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Water/Abrasive Jet & The New Environmental Standard

By:  Water Jet Technology Associations (WJTA)

Advanced Machinery Hotline, September/October 2000

(This article is about waterjet technology in general with specific mention of EasiJet and the WARD)

It is a triumph for man that, through the diligence of the few, out of concern for the many, a new awareness about the fragile state of our ecosystem has emerged, and found expression in hard antipollution and environmental protection legislation.

We would be naïve to submit that the environment has long been a concern of the industrial community.  It hasn’t.  However, worldwide pressure and political courage have made it advantageous, for multinational in particular, to develop Environmental Management Standards with the International Standards Organization, developers of the ISO 9000 Total Quality Management standards.  The result is ISO 14000, a paradigm for sound environmental policy and practice, a system that includes internal monitoring and enforcement components, kept on course by independent auditing.  The costs of non-compliance with new government “clean” mandates have made ISO 14000 a part of many firms’ operational credo.  The time is not far off when an ISO 14000 certification will be required to do business in certain countries.  This wedge will be driven deeper and deeper until ISO 14000 is an accepted and expected part of business conduct across the industrialized world.

If all of the metal and material cutting systems of every type were lined up like soldiers for an “environment-friendly” inspection, only one would pass full master – the water jet/abrasive jet cutting system.  Water jet, as the name indicates, uses pressurized water as its cutting medium.  The process is as environmentally benign as a freshwater stream.  Abrasive jet (water jet with an abrasive added) cuts the most ornery metals and exotic materials with an accuracy and agility that is second to none.  Since the process produces no heat, there are no noxious gases emitted.  The detritus associated with metal-on-metal cutting, the oily swarf that must be disposed of at a cost, is nowhere to be found with abrasive jet use.  No special compounds are required for cleanup.  The spent garnet or other abrasive is suitable for landfill.

A recent development, the Waterjet Abrasive Recycling Dispenser of WARD by EasiJet, allows “jet pilots” to impose even less impact on the environment while lowering running costs.  The compact system removes sludge from the abrasive waterjet cutting tank, and separates all abrasive that is smaller than 100 mesh. It then washes the larger than 100 mesh abrasive remaining, dries it and screens it once more. It is ready for re-use, and the operator can top it up with new abrasive at the desired level.  Larger or smaller mesh size screens can be added according to the application.

The less “in your face” forms of pollution are not ignored either.  Noise pollution is an example of a very real environmental problem that receives less attention than its more obnoxious cousins.  Abrasive jet cutting is not a quiet process, and requires ear protection.  However, there are now systems available that allow submerged or underwater cutting, reducing noise significantly.  The imminence and importance of environmental protection and its impact on industry is very real and, like it or not, the issue will find its way to every business desktop over the coming years.

To find out more about water and abrasive jet processes and systems, contact:  Water Jet Technology Associations (WJTA), St. Louis, Missouri, or your nearest water jet dealer.

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