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JUL/AUG 2013  

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OMAX collaborates on micro-abrasive waterjet white paper

Researchers with the OMAX Corp., Kent, Wash., which recently issued a white paper discussing its efforts to develop micro-abrasive waterjet (?AWJ) technology capable of machining features from 50nm to 100nm, cite a better understanding of microfluidics as key to the development of new processes to improve the flowability of fine abrasives and mitigate nozzle clogging.

The research, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/SBTT) program, is well into the second phase of the NSF project. "The challenge lies in the development of nozzles with beam diameters of less than 100nm," according to the NSF Web site. "The required size of abrasives is so small that they tend to clup together with poor flowability under gravity feed, causing intermittent abrasive feed and frequent nozzle clogging.

"New concepts initiated by [OMAX] to resolve the above issues have proven to be very effective," the NSF added, however.

According to the OMAX white paper, "R&D efforts to meet the challenges in developing the ?AWJ technology and to resolve various issues associated with nozzle downsizing have led to the development of several novel approaches." Beyond the nozzle clogging problem, OMAX also developed beta miniature AWJ nozzles—with and without ancillary devices—for meso- and micro-scale test cutting. 

The NSF Web site noted that novel accessories are being developed to further reduce the size of features created with µAWJ technology that cannot be accomplished using nozzles alone. "The micro abrasive waterjet nozzles and accessories will be mounted on a multi-nozzle platform to upgrade existing waterjet equipment for micromachining and for enhancing productivity," according to NSF. Another possibility would be to integrate the µAWJ nozzles and accessories into a micro Jet Machining Center by combining them with a low-power pump and a small footprint platform tailored for low-cost micromachining.

"The broader commercial impact of this project ... is to develop a new product line of low-cost micrometer Jet Machining Centers," the NSF Web site explained, with the hope of meeting the urgent needs for more affordability in the health-care system by commercializing µAWJ technology for low-cost manufacturing of biomedical components for orthopedic implants.

The OMAX white paper is available for download here.