Blog

General Updates

Big Blue Saw began offering finishing options in 2009 to help parts look great and fit in assemblies. Finishing is most critical when the parts are highly visible or are handled by an end user, rather than deep inside an assembly. Parts fresh off the waterjet often have a burr on the bottom face, marks from handling, frosting near the cut line from overspray, and vestigial tabs from being held in place during cutting, among other issues. Applying a finishing process to parts post-cutting will help you get parts that need minimal cleanup before installation. Now, with our expanded list of finishes, Big Blue Saw offers more options for your finished parts.

 

Raw Finish (No processing)

Copper Raw Resized 
Raw Copper

304 StainlessSteel Raw Resized 
Raw 304 Stainless

 Aluminum Raw Resized
Raw Aluminum
 Brass Raw Resized
Raw Brass
 Raw Carbon Steel Resized
Raw Cold Finished Carbon Steel

This process is the most common option for parts that will not be seen or handled, or if you will be applying your own finish once you receive the parts from Big Blue Saw. There will be some overspray from the waterjet near the cut line, especially at pierce points and on the bottom face. There may be minor marks from handling on the top and bottom faces and from exposure to water. Some metals also have mill marks from the manufacturer. Most of the mill lacquer printing can be removed with solvents or fine steel wool.

On smaller parts where one or both dimensions are less than 4 inches, we have to tab the part to the sheet during cutting to keep them from ending up at the bottom of the waterjet tank. In these instances we allow the techs to decide to pop them off the sheets or ship you the sheet with the parts still attached. This allows us to ship orders faster as well as keeping very delicate parts separated and contained during shipping. If you know that you want your parts to absolutely ship separated from the sheet with the tabs ground down, you will want to select one of the finishing options below or "Remove Tabs" and not raw parts when ordering.

 

GlassBlast Finish

blaster1resized1

GlassBlast Finish removes burrs and surface imperfections while providing a very fine grain finish across the entire part. We apply this finish by blasting the parts with a high pressure stream of tiny glass beads. This option is an especially good match for waterjet cutting, as the surface resembles the cut edge produced by the garnet from the waterjet, meaning that the finish on the faces and cut edge matches closely. GlassBlast finish is a great option if you plan to paint your parts post cutting as the even "tooth" of the surface really allows paint the nooks and crannies it needs to get a good hold of the surface. It is also a great option when you are looking for a matte finish.

To apply the GlassBlast Finish, the parts must fit in our blast cabinet. This means that parts must be less than 24 inches in both height and width. We also cannot apply GlassBlast to parts less than 1 square inch, as parts this small are hard to hold and apply the finish evenly. Parts given GlassBlast will always be removed from their source sheet and have their tabs ground off (see Remove Tabs) in order to make the edges as clean as possible.

Copper GlassBlast Resized
Copper with GlassBlast 
 304StainlessSteel GlassBlast Resized
304 Stainless Steel with GlassBlast
 Aluminum GlassBlast Resized
Aluminum with GlassBlast
 260Brass GlassBlast Resized
Brass with GlassBlast
CarbonSteel GlassBlast Resized
 Low Carbon Cold Finished Steel with GlassBlast

PadPrep Finish

hand sander2resized1

Similar to our older “Basic Finish”, these parts are finished on both the top and bottom faces with a powered non-woven abrasive pad in a random orbital pattern. Many of our signage clients use this finish for signs as the allover brushed finish looks good in a wide variety of locations, and the texture left behind by the abrasive pad also provides a good "tooth" for paint to hold on to. All light surface scratches and mill marks are removed. Burrs are eliminated as well. This finish can be done on parts that are 6 to 8 inches or larger. Got a smaller part you would like an allover brushed pattern on? See our tumbling option below.

With PadPrep, we also remove parts from the source sheet and grind flush any vestigial tabs to prevent them from snagging (see Remove Tabs).

copper pad prep resized
 Copper with PadPrep
304ss pad prep resized
 304 Stainless Steel with PadPrep
pad prep Aluminum resized 
 Aluminum with PadPrep
 Brass pad prep resized
Brass with PadPrep
carbon steel pad prep resized
  Low Carbon Cold Finished Steel with PadPrep

 

SlickStripe Finish

belt sanderresized3

With the SlickStripe Finish, both sides of the part are finished with a non-woven abrasive on a belt sander, giving a brushed finish with parallel lines. While parts with this finish look great on your wall and would make most clients satisfied, this is not a perfectly even #4 standard finish, as it is applied by hand. Due to the limitations of our machinery, parts given this finish must be less than 6 inches in either height or width. If you have a specific preference for the direction of your brushed lines, please contact our customer advocates to set up a special order that calls out belt direction.  

