"It's a revolutionary piece of equipment," said David Donaldson, president of Columbus Industries Inc., which is located just west of Farmington. Donaldson
first spotted the equipment a couple of years ago at a machine show in Chicago and was amazed at its abilities.He
has had the tool about a month, using it to make parts for area businesses such as Caterpillar Inc.
With the new technology, Columbus Industries
can make a product in 30 minutes that would have taken other machines two days to make.
"Anybody who has something to cut that can't be cut any other way would use this technology," Donaldson
said."It's very good for companies that have prototypes to build."
An abrasive jet uses water that is pressurized more than 40,000 pounds per square inch and then forced through a small sapphire hole -- smaller than the lead of a pencil -- at more than 2,500 feet per second, or more than 2 1/2 times the speed of sound, Mach 2.5.
"If you turn out all the lights, you could almost see the stream; it's going so fast it's beginning to develop light," Donaldson
Garnet abrasive is pulled into the stream of water.The water-garnet abrasive mixed stream, moving at 1,000 feet per second, is then pointed at the material to be cut.The cutting action is a grinding process where the forces and motions are provided by the water rather than a solid grinding wheel, Donaldson
The result: The jet can cut through nearly anything, including steel eight inches thick or brittle clay tile.And the machine can make just about anything in any size, including tiny machine parts with elaborate swirls and curves. Donaldson
cited a 1 1/2-inch miniature bicycle the company carved from steel as an example of the tool's capabilities.
"I've been around a lot of different equipment in my life and this is the only one that's clean," Donaldson
is banking on the new technology to set him apart from other area machine shops."We needed something to make us different.This equipment could cut just about anything, the sky's the limit," he