Waterjet and Resilient: A Team that Makes the Cut
Suddenly, they discovered, any piece of stone, ceramic tile, glass, stainless steel or other surfacing material could be cut into a precise shape and assembled, with the same or dissimilar materials, into complex designs — not unlike jigsaw puzzles. And because the cutting process was (and remains) computer driven, identical designs could be cut and assembled repeatedly with exact precision.
The waterjet’s impact as a design tool was felt initially in the natural stone arena. Granite, for example, is very difficult to cut. Before waterjet technology was introduced, achieving precise, repeat cuts in granite was virtually impossible. But the teaming of an abrasive, such as powdered garnet, with high-pressure jet streams of water made it possible to cut not only granite, but also other hard-surface materials such as porcelain ceramic tile.
During the last few years, waterjet technology has been applied to a new and very compatible grouping of materials. Resilient sheet goods and tiles have proven to be exceptionally suited for waterjet fabrication.
Obviously, resilient materials are softer than ceramic and stone, and a waterjet slices through the product like a hot knife cuts through a stick of butter. And because resilient is nowhere near as dense or hard as granite and porcelain, no abrasive is needed to aid the waterjet’s cutting action. The process is very quick and always exacting.
Ironically, most architects and designers do not realize how many exciting resilient materials are available today. If they did, and then learned how all of these could be combined on one plane to form a one-of-a-kind waterjet-cut image, odds are they’d be quite excited with the design possibilities at their disposal. With the myriad resilient colors, patterns and textures now available, use of the waterjet gives designers an opportunity to take their creativity to new heights.
In addition, waterjet technology can help retailers merchandise their product offerings while making optimum use of valuable showroom space. Let’s say, for example, a dealer has dedicated a six-foot wall section of his showroom to installation tools. He could install vinyl composition tile on the aisle floor adjoining the wall and use the waterjet to cut the words “installation tools” from a contrasting shade of the same type of material. The words can then be inserted into the surrounding field tile to both guide customers to the tools and showcase the dealer’s waterjet capabilities.
This same idea can be used as a selling tool if, for instance, you call on large supermarkets. You could demonstrate how they might use multi-colored, eye-catching graphics on the floors in front of their produce counters, in-store butcher shops, etc. You could also show how waterjet-cut logos are used for entryways in educational buildings, floors of elevators, walls of restaurants — you name it. Let your potential client know that any resilient material can be visually enhanced, at affordable cost, by someone with a strong imagination and access to a waterjet.
Generally speaking, any drawn image can be reproduced and waterjet-cut in resilient materials. The cut components can then be assembled into the specified image. In the first step of the process, a design — anything from a finished blueprint to a rough sketch — is submitted to the waterjet fabricator.
Next, the choice of materials must be specified. If dissimilar materials are chosen, it must be determined whether they are compatible with each other. For example, is the cleaning process for one type of material suitable for the other? Are the materials susceptible to shrinkage problems? All such details must be considered and decided before the next step in the procedure is implemented.
Once materials are chosen, a programmer loads all pertinent information into a master computer which conveys this information to the machines at the waterjet cutting station. Then the machine’s computer-controlled robotic “arm” guides the waterjet over the material and makes the required cuts. If a floor mural is particularly large, the waterjet fabricator often will dry fit it on the factory floor to ensure that all of the cut pieces do, indeed, fit together perfectly.
Once you’ve seen what this technology can do for floor covering installations, I think you’ll agree that the new partnership between resilient floors and the waterjet is one that really cuts it!