Cutting-edge process sparkles for Arcadia

When Arcadia Precision Waterjet Cutting & Metal Supply took on a last-minute glass cutting project, John Abrams never thought the finished product would excite architects and glass companies nationwide.

It did. As a result, the company will start marketing its technology to architects as well as manufacturers.

Arcadia's "five-axis" waterjet cutting machine used at its downtown Albany factory was the key. It can turn a three-dimensional column of glass into a detailed sculpture with clean, precise edges.

The machine, one of five known to have that capability in the United States, can follow glass curvature on all dimensions.

About four months ago, Arcadia agreed to carve three-dimensional laminated glass into eight computer kiosks for the lobby of New York City's Time Warner building using the five-axis machine.

"The construction manager found our ability to do three-dimensional cutting," said Abrams, Arcadia's vice president. "He asked, 'do you think you can cut it?' and we said, 'yeah, we'll try it.' "

The company worked on the project 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week for three weeks. Workers cut 26 pieces of glass valued at $5,000 to $7,000 each.

This technology was never used to cut three-dimensional glass before. The five-axis machine's head can move in any direction, sculpting chunks of glass while producing clean edges.

Traditional waterjet cutting machines only carve flat glass and still keep edge quality.

Dependable Glass of Covington, La., sent Will Watts, a company representative, 1,400 miles to witness the technique when it heard Arcadia could successfully cut 3-D glass. Dependable Glass supplied the laminated glass for the kiosks.

"When I was there, I called back to our company and said I was in the 'Walt Disneyland' of waterjet cutting," Watts said. "I've been around these machines a lot, but I've never seen anything like that."

The machine cuts glass with water and bits of garnet put under extremely high pressure, which are then forced through a hole the size of a pen opening. The blast packs a punch of 55,000 pounds per square inch, the same crushing pressure felt if one stood on the ocean floor two miles below the surface.

Precision Glass Bending of Greenwood, Ark., which bent the laminated glass for the kiosks, sent representative Russ Alder to oversee Arcadia's cutting process.

600450 Cutting-edge process sparkles for Arcadia
Date: 14 July 2004

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