Six-Axis Abrasive Water Jet Cutting for Industrial Rubber Products

Six-Axis Abrasive Water Jet Cutting

Six-axis abrasive water jet cutting puts precision cutting in a robotic cell for greater fabrication freedom. 

Abrasive water jet cutting provides a powerful way to cut industrial rubber products like bulb trim that’s reinforced with metal wire. Unlike traditional water jet cutting, abrasive water jet cutting mixes water with garnet abrasive in a high-pressure, high-velocity stream that can cut harder, thicker materials such as sheets and profiles made of rubber, plastic, metal, stone, and bulletproof glass.

Elasto Proxy offers abrasive water jet cutting services and uses an ABB IRB-4400 industrial robot to optimize this technology. Abrasive water jet cutting doesn’t require a robot – but using a robot provides important advantages. For example, Elasto Proxy’s six-axis, abrasive water jet cutter can make fast, precise, cost-effective cuts like 45° angles on reinforced bulb trim. It’s great for reinforced edge trim, too.

Advantages of Six-Axis Robots

Elasto Proxy’s ABB IRB-4400 is a compact, six-axis industrial robot with a working environment of 40” x 60” (101.6 cm x 152.4 cm). Unlike gantry robots, this articulated robotic arm is equipped with rotary joints that combine freedom of movement with dexterity. As the table below explains, our robot’s six degrees of freedom (DOF) supports movement anywhere in the work envelope.

Axis Description
1 Rotates the robot
2 Forward and backwards extension of the robot’s lower arm
3 Raises and lowers the robot’s upper arm
4 Rotates the robot’s upper arm (wrist roll)
5 Raises and lowers the wrist of the robot’s arm
6 Rotates the wrist of the robot’s arm

Six-axis robots like the ABB IRB-4400 can perform a wider variety of operations than robots with fewer axes. These operations, or motions, control the actions of the end effector – the device or tool that’s connected to the robot’s arm. At Elasto Proxy, this tool is a nozzle that directs the high-pressure, high-velocity stream that provides the cutting action.

Advantages of Abrasive Water Jet Cutting

bulb trimCompared to guillotine cutting, a manual or semi-automatic process, abrasive water jet cutting costs less because there’s no surface finishing required. Once a length of rubber is cut, it’s ready to bond. Abrasive water jet cutting is also faster than manual cutting and puts less stress on the workpiece. Abrasive water jet cutting requires water, of course, but the environmental impact is less than you might realize.

At Elasto Proxy, abrasive water jet cutting combines digital manufacturing with industrial automation. Thanks to computer-aided design (CAD) and the absence of metal tooling, quick-turn prototyping is achievable. Abrasive water jet cutting also has fast setup times since there usually isn’t a need for clamping or special fixturing.

For customers with sustainability initiatives, abrasive water jet cutting is more environmentally-friendly than other cutting methods. For starters, there’s no hazardous waste. Any vapors, smoke, or dust particles are trapped in the water and then filtered out. Because it’s a closed-loop system, abrasive water jet cutting also uses relatively little water. Scrap materials from cutting can be recycled, too.

As a cold cutting process, abrasive water jet cutting won’t create heat-effected zones or cause hardening that requires expensive secondary processing. Any heat that’s produced by the cutting process is cooled by the water stream. By contrast, both laser cutting and CNC machining can cause warping, distortion, or material hardening. With rubber, die cutting can distort the edges of sheet materials.

Depending on the material and thickness, abrasive water jet cutting can achieve accuracies measured in tenths of a millimeter. In addition to intricate cuts and 3D shapes, this cutting technique can produce near-net shapes that don’t require time-consuming secondary processing. Edge quality is excellent, and abrasive water jet cutting can make cuts in any direction.

Additional advantages include the ability to create chamfered edges, radiused corners, bevels, and shapes with tight inner radii. Stacking, nesting, and a 40” x 60” working environment can optimize material usage and reduce cutting times. Once parts like edge trim or bulb trim are cut, they’re easy to assemble. To learn more about six-axis abrasive water jet cutting for industrial rubber products, contact Elasto Proxy.

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