, as well as the potential for a true partnership where we could essentially co-develop technology. We needed a company who could step up with some of its own resources, collaborate effectively with our engineering staff and really help us take this technology to the next level."
With POWERLINK as the central communication backbone of the Mach 4c waterjet cutting machines, a distributed architecture can be established with minimal cabling effort. Transfer speeds of 100 Mbit/s with synchronization accuracy of +/- 100 ns make it possible to combine the most demanding CNC and motion control tasks on a single network.
The Mach 4c runs B&R's real-time operating system, Automation Runtime, with a B&R CNC kernel. B&R's Automation Studio software development environment unifies control, HMI, motion, safety and CNC functionality all on a single platform. Flow's customers benefit from easy-to-use software that accommodates all types of material in virtually any size or shape. "When building the Mach 4c model, we took into account the needs of an operator in a high productivity shop to ensure owners a quick return on their investment," explains Flow’s director of customer care, Tim Fabian.
Automation Studio's many features facilitating reusable code have helped minimize Flow's software development expenses and allowed them to focus on stream modeling and other key software innovations. "B&R's modular software development tool, Automation Studio, has been instrumental to our engineering and support staff," says Fabian.
Rugged panel for customizable and intuitive control
For the Mach 4c’s visualization and control, Flow opted for a customized version of B&R’s Panel PC 800. With its rugged, fan-free design, they were able to achieve a high level of environmental protection in the challenging waterjet environment. Customers experience increased perfor-mance in the Mach 4c’s simple and intuitive HMI. The Mach 4c operator panel features two PCI and PCI Express slots, modular drives, additional interfaces and an integrated UPS.
The panel’s custom face gives the machine a strong personal identity and features custom LED push buttons and membrane keys that can be custom-programmed with multiple options to match Flow’s array of machine configurations. The Mach 4c panels are mounted onto a roll-around cart so the user can control the machine from wherever is most convenient.
Intelligent integrated communication
A single-processor controller perfectly synchronizes CNC and PLC functionality into the Mach 4c system and allows for better integration with the motion control platform consisting of B&R ACOPOS servo drives. A failsafe controller with I/O provides safe shut-offs without requiring a complete machine shutdown or production stop. The intelligent integrated safety technology al-lows for quick response times.
The Mach 4c communicates primarily via a POWERLINK network linking the PC with the servo drives and motors, I/O and integrated safety components. The decentralized architecture leaves very little wiring to be found on the machine. POWERLINK’s flexible design enables machine operators to focus on their primary tasks rather than bothering with fieldbus technology. A transmission speed of 100 Mbit/s and a synchronization accuracy of +/- 100 ns allow even the most demanding CNC and motion control tasks to be combined on a single network. POWER-LINK also provides the freedom and flexibility to use third-party devices on the same network. The open architecture has allowed the Mach 4c to adapt to customers’ needs and integrate a wide variety of options.
Waterjets on the flagship
"A waterjet isn't just a waterjet," says Fabian. "And the only way to stay on the forefront of the technology is to invest significantly in the R&D effort. That’s how we maintain our position as the top waterjet provider in the world." The Mach 4c is considered the flagship waterjet product from the industry's flagship company. "Our most innovative new products rely on B&R technology," says Fabian.
Flow International's Mach 4c waterjet system uses the B&R software development tool, Automation Studio, to run the control, visualization, motion, safety and CNC functionality on a single platform. The engineering team especially benefits from the simplified software design process attributed to the modular architecture and the ability to reuse programming code in Automation Studio.