US20040132383A1 - Fluid jet cutting system - Google Patents

Fluid jet cutting system Download PDF

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Publication number
US20040132383A1
US20040132383A1 US10/639,764 US63976403A US2004132383A1 US 20040132383 A1 US20040132383 A1 US 20040132383A1 US 63976403 A US63976403 A US 63976403A US 2004132383 A1 US2004132383 A1 US 2004132383A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
nozzle
abrasive
fluid jet
jet cutting
cutting system
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Abandoned
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US10/639,764
Inventor
Mark Langford
Roland Fuentes
Jerry Kelley
Ronald Walker
Manfred Segewitz
Earl Presson
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Teledyne Brown Engineering Inc
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Teledyne Brown Engineering Inc
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Priority to US40290602P priority Critical
Priority to US48022303P priority
Application filed by Teledyne Brown Engineering Inc filed Critical Teledyne Brown Engineering Inc
Priority to US10/639,764 priority patent/US20040132383A1/en
Assigned to TELEDYNE BROWN ENGINEERING, INC. reassignment TELEDYNE BROWN ENGINEERING, INC. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: FUENTES, ROLAND, KELLEY, JERRY, LANGFORD, MARK A., PRESSON, EARL W., SEGEWITZ, MANFRED, WALKER, ROLAND L.
Publication of US20040132383A1 publication Critical patent/US20040132383A1/en
Assigned to TELEDYNE BROWN ENGINEERING, INC. reassignment TELEDYNE BROWN ENGINEERING, INC. RECORD TO CORRECT THE 4TH CONVEYING PARTY'S NAME, PREVIOUSLY RECORDED AT REEL 014758, FRAME 0402. Assignors: FUENTES, ROLAND, KELLEY, JERRY, LANGFORD, MARK A., PRESSON, EARL W., SEGEWITZ, MANFRED, WALKER, RONALD L.
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B24GRINDING; POLISHING
    • B24CABRASIVE OR RELATED BLASTING WITH PARTICULATE MATERIAL
    • B24C1/00Methods for use of abrasive blasting for producing particular effects; Use of auxiliary equipment in connection with such methods
    • B24C1/04Methods for use of abrasive blasting for producing particular effects; Use of auxiliary equipment in connection with such methods for treating only selected parts of a surface, e.g. for carving stone or glass
    • B24C1/045Methods for use of abrasive blasting for producing particular effects; Use of auxiliary equipment in connection with such methods for treating only selected parts of a surface, e.g. for carving stone or glass for cutting
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B24GRINDING; POLISHING
    • B24CABRASIVE OR RELATED BLASTING WITH PARTICULATE MATERIAL
    • B24C3/00Abrasive blasting machines or devices; Plants
    • B24C3/02Abrasive blasting machines or devices; Plants characterised by the arrangement of the component assemblies with respect to each other
    • B24C3/06Abrasive blasting machines or devices; Plants characterised by the arrangement of the component assemblies with respect to each other movable; portable
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B24GRINDING; POLISHING
    • B24CABRASIVE OR RELATED BLASTING WITH PARTICULATE MATERIAL
    • B24C7/00Equipment for feeding abrasive material; Controlling the flowability, constitution, or other physical characteristics of abrasive blasts
    • B24C7/0007Equipment for feeding abrasive material; Controlling the flowability, constitution, or other physical characteristics of abrasive blasts the abrasive material being fed in a liquid carrier

Abstract

A method and apparatus for preventing water from entering the abrasive port of an entrained high pressure fluid jet nozzle and a method and apparatus for attaching the high pressure fluid jet nozzle to a hazardous duty robot. The invention includes the application of a positive air pressure to an abrasive line preferably during those times when there is insufficient vacuum generate by high pressure fluid being sent through the restricted orifice in the high pressure nozzle. The invention prevents clogging of a fluid jet cutting system during operation. The invention includes mounting a nozzle and/or visualization system to an expandable and contactable component such as a grasping device that allows for continued use of the expandable and contractible grasping unit. This includes, for example, a grasping device that is provided out the end of a movable robot arm and that allows for rotation of the grasping device.

