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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

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Maintenance Center's 'waterjet' proves useful tool

By Lance Cpl. Joshua Bozeman | | February 8, 2001

It can make a tulip out of steel or the back side of a Light Armored Vehicle out of aluminum.

"Quick, easy, quiet, and cost efficient," said Lee A. Grant, a Maintenance Center machinist describing the water jet, one of the Maintenance Center's key tools in the 741 Machines Shop. 

From a point the size of an average ball-point pen, it can blast 40,000 to 55,000 pounds of pressure to slice through just about any material laid on its cutting table.

Using basic geometry and the equivalent of a personal computer, qualified machinists are able to design and cut intricate patterns and designs in materials ranging from steel and glass to wood.

The water jet is used to cut out weapon systems repaired in the Maintenance Center.
The machine uses a combination of air and water pressure and the gem garnet, which is ground into a fine substance resembling auburn colored sand, to slice solid materials into usable weapon systems parts. 

First, Grant programs a design into a computer. This can take minutes or hours, depending on complexity of the design.

After the computer reads the new design, the user's work is practically done.

Calculating the length, width and thickness of the material, the computer tells the operator how long it will take it to do the programmed job, how much material will be used, and how much the customer should be charged for the product. 

According to Grant, an Albany, Ga., native, the water jet is a great improvement compared to the vertical milling machines they also use.

Grant said the water jet is about 50 percent faster than the vertical milling machine.

He added that it is also able to handle larger materials, cut smoother edges, and has a better overall quality.

Grant reported other qualities include were that it was environmentally friendly operation and the fact that it requires no tooling -- meaning it isn't necessary to switch out bits and drills and several different parts when different materials are placed on the table.

Grant said the old machines haven't been phased out yet, and probably won't for a while, but the Maintenance Center was definitely headed in the right direction.