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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:OMAX Corporation
  • Peter H Liu
  • (253) 872-2300
Award Date:01/19/2011
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 498,505
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 676,839
  • FY 2014=$10,000
  • FY 2011=$447,679
  • FY 2012=$106,639
  • FY 2015=$112,521
Start Date:02/01/2011
End Date:11/30/2015
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.041
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:SBIR Phase II: Development of Subminiature Abrasive-Waterjet Nozzles toward Micromachining
Federal Award ID Number:1058278
DUNS ID:849180518
Parent DUNS ID:056329527
Program:SBIR Phase II
Program Officer:
  • Prakash Balan
  • (703) 292-5341

Awardee Location

Street:21409-72ND Ave S
Awardee Cong. District:09

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:OMAX Corporation
Street:21409-72ND Ave S
Cong. District:09

Abstract at Time of Award

This Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II project aims to develop micro abrasive-waterjet technology for automated machining features between 50 to 100 micrometers. The challenge lies in the development of nozzles with beam diameters less than 100 micrometers. Several issues must be resolved due to the complexity of the supersonic, 3-phase, and microfluidic flow through micro abrasive-waterjet nozzles in which capillary dominates gravity. The required size of abrasives is so small that they tend to clump together with poor flowability under gravity feed, causing intermittent abrasive feed and frequent nozzle clogging. New concepts initiated by the company to resolve the above issues has proven to be very effective. In parallel, novel accessories are being developed to further reduce the size of features that cannot be accomplished alone by the nozzles. The micro abrasive waterject nozzles and accessories will be mounted on a multi-nozzle platform to upgrade existing waterjet equipment for micromachining and for enhancing productivity and/or integrated into a micro Jet Machining Center by combining them with a low-power pump and a small footprint platform tailored for low-cost micromachining. The broader/commercial impact of this project is the versatility of waterjet technology ("5M" - from macro to micro machining for most materials) is to develop a new product line of low-cost micrometer Jet Machining Centers. To meet the urgent need for the affordability of the healthcare system, commercialization of micro abrasive-waterjet technology for low-cost manufacturing of biomedical components for orthopedic implants will be explored. The micro abrasive-waterjet technology would also advantageously apply to manufacture components of green energy products and microelectronics. With global emphasis on R&D in micro-nano technology, micro-nano products will be available commercially soon. The micro abrasive-waterjet technology would help accelerate maturing of that technology. By relaxing precision requirements, the micro abrasive-waterjet could readily be turned into an affordable prosumer/consumer product superior to conventional tools for fabricating art, crafts and jewelry. Small job shops would benefit from the cost-effective micro abrasive-waterjet technology since the initial investment for getting into micromachining has been cost prohibitive.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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H.-T. Liu "Abrasive-Waterjet Technology for Biomedical Applications" Proc 21st Int Conf on Water Jetting, v., 2012, p.. doi:?BHR Group 2012 Water Jetting 

H.-T. Liu "Novel Processes for Improving Precision of Abrasive-Waterjet Machining" Proc 2015 WJTA-ICMA Conference and Expo, v., 2015, p.. doi:US WJTA 

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

The main objective of the Phase II R&D was to assemble, test, and optimize a micro abrasive waterjet (uAWJ) prototype for meso-micro machining. Considerable efforts were made to understand the manufacturing processes of uAWJ nozzles to meet the following challenges:

- Before 2010, state-of-the-art fabrication processes of mixing tubes with adequate aspect ratio required to maximize the speed of abrasives were limited to about 400 um

- As we continued downsizing AWJ nozzles, the particle size of abrasives must reduce accordingly. Fine abrasive powders with size < 60 um are however difficult to flow under gravity, resulting in inconsistent abrasive flow

- The 3D supersonic abrasive slurry flowing through the mixing tube transitions from the gravity- to capillary-dominated regime as the nozzle size decreases where the flow resistance is proportional to the -4 power of the mixing tube ID

During Phase II R&D, we carried out 12 tasks to investigate and resolve the above issues. The main achievements are summarized below:

1. Collaborated with several micromachining companies to advance the state-of-the-art in manufacturing large-aspect-ratio mixing tubes. Mixing tubes with ID = 200 um was now available for field deployment

2. Novel processes to improve the flowability of fine abrasive powders was developed to enable abrasives with mean particle size as small as 27 um to feed at constant flow rate under gravity feeding.  In parallel, novel feeding devices were developed to further improve the feeding of these fine abrasive powders (patented)

3. Two uAWJ nozzles were developed for beta testing and R&D

a. Beta 5/10 uAWJ nozzle consists of a diamond orifice and mixing tube with IDs 0.005” (0.13 mm) and 0.01” (0.25 mm)

b. R&D 4/8 nozzle consists of a diamond orifice and mixing tube with IDs 0.004” (0.1 mm) and 0.008” (0.2 mm)

c. With these nozzles, internal features >= 200 um (in certain cases, >= 50 um) could be machined    

4. A total of five (5) U S patents relevant to uAWJ technology were granted

Based on the above achievements and the understanding of the microfluidic slurry flow, a prototype uAWJ system was developed, tested, and optimized for its performance. Extended tests of the prototype have proven its performance for meso-micro machining in various industrial environments. A market survey indicated that there was considerable market potential for a uAWJ system for a wide range of industrial and military applications. Based on the encouraging result of the market research, OMAX commercialized the uAWJ technology by introducing a precision AWJ platform, MicroMAX  JetMachining® Center (Figure 1), with the incorporation of five patented processes and devices developed in Phases I and II for meso-micro machining ( Figures 2 through 6 illustrate sample parts machined on the MicroMAX. The parts often with complex miniature features and geometry were made from a wide range of materials that present considerable challenges to most conventional machine tools. The MicroMAX was released for production in August 2013 and debuted in two trade shows, MD&M (Chicago) and EMO (Hannover, Germany), in September 2013. Since then, the MicroMAX was demonstrated in several other trade shows with rave review. By the end of 2015, OMAX has delivered seven (7) MicroMAX systems with the first two installed in the MIT Hobby Shop and the Microsoft Model Shop, respectively.

Supported by the Phase IIB supplemental funding, OMAX upgraded the MicroMAX to improve performance, ergonomics, and user friendliness. Several accessories and options were added to the Gen 2 MicroMAX to be releas...

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