Description

  • This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) to Provisional Application 60/402,906 filed Aug. 14, 2002 and Provisional Application 60/480,223 filed Jun. 23, 2003, with each being incorporated herein by reference.[0001]
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention pertains to a fluid jet cutting system that includes an apparatus and method for preventing fluid from getting into the abrasive line feeding a high pressure fluid jet nozzle, and a method and apparatus for facilitating operation of system components including, for example, system components such as a high pressure fluid jet nozzle and/or visualization assembly supported by a movable member, as in a hazardous duty robot manipulator arm, with control means provided for manipulating the supported components. The present invention also includes means for providing remote abrasive flow control to a preferred in-situ abrasive source. [0002]
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Conventional fluid jet cutting systems are designed with a vertically mounted nozzle and the fluid jet cutting stream directed vertically downward for impacting a work piece such as a flat plate being cut. When liquid is flowing, a vacuum is set up by the venturi effect at the abrasive inlet and abrasive is drawn into the liquid (e.g., water) stream. When the water is turned off and the abrasive supply is turned off, the vacuum at the abrasive port disappears and the nozzle stops spraying high pressure water and abrasive mixture. Even when the nozzle is off, water dribbles out of the nozzle due to the forces of gravity. Because, however, the nozzle is vertical in these prior art systems, water does not easily enter into the abrasive line and it stays relatively dry and not readily clogged. [0003]
  • U.S. Publication 20020112598, which published on Aug. 22, 2002 and is assigned to Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc. of Hunstville, Ala., relates to a method for remotely accessing packages containing hazardous devices using a stream of high velocity abrasive particles and/or fluid(s). The stream is created in-situ while attached to a remotely or autonomously operated vehicle. The focusing of the high velocity abrasive particle solution onto the exterior surface of the hazardous device is achieved at a controlled speed and impact area which is below the impact initiation threshold of the hazardous device. [0004]
  • In fluid jet cutting operations such as those used in the above described remote hazardous interdiction, the nozzle is mounted on a hazardous duty robot or as a hand held apparatus, and is typically mounted or held such that the nozzle is more horizontal than vertical. When the high pressure fluid (e.g., water) is turned off, the water dribbles out of the nozzle and also enters the abrasive line by the action of gravity. Water can also be introduced to the abrasive line when the high pressure water supply is initially turned “ON”. Once the operator takes action to turn “ON” the high pressure water, there is a time delay associated with the water pressure rising from 0 psi to the operating pressure (e.g., 50,000 psi). During the transition time, water can enter into the abrasive line until the water pressure is developed to the point that a vacuum is established at the vacuum port. This phenomena is represented by the lower curve (H[0005] 1) in FIG. 2. Note that from time 1.0 seconds after turn “ON” to 1.8 seconds after turn “ON”, the water in the nozzle actually results in a positive pressure in the abrasive line during this time. Once the high pressure water stream is sufficiently established, a vacuum is established at the abrasive port that results from the venturi action of the water stream. This is depicted by the lower curve (H1) in FIG. 2 which shows, when the time approximately equals 2 seconds, the pressure at the abrasive port transitions to negative (i.e., vacuum). In practice, the resulting vacuum at the abrasive port does not pull all of the water from the line previously introduced during the positive pressure stage. The presence of water in the abrasive line leads to clogging of the abrasive line when abrasive is introduced to the wet abrasive line. This clogging prevents the proper operation of such a system. Therefore, there is a need for a method and apparatus for preventing water from entering the abrasive line of a fluid jet nozzle (an entrained high pressure fluid jet nozzle) in a fluid jet cutting system that prevents the clogging of the system, with this need being particularly high for supported nozzles where the orientation of the nozzle can facilitate fluid entry into the abrasive line such as hazardous duty robot supported nozzles that can assume non-vertical orientation.
