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WATER JET TECHNOLOGY CAN CUT GLASS & METAL !
Online Newsletter September 2009
Waterjet technology takes the saw out of cutting
glass and metal
by Ambrose Clancy, Long Island Business News
August 28, 2009
The front of the business – a pleasant reception area opening
into a modern, immaculate office – is not what is seems.
The only clue of what Mark Grindel has been doing for a living
the past seven years in a Ronkonkoma office park is what looks
to be works of art on his desk. A sand-colored marble slate cut
into designs befitting a Renaissance chapel sits next to a thin
piece of intricately detailed glass.
Next door, a room akin to an artist’s studio with abstract and
realistic images lining the walls leads to an open space that is
possibly the cleanest machine shop imaginable. There’s no greasy
floor, no oil-stained benches, no smell of smoke or burning
Welcome to Waterjets Unlimited, where Grindel manufactures
beautiful work such as the pieces adorning his office. Two
waterjet machines – enormous square tubs of water on which you
could float toy boats – are under a movable part ending in a
After viewing a computer monitor and setting up software,
Grindel places a piece of metal under the nozzle and starts the
machine. “What we’re doing is cutting with a ridiculously thin
stream of water, a fraction of the size of a human hair, so thin
you can’t even see it, at pressure of 55,000 pounds per square
inch,” Grindel said.
Within a few seconds the metal had been perfectly Swiss-cheesed
into identical circles.
Waterjet cutting technology has been around for more than 60
years, first used to cut lumber, without much success. Within
the past decade the use of ultrahigh water pressure has
developed quickly. Manufacturers see the advantage of using a
procedure that can cut plastics, tiles and glass without burning
or melting the material, as would be the case with a laser.
Waterjets can cut foam or rubber, but also work on titanium. A
green technology, it releases no emissions or pollutants.
Tarquin Rattotti, president of Farmingdale’s LPR Precision, uses
waterjets in his business, which has been cutting materials for
45 years. LPR started using waterjet cutting about 12 years ago,
but also uses the older techniques of banadsaw and laser.
Waterjets, although capable of incredible work, will never
replace the older methods, he said.
“You can’t get one guy to do it all,” Rattotti said. “And you
can’t get one machine to do it all.”
One downside to waterjet technology is it can be slower than
other cutting methods, Rattotti said.
Waterjets Unlimited works with contractors and architects – that
Renaissance marble piece is a vent cover for an East End palace
– and produces flooring tiles for schools, hospitals and
offices. The company also works in rubber and glass.
Waterjets Unlimited also manufactures components for tiny
machine parts or for use in large vats and ovens for commercial
But “job shops,” as machine shops are known in the industry, are
suffering. A pillar of the nation’s manufacturing sector, job
shops have been hurt by the slowing of America’s demand for
The manufacturing sector failed to grow in July for the 18th
consecutive month, while the overall economy grew – albeit
slowly – for the third month in a row, according to the
Institute of Supply Management. And the ISM reports a gloomy
forecast: “Overall it would be difficult to convince many
manufacturers that we are on the brink of recovery.”
Joseph Papol of Metal Connections, a bandsaw job shop in Bay
Shore for a decade, said business has been off 50 percent over
the past two years.
“Everyone I talk to says it’s half of what it was two years ago
for them, too,” Papol said.
Metal Connections takes large pieces of metal and cuts them for
smaller shops to finish, such as Grindel’s.
“We’re faster on thicker plates and then he’ll produce a
finished product,” Papol said.
The sluggish private sector economy has hurt, but the drying up
of government contracts, especially in the defense industry, has
hit job shops hard.
“Everyone is feeling the recession,” Rattotti said, declining to
put a number on how his business has been affected. “The
recession hasn’t left anyone untouched.”
Grindel said he only had one moment of panic for his business
this past winter, when the sales pace turned glacial. But slowly
business picked up and he’s now confident.
He took a fresh, perfect, waterjet-cut piece from the machine
and held it up. “The only other way to cut this is by hand,”
Grindel said. “And it wouldn’t be as good.”