 Copper SlickStripe resized
Copper with SlickStripe
 304StainlessSteel SlickStripe resized
304 Stainless Steel with SlickStripe
Aluminum SlickStripe resized 
Aluminum with SlickStripe
 260Brass SlickStripe resized
Brass with SlickStripe
carbon steel SlickStripe resized
Low Carbon Cold Finished Steel with SlickStripe

 

TumbleClean Finish

tumbler1resized3

TumbleClean Finish is an inexpensive way to remove burrs, reduce surface marks, and produce an even texture on smaller parts. We place parts for TumbleClean in a vibratory tumbler with ceramic tumbling media. This combination of movement, water, and media puts a smooth and even surface all over the surfaces of the part. This is great if you are looking to prep small jewelry parts or electrical connectors before further polishing or soldering. It is also a great way to process a lot of small parts for production work.

Parts which have TumbleClean applied must be smaller than 4 inches in both height and width. Also, the stock material must be strong enough to handle the tumbling process, so stainless steel parts must be 0.03 inches thick or thicker. Aluminum and other non-ferrous metals must be thicker than 0.045 inches. With TumbleClean Finish, our techs will also remove any tabs by grinding so that they do not appear on the finished part.

Copper TumbleClean Resized
 Copper with TumbleClean
304StainlessSteel TumbleClean Resized
 304 Stainless Steel with TumbleClean
Aluminum TumbleClean Resized
 Aluminum with TumbleClean
 260Brass TumbleClean Resized
Brass with TumbleClean

 

Remove Tabs

Waterjet cut parts are often tabbed to the source sheet when cut. This prevents them from falling into the waterjet tank or tipping up and getting damaged during cutting. With Remove Tabs, our techs will break the tabs to remove the parts from the source sheet, and then grind any leftover tab material to be flush with the part. Remove Tabs is available as an option on pieces where both dimensions, height and width, are less than 4 inches. Parts larger than this will automatically have this process applied.

Without this service, Big Blue Saw techs have the option to leave the parts tabbed to the source sheet and ship the entire sheet to you, or remove the parts from the sheet but leave the vestigial tab. 

GlassBlast, PadPrep, SlickStripe, and TumbleClean Finishes automatically include Remove Tabs. You don't have to select this service if you are purchasing one of those finishes.

 

Metal Reactivity

One aspect of metal finishing you should also be aware of is how reactive the materials you are ordering are and how mill materials are shipped. We make every attempt to keep our stock materials clean, dry, and minimize scratching when handling, however, the sheets we order from our suppliers do not have pristine surfaces. Waterjet cutting also uses abrasive materials and a cutting method that is not conducive to pristine mirror polished sheets or sheets with coatings. Most suppliers process mill sheets with a thin layer of oil on the sheet to minimize oxidization. That coating is removed when we apply these finishes so highly reactive materials like copper, brass, and carbon steels will quickly start to display tarnish after processing. While not as difficult to remove as tarnish, the stainless steel parts will show fingerprints from handling as well. 

Most non-abrasive jewelry cleaners will remove the tarnish on copper and brass materials, while many of our techs use denatured alcohol or other solvents to bust fingerprints off of stainless steels. Very stubborn oxidization on parts can usually be scrubbed off parts using polishing cloths or 000 steel or bronze wool. Just be sure to work in the direction of the finish applied. A dab of clear microcrystalline wax like Renissance brand microcrystalline wax worked into the surface of your part can keep it resistant to oxidization. Some metalworkers also suggest clear polyurethane and paste waxes as options for keeping oxidization away. 

We make every attempt to wash and dry parts quickly so that they don't turn during shipping. That said, our shop is in Georgia, which is very humid. If you would like our techs to apply a moisture repelling oil to your parts, contact our customer advocates to setup a special order with that service. 

aluminum

On Wednesday, May 29, and Thursday, May 30, you can save on our most popular thickness of aluminum in 3 different alloys. Orders placed online for waterjet cut parts from these materials in ⅛ inch (0.125" or about 3.2 mm) will automatically receive a quantity discount, no matter how small the order. Let's take a look at the alloys which are on sale:

  • Aluminum 5052: This weldable alloy is most well known for its formability and high corrosion resistance, making it the best choice for outdoor applications, or when the final part will be bent into shape.
  • Aluminum 6061: While not as corrosion resistant or formable as 5052, aluminum 6061 is stronger, with slightly less corrosion resistance. This is weldable alloy our most popular aluminum.
  • Aluminum 7075: For the ultimate in aluminum strength, use alloy 7075. With that strength comes some downsides, however: it's less formable, weldable, or corrosion resistant than the other alloys.