  • In fluid jet cutting operations such as those involving hazardous duty robots there is also difficulty in maintaining proper positioning of the nozzle and for visualizing the cutting area and surrounding area prior to, during and after a cutting sequence is performed. There is also a need for improvements in mounting the nozzle and preferably other system components (e.g., visualization system) at a high operational efficiency location while avoiding interfering with other preferred functions of a hazardous duty robot as in grasping operations by a grasping mechanism of the robot. This includes, for example, camera and light visualization means associated with the fluid nozzle and positioned to provide a clear view while keeping components protected from the harsh environment associated with a high pressure fluid/abrasive mix output. There is also a need to provide protection means to susceptible components such as the manipulator arm extension mechanism to avoid abrasive accumulation and system degradation. There is also a need for improvements in simplifying/speeding up operational procedure in the application of the fluid jet cutting stream, particularly when dealing with potentially hazardous situations as in car bomb interdiction. [0006]
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention includes a method and apparatus directed at addressing the aforementioned problems and addressing the noted areas in need of improvement. In one embodiment of the invention there is provided a system for preventing fluid jet cutting nozzle liquid (e.g., water) from entering the abrasive line of the fluid jet cutting system such as through an application of a positive pressure to the abrasive line during periods where the abrasive line is susceptible to clogging. For example, providing positive pressure purge gas during those times (or time periods) when abrasive is not flowing through the nozzle or the abrasive line (e.g., during the time the abrasive supply command is off) or during predetermined periods within a period the abrasive feed is off (e.g., for a specified period before start up) and/or during times when there is insufficient vacuum flow generated to create a sufficient vacuum flow in the abrasive feed line to preclude abrasive line wetting (e.g., following system activation but before a sufficient vacuum level is generated by the high pressure liquid passing through the nozzle's restricted region). This positive pressure is preferably provided by way of fluid pressure (e.g., a gas such as air or some other non-clump forming fluid) which prevents cutting fluid (usually a liquid such as water) from entering the abrasive port outlet and/or line leading thereto. For convenience, “air” will be used relative to the purge fluid and “water” relative to the cutting liquid, hereafter, although it is to be understood the present invention is not limited to these types of fluids in their respective uses. The positive air pressure forces the water that drains from the water line or remains in the nozzle area to exit the system through the nozzle. In this manner the abrasive line remains dry and clog free. [0007]
  • Referring to FIG. 2, the upper line (H[0008] 2) illustrates how pressurizing the abrasive port with air during the time that high pressure water is not flowing through the nozzle prevents water from entering the abrasive port regardless of the orientation of the nozzle. While it is preferred that the purge air flow be off when abrasive is flowing, the purge air can also be maintained during abrasive flow, as the purge air pressure level is relatively low and at a flat rate and thus does not significantly interfere with the abrasive flow in the system when the abrasive is pulled by the vacuum effect produced by the liquid. Also, because of the preferred close proximity of the abrasive hopper source to the nozzle (e.g., less than 120 inches), there is not needed a separate pressure delivery system for the abrasive feed. If a pressure delivery system is used to deliver the abrasive, the purge air line is preferably closed off during the pressurized delivery system operation to avoid a situation where a higher pressurized abrasive delivery system pushes abrasive into a purge air source operating at a lower pressure. This activity is preferably controlled by a processor associated with the fluid cutting system which shuts down and precludes operation of the purge gas system when the pressurized abrasive delivery system is in operation.
  • In one embodiment of the invention, an air introduction facilitation means, such as a ‘Y-fitting’ (or T-fitting) is installed in the abrasive line between the fluid jet nozzle outlet port and the abrasive supply container (e.g., between the abrasive feed line outlet port in the nozzle and an abrasive container hopper outlet feeding into an inlet region of the abrasive feed line). This structure forces air (e.g., all or a portion that is taken in at an intake source) to exit through the nozzle and prevents water from flowing into the abrasive inlet nozzle port and clogging the fluid jet cutting system. [0009]
  • In another embodiment of the invention, positive air pressure is provided through use of a sealed enclosure that is preferably positioned in the region of the bottom of an abrasive hopper and encompasses the exchange region between the abrasive hopper or container and the inlet region of the abrasive feed line. With this arrangement, pressurized air in the enclosure is directed to exit the fluid jet cutting nozzle and the abrasive hopper or through the nozzle alone such as with air flow blocking means (e.g., a pinch valve precluding flow in the abrasive line other than to the outlet of the nozzle). The air exiting through the nozzle prevents water from entering the abrasive line Air flowing into the hopper container through the hopper outlet for feeding abrasive when in an abrasive flow mode helps percolate the abrasive and break up clumping in the hopper and elsewhere between abrasive flow modes. [0010]
