Water jet glass cutting transforms glass designs with complexity01 February 2007
In the design and construction of modern vehicles the need to integrate large sheets of glass requiring intricate, often complex cut-out areas has been growing, writes Roger Bishop
Now a Polish automotive glass supplier, Saint-Gobain Sekurit HanGlas Polska, has found that the installation of a high-accuracy water jet cutting machine has enabled it to cut out any size or shape easily and economically.
Traditionally, automotive safety glass is cut to size by first using automated profiling machines with diamond wheels to slit or score the surface for subsequent snapping off by skilled workers. Straight-line work is easy, but contours and geometric shapes call for greater skills.
It has also long been possible to make holes in glass of reasonable diameters. What has not been so practical until now has been the ability to produce internal cut-outs of any desired size or complexity. Water jet cutting changes that.
The plant took delivery of the Water Jet Sweden NC3020S machine 18 months ago and since then technical director Marek Sulik with Wojciech Lipinski’s project development team have been refining the process to meet Saint-Gobain Sekurit’s product requirements.
Glass, by its nature, shows up any defect that would probably not be evident in other materials. Surface finish is crucially important. It was found that the conventional knife-edge ‘wave formation’ table normally recommended for use with the water jet cutting machine left ‘ricochet’ marks on the underside of the glass, so a lot of thought and energy was put into finding an alternative means of support.
The solution was both highly satisfactory and simple. The table-top is positioned below the water level but the glass sheets are supported well above it by a large number of freely positioned spacers in the form of rubber collars mounted on top of large-diameter plastic tubes. As a result, it is now possible to quickly position the supports clear of the cutting path for any desired profile, allowing products to be made that are totally unmarked.
In an application requiring the production of windows with internal holes, the water jet cutting method increased by more than 300%, from three to 10 units per hour. Another designer wanted a pattern of 78 6mm diameter holes but such small holes (very close to each other) could not be drilled. This requirement can be met by water jet cutting where the tolerance is just 0.1mm.
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