In the last two posts I have been discussing how, either with the use of masks, or with an orbiting nozzle tool, it is possible to mill the material from a confined space within a surface, thereby creating a pocket.
There are a number of advantages to the latter technique, albeit it does require a special tool, rather than using masks that can be made from material already available at a shop.
With the oscillating tool, which can go deeper into the part to keep the distance from the nozzle to the work surface short, the corners can’t be as sharp as they are with the mask, since the outer radius of the focusing tube provides a limiting bound, once it moves into the cut. However, for shallower pockets where the nozzle can be further away, then the limiting corner radius sensibly becomes the orbiting radius of the nozzle.
Note that the floor is relatively even in both cases, though in the masked case the view is taken only after the first pass over the glass. With the orbiting head it is possible to slightly tilt the head (it only requires a couple of degrees – depending on the other operational parameters) to ensure that the walls are being cut to as tight a tolerance to spec as desired (give or take a thou).
Dr. Hashish has noted, from some of the early work that he carried out, that it is possible to mill materials so that very thin skins (around 0.02 inches) can be left at the bottom of the pocket. As I will note in more detail next time, it is also possible to mill using abrasive waterjets in such a way as to leave intervening walls between adjacent pockets that are only that thick. If you have never had to do this in a conventional machine shop, you should know that as the wall of the pocket gets this thin, particularly at significant milling tool depth, the heat from the milling process, and the forces on the metal under the cutter are such that the wall will likely have some permanent deformation after the milling is over. Such is not the case where an abrasive waterjet system, of either variety, is used to cut the pocket.
Depths of cut uniformity can be held to a thousandth of an inch, though this requires some careful selection of both the abrasive size, and feed rate as a function of the other operational parameters of the system. As I mentioned last time, and Dr. Hashish demonstrated, as increasing precision is required in creating the floor of the pocket, so the abrasive being used must become finer and more precisely sieved to keep the wear pattern consistent.
There is an interesting niche market waiting to be developed in sculpting, I believe, based on putting some of these factors together. It was Professor Borkowski of the Unconventional HydroJetting Technology Center at Koszalin University of Technology* who first demonstrated that, by controlling the jet feed rate over the target, that the depth of cut into the material (and thus the depth to the floor of the pocket) could be controlled.
If now a photograph is scanned, so that the color of individual pixels along the photograph can be identified, then this color can be translated into a required depth. By then setting the speed of the nozzle over that point on the target surface to give the required depth, then the jet will profile, from the color changes along the scanned path, the depth of cut on the milling path over the target. The details of the process are specified in the paper cited above, and the result has been the transfer of a 2-D image from a photograph to a 3-D bas relief cut into metal or other material surface. The depth control was well achievable using the rotational frequency of a stepping motor to drive the motion of the nozzle.
The initial pictures that were obtained with the very first experiments were somewhat simple, though more than adequate to validate the concept. Where a smoother surface was required secondary passes could be made either in a parallel or orthogonal direction.
Figure 6. Early ball shape cut into metal to demonstrate speed control effect (Dr. Borkowski)
The next trial was with a ladies photograph:
More recently, as the process has been refined, much more detailed profiles have been demonstrated, as was seen, for example at the 2010 BHRA meeting in Graz.
The concept of changing depth of cut, and thus being able to transfer photographs from the screen or paper onto metals or rock was an interesting academic challenge, that MS&T chose to address in a slightly different way.
Consider that the depth can be achieved by changing the speed of the nozzle on a single pass, so that the depth is controlled, or one can control the depth when only plain waterjets are used, by rapidly switching the jet on or off, as it makes sequential passes over the projected picture area.
The first image on steel led the subject in the first photo to mutter something along the lines of putting them on tombstones to remember those who had passed, so the next tests used photographs of my Grandfather and Dr. Clark, who founded the RMERC.
The technology advanced to the point that it was used to generate the plaque presented to me on my retirement from active academia.
Which seems to be a good point to close until next time.
*This University was kind enough to give me an honorary diploma.