  • The present invention also features a fluid jet cutting system with nozzle mounting means that is associated with a grasping device on a movable member as in a robot (e.g., a remote and/or autonomously operated hazardous duty robot). In a preferred embodiment, the fluid jet cutting nozzle is mounted on one prong of a multi-prong grasping unit of the robot and robot operation control means provides for grasping unit manipulation: both for grasping units when in a grasping mode and positioning and movement of the fluid jet cutting nozzle stream during a cutting operation, or both (e g., simultaneous cutting and grasping operations-as in an unscrewing operation with simultaneous circular cutting). The present invention's nozzle grasping arrangement also facilitates sequenced cutting such as through multiple layers and/or repeated path travel cutting by, for example, repeated rotation of the grasping unit while at a certain radius setting to speed up the cutting process and ensure a complete cut through. There is also preferably further provided visualization means with a preferred location being one on the multi-prong grasping unit such as on the exterior of a second grasping prong of the multi-prong grasping unit adjacent a first prong supporting the nozzle. As an example, the present invention includes a visualization device (e.g., camera or video feed) and light source mount which displays and illuminates the area being subjected to the fluid abrasive impact and which includes protection means for protecting the visualization device and the light source from abrasive contact. [0011]
  • The present invention also features an adjustable abrasive flow control that is preferably air pressure activated (between full closed to full open or with set points added between those modes) via a control pressure line that preferably derives air pressure from a common source as that feeding the abrasive purge line and whose activation is also preferably controllable by the control means of the fluid cutting system. When using the adjustable flow control for full open and full closed modes only, there is preferably further provided adjustable abrasive flow control level setting means for setting, preferably manually between uses, a desired abrasive flow opening setting. For example, a setting screw is provided in one embodiment to present the opening size when the abrasive flow stopper is in its fully open mode (e.g., a setting screw which sets the stop to allow, for example, for ½ full open aperture sizing when the stop is in its maximum open state. Alternate embodiments include automated adjustable setting means which can adjust, preferably in real time and via a remote controller, the abrasive flow control level between either full aperture open or full aperture closed settings or set points of three or more in number between maximum open and full shut. [0012]
  • An embodiment of the present invention includes a fluid jet cutting system, comprising a nozzle with a fluid communication line in fluid communication with the nozzle, an abrasive feed line also in communication with the nozzle, and a purge gas supply means as in an air supply line which is arranged so as to avoid cutting fluid (e.g., water) entry into the abrasive port and line leading thereto. Also, the fluid jet cutting system also preferably comprises a hazardous duty robot which represents one form of a movable support having a nozzle mount on which the nozzle is supported. In a preferred embodiment there is further included an abrasive hopper mount assembly comprising an abrasive supply container and an abrasive supply container robot mount. [0013]
  • An embodiment of the invention features a pressurizable enclosure which is positioned for providing pressurized purge air to the abrasive feed line to prevent fluid entry of liquid into the port of the abrasive outlet and clumping of the abrasive in the system. The pressurizable enclosure is pressurized via a pressurizing or pressurized gas source in communication with the enclosure such as an air compressor (the gas source being mounted on the robot or located independently at a separate location as in a storage vehicle on which the robot is transported to a desired site and in air feed communication via an air feed line to the robot) that is preferably stepped down (e.g., 120 psi down to 15 psi) via a regulator which is preferably robot supported. The abrasive line pressure level is from 10 to 20 psi in one embodiment and is adjusted to provide sufficient gas flow to pressurize the line to an extent which precludes fluid entry. An autonomous or remotely operated robot is preferred, although the above described nozzle mounting means and air purge system are utilizable on fixed foundation devices (e.g., a fixed foundation having a manipulator arm with grasping device or other types of movable supports extending from a fixed foundation or free of movement, or an entirely stationary fluid jet cutting devices). [0014]
