From the vehicles we operate to the structures in which we live, work and use, metals have long played a significant role in our lives. As customers demand improved performance and efficiency, however, manufacturers across a variety of industries have begun utilizing lighter, stronger and more resilient composite materials.
Optimize your composite machining capabilities with assistance from KRC Machining Solutions, a leading designer and builder of high-performance automated specialty machines. We excel at developing innovative processes to precisely and rapidly machine composites without damaging or disturbing material geometry.
Machining composite materials is more challenging than wood, metal, and other materials because they are non-homogenous, anisotropic and have abrasive reinforcing fibers. The abrasive fibers will dull traditional cutting edges quickly, and machining with blunt tooling increases damage likelihood and overheating risks.
While rotary tools are still used to cut composite materials, abrasive waterjet offers improved precision, heightened throughput, and greater consistency.
Rotary tools are prone to premature wear, introduce fraying or chipping along edges, produce large amounts of dust and get clogged with resin. Friction between the material surface and tooling also creates a heat-affected zone. The heat initially melts the resin, which can develop micro-cracks when cooled. Rotary tools can also pull fibers from the composite laminate, creating an irreparable void. In tests by major airframe manufacturers, this condition has shown to cause premature fatigue failure.
With abrasive waterjet, a focused stream of water and abrasive are driven through a composite at extremely high rates of speed up to Mach3! This process erodes parts with ease and produces a very nice finish with no surface damage even at a microscopic level. Other examples include:
No airborne dust
Can pierce material directly without the need for a starter hole
Eliminates most secondary finishing activities
No mechanical stresses
Faster cut speeds
No burrs or rough edges
Lower operating costs
Create complex shapes
No heat-affected zone
No wasted raw materials
The key to cutting composites efficiently and accurately is surface speed. At KRC Machining Solutions, our abrasive waterjet cutting technology starts with a four- to six-thousand-bar water-pressure source. This ultra-high-pressure water is pumped through a .25-millimeter orifice, mixed with an abrasive and then driven through 1-millimeter focusing tube. This high-speed erosion produces surface speeds at the cutting edge of up to 200 times faster than rotary tools.
Waterjet cutting can be performed on up to six axes, enabling both straight-firing and side-firing configurations. The sixth axis is a catcher, which follows the nozzle and collects used water, abrasive and kerf material.
While capable of higher production output than standard cutting methods, waterjet also reduces operating expenses. Waterjet tooling from KRC Machining Solutions offers an 80-hour cut time, which is eighty times longer lasting than a standard router bit. Also, the standard router cutting edge becomes dull during its one-hour cut time, reducing surface finish quality. During the abrasive waterjet tool’s 80-hour lifespan, the cutting edge remains consistently sharp.
Types of matrices Abrasive Waterjet excels in machining:
Types of reinforcements Abrasive Waterjet excels in machining (chopped, woven and non-woven):
Composites layered with metals are common in aero structures. These stack ups of dissimilar materials are almost impossible to machine with rotary tools as each material requires different speeds/feeds and cutting tool geometry. The abrasive waterjet does not rely on these parameters and produces a perfect cut through all layers of these hybrid structures.
With the proliferation of composites in manufacturing, identifying the optimum cutting method for your process is vital to performing in a competitive marketplace. Waterjet cutting from KRC Aerospace offers superior cut quality, reduces part damage risks, improves cleanliness and enhances process speed.
Take your composite manufacturing capabilities to the next level with KRC Machine Tool Solutions. We’ll meet your timeline and exceed your goals.
Contact us for more information.
Many clients rely upon KRC Machine Tool Solutions because we overcome difficult challenges with sound, simple results. We’ll meet your timeline and surpass your objectives. Contact us for more information about our specialty machine solutions.