Fun with a Waterjet at TechShop

November 25, 2012

I’ve been eager to join TechShop since they launched many years ago in the Bay Area.  This fall we Austin makers finally got our chance!  It’s a great space and is connected to a Lowes hardware store, so materials are close at hand:


You can see TechShop equipment details here: TechShop Facilities  In order to use many of these tools, one first must take a ‘Safety & Basic Use’ (SBU) class.  As the name suggests, the class is focused on teaching the basics of using the tool in a safe manner.

Many of the early members are blasting their way through the SBU classes as fast as possible – as evidenced by the full Austin class calendar.  I’ve taken my share, but was most excited for the Waterjet SBU.  A waterjet uses high pressure water mixed with an abrasive media (60k psi with garnet in our case) to precisely cut (via erosion) very thick material.  Getting access to a precise and powerful piece of equipment like this (supposedly costing > $200k) was one of the main reasons I joined TechShop.


The Waterjet SBU is 4 hours long, taught by local expert Lee Lanford, owner of Heart of Texas Metalworks.  Lee was a lot of fun and great teacher.  We spent 2/3 of the class learning the Waterjet CAD/CAM software – Flowcut and FlowPath – primarily through drawing our own designs.   The last 1/3 of the class was at the Waterjet, where we walked through the operation and each student cut their own playing card (below).


After the class was over, I wanted to take another pass at using the Waterjet to reinforce what we learned.  I used Flowpath to whip up a quick design using the 1st comic book emblem that came to mind:


And here is a preview of the cutting path, in the FlowCut software. The green lines show the traverse path between cuts, the red dots indicate a lead in cut (entry point). You can control all of this as well as the cutting speed as part of your design files.


I then found some 1/8″ steel in the scrap bin, setup the Waterjet and let it run.  The cut took about 5.5 minutes.  Here is a 4x speedup video.

And the result, a nice ornament for our Xmas tree (probably not).


The class was a lot of fun.  I now feel very comfortable with an awesome piece of equipment.  Next step – building something useful!

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