With the sale in effect, you'll be able to get parts in any of these materials for as low as $8.90 each, even on orders as small as 1 part. Upload your design now to our online quoting and ordering system now!

channie julie working croppedJulie and Channie assisting our valued customers.

“I think being able to talk to a real human being about your ideas and how to make them happen is really what makes our business outstanding.”

If you’ve ever worked with us at Big Blue Saw, then everyone in our business family has had their hands on your project, ensuring that when it makes its way to yours, it’s exactly what you envisioned.

Although it can be said for everyone, there's one team here at Blue Saw that really goes above and beyond to ensure that from start to finish, you’re elated with the care your project receives from us--the Customer Advocacy team.

Read on to learn more about our amazing customer advocacy team as we tell you who they are, what they do, and why they go above and beyond for our customers.

Who Is the Customer Advocacy Team?

The Customer Advocacy team consists of real-life humans (not bots or outsourced call centers) right here in the U.S. who are devoted to serving our customers. Every day, they devote their time to supporting machining technicians, handling customer quotes or queries, and supporting everyone here at Big Blue Saw so we can provide unparalleled, one-on-one service to everyone we meet and do business with.

They aren’t just a customer support center. They’re customer experts who make sure that first and foremost, your needs are addressed in each facet of our process.

What They Do

The Customer Advocacy team caters to a variety of customers and they go out of their way to accommodate the most unique needs. That’s why, when the website isn’t quite able to give a customer the quote they need for their project, they step in. In most cases, this is when:

  • Rush orders have faster turnaround times than what the website offers.
  • The material is not stock material.
  • The part is larger than the maximum part size on the website.
  • The part drawing is too big for the website to open.
  • The size of the order is too big to do on the website.
  • There are errors in the part drawing or the drawing format isn't something the website can read.

In such cases, they’re right there to quote your order by hand and source the best price for the material that we can get directly from our suppliers. The customer advocacy team loves the challenge of new, interesting, and unique projects, and they go a step above the rest to cater to them.

They also personally answer all of the voicemails that are left (after hours) and handle the chat box on the website for customers that have urgent questions. They effectively handle any issues to the absolute best of their abilities, as fast as they can so we don’t hurt the customer's project schedule.

IMG 2635Simon looking dapper as usual.

Because Big Blue Saw prides ourselves on our synergy and team-oriented atmosphere, Customer Advocacy acts as a liaison between the customer and the designer to get them a special order for both the drawings and the parts. Every account is handled with the utmost care and everything we cut remains the intellectual property of the customer regardless of whether the designer draws it or the customer shows it to us. Accounts have their own complete focus without ever crossing lines, meaning customer A will never see designs of customer B and vice versa.

Customer Advocacy has perfected their process over time, doing little things to make the customer happy, such as attending to rush orders first and getting quotes to them as soon as possible. They make our customers’ priority number one, which means solving issues as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Why They Make Us Different

We firmly believe that being the same, honest, hardworking people as our customers is what makes us different. Nothing is cut outside of the U.S., so Customer Advocacy personally handles all of the web messages we receive from the site between 11 AM until 4 PM, Eastern Time. Anything outside of those hours, they return calls or messages immediately (no one likes to be kept waiting!).

The Customer Advocacy team ventures outside of traditional duties as well, by scheduling freight shipments, or any other odds or ends that might need to be done to keep things running smoothly.

Why We Care, and Why Customer Advocacy Proves It

We are customers, too. We’ve bought products and we’ve paid for services, so we know exactly what it means to be a customer and why it’s important to keep customers as the frontrunner of our business model.

Julie and Channie Julie and Channie and their beautiful, Big Blue Saw smiles.

We genuinely care and we have our Customer Advocacy team to back that up. They give tips and in-depth advice based on what’s best for the customer. They’re not afraid to tell you, honestly if waterjet cutting or laser cutting is not the way to go for your project. Honesty builds trust and trust builds solid relationships, which is why so many do come back.

If we are not the best solution for your project, we often have an idea of what avenue you should head in. While we love doing business with our customers, we don’t consider ourselves a large, out-of-touch manufacturer. Though we certainly do large production orders, we never forget that this company was built on a foundation of inventors, makers, and engineers that needed a place to make a prototype or a couple of bot parts at a time.