  • An embodiment of the invention features a vacuum sensor as in a combination vacuum seal/vacuum sensor associated with, for example, the pressurizable enclosure so as to depressurize the enclosure when a vacuum setting is determined (e.g., sufficient vacuum draw from the venturi fluid flow in the nozzle) and seals off the enclosure when a sufficient vacuum in the system is not sensed. In a preferred embodiment the vacuum sensor includes a seal member that is mounted on, for example, an interior portion (e.g., side wall) of the enclosure about a port in the same and which moves into a first position which unseals the enclosure upon a vacuum level being present in the nozzle and moves into a seal enclosure position when there exists a more pressurized state than the predetermined vacuum level. As an example of a suitable vacuum sensing means there is featured a flap seal supported by said enclosure so as to flap open upon a vacuum level being present in the enclosure (as by way of a vacuum effect of the fluid flowing, for example, at a higher pressure level such as 50,000 psi through the nozzle and the vacuum draw induced thereby on the abrasive feed line extending into communication with the enclosure). The flap also shuts and seals the enclosure when a higher pressure environment level is reached in the enclosure. Other automatic sensor valves such as a floating ball valve are also featured under the present invention, but the flap valve represents a highly reliable, preferred embodiment. Additional alternatives include, for example, electronically activated valve devices associated with sensors (e.g., a vacuum sensor monitoring the nozzle's constricted orifice port), but the flap device avoids the added complexity associated with such electronic controls. [0015]
  • An alternate embodiment of the fluid jet cutting system includes a purge gas line access means that is positioned in the abrasive line such as a fitting (e.g., a Y or T fitting) that has a gas reception component and an abrasive flow component, with the abrasive flow component provided in line with or as an integral part of the abrasive line and with the branch component being in communication with a purge gas source. The fitting can be placed at multiple locations as, for example, a location closer to an inlet location for the abrasive feed into said abrasive line than to an abrasive outlet port opening into said nozzle, or is associated/fitted with the nozzle or along a flexible communication line (e.g., a transparent abrasive flexible feed conduit forming a component of the abrasive feed line) extending therebetween. The pressure level of the purge gas in the system for maintaining liquid from entering the abrasive outlet port (to be interpreted as being a part of the “abrasive line”) and avoiding abrasive clumping in the abrasive line is preferably from 10 to 20 psi. The present invention thus features a plurality of different embodiments providing means for preventing fluid entry into the abrasive communication line such as at times when a sufficient vacuum level has not been generated by fluid flow exiting said nozzle, and, as noted above, preferably also when the abrasive flow has been shut off (e.g., abrasive flow shut off as a preferred prerequisite before the abrasive purge gas flow is turned on with the liquid flow preferably being shut off after a delayed period following both abrasive flow shut off and subsequent purge air turn on to help in clearing line of abrasive before the next abrasive flow turn on (with the control means preferably monitoring the enabling functions and/or instructing an automated sequence of events); and on the start up side, the fluid is preferably turned on first, then followed by the purge air at a preset period of time and then followed by the abrasive flow start up after another preset period of time (again with the control means either automatically sequencing and/or controlling the enabling functions in an operator generated sequence). [0016]
  • An embodiment of the invention further comprises a hazardous duty robot with a nozzle mount on which the nozzle is supported, and the nozzle mount including a grasping member and a mounting assembly which is secured to an exterior section of the grasping member such as a grasping member that includes a multi-prong assembly with the prongs being supported in a fashion providing for expansion and contraction, and the nozzle being mounted on an exterior portion of one of the prongs. The grasping member is also preferably in communication with control means for adjusting the prongs to different radial locations and initiating and discontinuing fluid jet cutting flow at different radial locations of the nozzle. The control means is preferably a stand alone system with sub-control systems for controlling air flow, hydraulic flow (as in the intensifier), and liquid flow to the nozzle and can be a stand alone or interfaced with the control means on the robot which controls operations such as rotating the grasping arm for greater than 360 degrees which provides for a repeat of a cutting operation over the same portion of a previously impacted cut path. For example, the control means for controlling air and liquid flow can interface with the control means for manipulating the position of the robot's components as in the manipulator arm via a robot interface unit so as to automate both the positioning and flow of fluid relative to an object being treated. [0017]
