STEAM Studio purchased an OMAX Maxiem®
1530 abrasive waterjet with a cutting area of 10
by 5 ft. The equipment has an advanced linear
motion system that uses digital encoders to
provide instant cutting head position feedback
to the controller, which helps in the production
of precise parts. Students and advisers can use
the machine’s Intelli-MAX software to design
fabrications and create cutting instructions for
These are some of the lessons that the
STEAM Studio has learned from working with
the waterjet on “Wake” and other projects:
The waterjet’s versatility is hard to beat.
“We’ve cut everything from metal to mirrors
on there,” Sanders said. Because the waterjet
stream has abrasive garnet incorporated into it,
the jet can cut through various materials, thin
or thick, hardened or soft, ferrous or nonferrous, and organic or synthetic. (Of particular
interest to many metal fabricators is the fact
that the waterjet abrasive stream does not affect the metal material as the cut is made. Unlike thermal processes such as plasma and laser
cutting, the waterjet does not have a heat-affected zone.) Each material brings challenges
to maintain accuracy during the cut or to prevent too much damage during piercing; the latter wasn’t too much of an issue for the STEAM
Studio team because they were working with
more durable materials.
What has been the most unusual item cut on
the waterjet? A nearby manufacturer of water
shoes asked the studio to cut several shoes
in half. They were going to use the newly cut
footwear in sales presentations to show off just
how they were made, Sanders said.
A waterjet is good for prototyping. “We
were able to use the waterjet for prototyping
parts in the beginning with little investment in
human resources. As we were figuring out how
to mount the wood skirt of the figurehead to
the internal truss, we used the waterjet to cut
1/8-in. steel strapping to fasten to the inside of
the wood shell. We also were able to quickly cut
parts for fixturing and rigging,” Sanders said.
The waterjet saves time in the early stages
of a project with its accuracy. The majority of
the flanges were cut on the equipment, which
minimized errors in hole spacing and ensured
mating flanges had identical hole patterns where
connections were not square, Sanders added.
It helps to introduce new operators to the
waterjet in a holistic way. In the Introduc-
tion to STEAM class, a freshman-level course,
students get a chance to use the waterjet on
one of their projects. The students are asked to
create a metal shadowbox that involves cutting
angle iron and fabricating the box by welding
it together. The focal point of the box is a de-
sign that is cut out of 1/8-in. aluminum on the
waterjet. The students draw the design, use the
Intelli-MAX software to trace it out and create a
program, put it on the thumb drive, plug it into
the waterjet’s control system, fixture the alumi-
num blanks, and cut out the design.
» Steel strapping and mounting tabs were cut on the
waterjet to fasten the wood skirt to the steel truss
that made up the internal structure of the Jenny Lind
figurehead. Photo by Sara Sanders.
» Artist Mel Chin and UNC-Asheville sculpture faculty member Matt West verify that the CNC-routed wood cladding
mates with the waterjet-cut WT beam. This was the only rib that could fit in the studio. Photo by Sara Sanders.
» Close proximity of the waterjet to the welding shop allowed for streamlined production. Photo by Adam Taylor.
» The final touches are put on “Wake” before its official
debut. Photo by Adam Taylor.