As owners of waterjet cutting systems know, waterjet is an excellent cutting process for a wide variety of industrial applications. It can cut nearly any material no matter the thickness and provides excellent cut quality without impacting the structural integrity of the material being cut.
But, there's one problem: the sludge that winds up at the bottom of all abrasive waterjet tables. It's clear garnet abrasive and lots of high pressure water just isn't a good combination. The sludge is dirty, heavy, and not all that easy to clean. Current methods of getting that sludge out of the table are either messy, labor intensive, expensive, or a combination of the three!
The most rudimentary method is to simply empty the water table once the amount of abrasive collected at the bottom interferes with normal operations and, using a shovel, remove the abrasive at the bottom. That's what those guys are doing in the photo up above. Though this method may prove adequate for companies with smaller tables who cut a relatively small amount of material, it is still time intensive and difficult work because, as mentioned earlier, the wet abrasive at the bottom of the table is dirty and heavy.
Larger companies can make this process less difficult by using a backhoe instead of a shovel, however, this method is still time intensive and difficult since it also involves lost production time caused by the need to remove the cutting slats, drain the table, bring in the backhoe, and then adequately scoop out the sludge at the bottom.
Method 3 involves hiring a specialized pump truck to suck out the abrasive. This method is quicker than the previously mentioned methods leading to less downtime and lower labor costs, but those savings are quickly negated by the cost involved in hiring a pumping company. Specialized abrasive removal products are also available although these products require a high capital investment or have limited effectiveness.
So what's a waterjet operator to do? We have the solution and we'll share it in an upcoming post.