Right from the beginning, and to this day, every project will always be treated with the same level of attention and all the heroes on the Customer Advocacy team can personally guarantee it.

KA Waterjet Clint Close21

The evolution of a produced part from start to finish requires brain power and labor, first from the part designer and then to those who take the design and make it a reality. Big Blue Saw is a place where real people make the difference in producing great parts with the best technology possible.

One of the main assets in the Big Blue Saw shop is the TECHNI waterjet, TJ3000, which produces parts out of many different materials that include, for example, aluminum, steel, plastic and wood. The waterjet uses a water stream mixed with an abrasive garnet at high velocity and pressure, to make parts for robots, electronics, scientific equipment and much more. It can make a few parts or several thousand parts per production run, as well as both simple and complex part geometries. Its main benefit is that it uses material efficiently by nesting the parts tightly and can cut with no special fixtures or tool changes. The efficiency provided by the waterjet can often translate to quicker production time and lower cost for the customer.

Behind the waterjet, however, includes manpower in the shop. Two of those people at Big Blue Saw include Clint Sikes, shop manager and waterjet technician, and Simon Arthur, the company’s founder and president.

KA Waterjet Front quarter L2

  1. Ensuring appropriate designs

Parts start on the computer as a CAD (computer-aided design) file, which is a 3-D model or a 2-D drawing. The waterjet can cut in 2-D, or a flat pattern saved as a .DXF file. The design can be saved in millimeters or inches, so it’s important to confirm the unit type with the shop manager. In addition to checking the unit type, the shop manager has to ensure no scaling is applied, and the file is saved as a 1:1 ratio. Otherwise, something intended to be 1 ft. could come out as 1 in.

Sikes says the biggest issue he experiences in the production process is incomplete files. While the drawing might appear complete to the customer, the waterjet software will find any and every flaw in a drawing.

The most common (flaw) is unconnected or crossed lines at intersections and hard angles,” Sikes says. “This will create a ‘lead in’ or ‘lead out’ in the incorrect places. What I mean by that is the software will start its cut on a part surface instead of what we call the drop or unused material. We just ask that customers take the time to really inspect their files or drawings for any flaws before sending it to us.”

Above all, customers should be sure to do their research ahead of time to achieve success in their waterjet-produced part.

Whether it’s a work project, an art piece or jewelry, take a good hard look into everything that goes along with it,” Sikes says. “This includes material – its weld-ability, its weight and the finish of different metals. Make sure your drawing or print conforms to the capability of a waterjet in order to get realistic expectations on your finished product.”

Have more questions on how to make the process of making parts, start to finish, much smoother? Arthur says customers can find several more tips in the Big Blue Saw’s guide to designing on the waterjet.

  1. Getting the design to the waterjet

KA Waterjet Screen A

Once the part design is approved for cutting, the .DXF is imported into the waterjet software. From there, compensation is applied. The shop manager has to tell the software the size of the nozzle, which determines the diameter of the water stream (typically .040 in.). Without adjusting for outside or inside compensation (offsetting the stream inside or outside of the part’s appropriate dimensions) the part would not be cut correctly. It takes human skill to check the diameter and adjust on occasion, as parts wear out. Adjustments are crucial to ensuring the parts are correct in size.

In the software, the shop manager must enter the material size on the waterjet table, such as a 4 ft. x 8 ft. piece of steel. Then the waterjet will nest parts within that piece of material. Say a customer has 100 different parts to cut out of that piece of steel (25 of Part A, 40 of Part B, 15 of Part C and 20 of Part D). The software helps determine where to nest these while wasting as little of the material as possible (also called maximizing sheet utilization), but the shop manager can manually adjust the nesting as well. The key here is to maximize the number of parts cut out while leaving about 0.125 in. between each part.

Arthur says it’s important to note the company can do small and large quantities of parts! The top 5 percent of the Big Blue Saw customers amount to about 50 percent of the business, and individual orders less than $500 are about one-third of total sales. The Big Blue Saw team is willing and able to work prototype designs as well as production runs.

Thickness and type of material (steel vs. aluminum) is also important to enter into the software. Harder materials such as steel cut slower than softer materials such as aluminum. Also, the thicker the material, the slower the waterjet cuts. Big Blue Saw stocks a lot of common material, but the company also orders material for special parts.

Edge qualities are important to note in the software. Customers should let the shop manager know if they prefer a coarse vs. fine edge to the part. Obviously, the finer edge will take longer to cut, and the more time the waterjet spends on the part, the more expensive the part will be. The shop manager can preview the cut path on the waterjet screen before cutting the part, see the order of cutting and estimated cutting time, which helps with developing quotes for various projects.

