Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR; Cornelius, NC; www.michaelwaltrip.com) runs four teams, three that compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and one in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. On an annual basis they produce about 14 cars per team, or some 56 vehicles, within the 140,000-ft2 shop they operate. According to Dr. Eric Warren, MWR vice president and technical director, 75% of a vehicle is produced in-house. And of that number, 20% of the parts are processed with a waterjet cutting system. Among the components that Warren notes: chassis parts, duct work, crush panels, windows, support boards, and foam.
MWR has installed a 4 x 8-ft High Rail Gantry waterjet system from Jet Edge (St. Michael, MN; www.jetedge.com). The three-axis machine has a 50-hp, 60,000-psi intensifier pump and dual Permalign II abrasive cutting heads fitted on a 4-ft spreader bar. A pneumatic drill that’s part of the system is used to put holes in materials that might be prone to delamination prior to the activation of the waterjet system. They’re using SigmaNEST CAD/CAM nesting software from SigmaTEK Systems (Cincinnati; www.sigmanest.com).
One of the parts that they’re using the system to make is the horizontal splitter panel that is used on the front of the vehicle to provide downforce. The splitter is made from a 0.5-in. thick polycarbonate. During a race weekend they can run through three or four splitters per car. This had been outsourced. The time and money savings of the in-house capability are said to be notable.
What is more surprising, perhaps, is that more than plastic, the waterjet system is used to cut steel: 2-in. thick 4140 steel is rough cut by the waterjet and then machined into a steering spindle. The waterjet cutting takes 30 to 35 minutes. Previously, they had been using a bandsaw to do the job; that required three to four hours.