  1. Prepping the machine

KA Waterjet Simon Clint

Manpower is needed to check the waterjet over, ensure the water is turned on and confirm abrasive is in the abrasive hopper. The abrasive garnet is a really fine sand material that assists with cutting.

Garnet is essentially sand paper grit minus the paper,” Sikes says. “It all starts with making sure our garnet hopper is full and ready to run. Garnet comes in 55 lb. bags that get dumped into the hopper, which can hold about 2,000 lbs.”

When the waterjet is cutting, water goes into a pump to pressurize to 55,000 PSI, and then the abrasive mixes with water stream before it comes out of the nozzle. The abrasive intensifies the water to cut through the materials. The abrasive removal system (ARS) with the waterjet helps circulate water out of the tank through filters and strain the abrasive out to keep the machine clean and operational.

The garnet ends up in the bottom of our tank,” Sikes explains. “The removal of our garnet from the base of the tank is handled with our ARS. With help from a pumping system, garnet and water are pumped into a separate tank where the abrasive is allowed to settle and the water is returned to the waterjet tank. Considering we run through close to 3,500 lbs. of garnet a week means this is a constant but necessary process.” 

In addition to making sure the hopper is full of garnet, manpower is also needed to load the material onto the waterjet table before cutting can begin.

  1. Completing the parts

After the waterjet does its magic in cutting the parts, the shop manager must pick up those parts out of the machine and may have additional post-processing based on the customers’ needs. This could include grinding, deburring, tapping threads, etc. for that specific part. Then the parts will be on their way to the customer!

  1. Maintaining the waterjet

KA Waterjet Simon Clint more21

The shop manager must perform machine maintenance so that it is calibrated appropriately and parts will be within tolerance. Abrasive flowing through the machine and nozzle causes wear and tear and erodes away edge of nozzle. Components in cutting head become worn out and need replaced. The stream can cut through slats in table that holds the material, and these need to be replaced on occasion as well.

Sikes says those consumables – nozzles, orifices and high-pressure valves – are replaced most frequently. Determining when these consumables need to be replaced means monitoring proper water pressure and part tolerances. The most time-consuming component of waterjet maintenance, however, is working with the garnet.

Machines such as the waterjet are important for creating parts, and while we are all thankful for these technologies, it still takes a team of people to get the job done!

jumble robot electronics

This week, Big Blue Saw is offering massive discounts on custom aluminum parts. During the sale, custom parts from your designs will be available for as little as $8.90. As if this wasn't enough, we're also offering FREE SHIPPING on small orders. We've never had a sale like this before, so if you haven't tried our waterjet cutting services, now is definitely the time.

During the sale, all parts waterjet cut from ⅛ inch thick aluminum 6061 will automatically receive same discounted price as if you were ordering quantity 10. There's no need for any coupon codes, just order using our exclusive online quoting and ordering system.

aluminum

Questions and Answers about Big Blue Saw's Sale

  • What is on sale?
    Custom parts from your designs made using  aluminum alloy 6061  in 0.125 inch (about ⅛ " or 3.175 mm) thickness.
    Low-taper and laser cutting are not on sale.
  • How much will I save?
    Orders as small as 1 part will automatically receive the quantity 10 discounted price. The dollar amount depends on the design and quantity ordered. Prices start at $8.90 for small, simple parts.
  • How can I order with the sale price?
    Just upload your design to our online quoting and ordering system, and check out through the website shopping cart. You will automatically receive the discount price when placing your order. No need to use coupon codes or other tricks.
  • How do I get FREE SHIPPING for my order?
    Waterjet cut orders weighing less than 1 pound and shipping to the USA will automatically be eligible for free shipping. Just select the shipping method "Waterjet Ship Special <1 lb" when checking out.
  • I don't have a design. How can I make one?
    Use your favorite CAD or vector image software. If you don't have this kind of software, check out our list of free or low-cost alternatives. Also, be sure to  read about how to format your CAD files for use with Big Blue Saw
  • I didn't hear about your sale until just now and don't have time to get my design ready. When is your next sale?
    Sign up for our mailing list to get early notifications about the next sale.
  • I have special requirements for shipping, secondary machining, or rush processing my order. Can I still get the sale price?
    To get the sale price, orders must be placed through the website. So typically we cannot accommodate special requests for sale parts.
Hurry, this offer ends Thursday, March 28, 2019, at 11:59 PM Eastern Time.
 
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