  • The fluid jet cutting system also preferably comprises a nozzle mount which orientates, during operation of the fluid jet cutting system, the nozzle at other than a vertical orientation as in an orientation that includes an orientation more horizontal than vertical. This can be achieved on the hazardous duty robot by controller manipulation of a manipulation arm on which the nozzle is supported and/or a grasping unit supported on that arm. An embodiment of the invention further comprises a nozzle mount assembly that mounts the fluid jet cutting nozzle on the grasping means in a fashion that enables continued use of the grasping means for grasping functions and/or use of the nozzle in a cutting operation. A preferred embodiment of the present invention also includes a visualization device and/or light source support device with means for protecting each as well as means for mounting one or both on an opposite prong of the grasping device or on a different location as in a supporting base area of a fixed robot. [0018]
  • The present invention also features a high pressure hose guiding means that provides for adjustment of the nozzle and high pressure hose section extending from initial robot contact to the nozzle fixation point while maintaining the hose in a minimized length state between the guide means contact and the nozzle fixation point (as in a straight line or a single curve configuration extension between these points). The hose guide means preferably is in the form of a confining roller assembly that is used to help control and guide the high pressure hose. The guide means thus helps keep the hose away from the tracks or wheels of a movable support as in a robot and also takes and alleviates the force of dragging the hose while driving the robot to its destination. It thus also prevents the robot arm from being subjected to the full extent of the drag load of the hose in contact with the ground or caught up on an object as in the crevice of an automobile tire.[0019]
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The various advantages of the present invention will become apparent to one skilled in the art by reading the following specification and subjoined claims and by referencing the following drawings in which: [0020]
  • FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a fluid jet nozzle and air purged abrasive feed system; [0021]
  • FIG. 1A illustrates an alternate embodiment of an abrasive line air purge system; [0022]
  • FIG. 2 is a graph of abrasive port transitional pressure versus time data; [0023]
  • FIG. 3 shows a rear elevational view of a preferred hopper mount assembly (with rear being that which is farthest removed from the object being subjected to the fluid cutting system); [0024]
  • FIG. 4 shows a first side elevational view of that the hopper mount assembly shown in FIG. 3; [0025]
  • FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the abrasive hopper mount assembly; [0026]
  • FIG. 6 shows a similar view as in FIG. 5 but with a transparent empty abrasive hopper and an illustration of the bottom conical abrasive feed out port; [0027]
  • FIG. 7 is a front view of the hopper mount assembly; [0028]
  • FIG. 8 is an opposite side view of that which is shown in FIG. 4; [0029]
  • FIG. 9 shows a partial view of the hopper mount assembly mounted on a hazardous duty robot; [0030]
  • FIG. 10 shows a cross-sectional view of the outlet portion of the hopper mount assembly; [0031]
  • FIG. 11 shows an exploded view of the nozzle mounting assembly of the present invention featuring a cutting nozzle, grasping prong and nozzle mount; [0032]
  • FIG. 12 shows the nozzle mounting assembly in an assembled state; [0033]
  • FIG. 13 shows an illustration of a preferred embodiment of a fluid jet cutting system with a hazardous duty robot with mounted hopper mount assembly and nozzle mounting assembly illustrated; [0034]
  • FIG. 14 shows a more detailed view of the front end of that which is shown in FIG. 13. [0035]
  • FIGS. [0036] 15 to 17 provide even more detailed views of the front end shown in FIG. 14.
  • FIG. 18 shows a block diagram of a preferred embodiment of the fluid jet cutting system of the present invention. [0037]
  • FIG. 19 shows a high pressure water, purge air and abrasive flow on/off state and relative time illustration. [0038]
  • FIG. 20 shows in cut-away an upstream gas flow block off device. [0039]
  • FIG. 21 illustrates a rear elevational view of the hopper container and positive air pressure supply means combination; [0040]
  • FIG. 22 shows a side elevational view of the combination shown in FIG. 21. [0041]
  • FIG. 23 shows an upside down view of the combination shown in FIG. 21. [0042]
  • FIG. 24 provides a bottom plan view of the combination. [0043]
  • FIG. 25 shows a perspective view of the positive air pressure supply means with pressure housing enclosure removed for clarity. [0044]
  • FIG. 26 shows an elevational view of that which is shown in FIG. 25. [0045]
  • FIG. 27 shows a bottom plan view of that which is shown in FIG. 25. [0046]
  • FIG. 28 shows a cross-sectional view taken along cross-section line B-B in FIG. 27. [0047]
  • FIG. 29 illustrates the manifold shown in FIG. 26 with added dash depiction of the non-solid regions of the manifold. [0048]
  • FIG. 30 provides a cross-sectional view taken along cross-section line D-D in FIG. 29. [0049]
  • FIG. 31 provides a schematic view of the air supply sub-system of the present invention. [0050]
  • FIG. 32 shows a cross-sectional view of the high pressure house with protective covering and air feed lines contained therein. [0051]
  • FIG. 33 shows a perspective view of the visualization assembly mounted on one of the grasping prong of the present invention. [0052]
  • FIG. 34 shows the visualization assembly in a detached state and with the protective cover retracted. [0053]
  • FIG. 35 shows the visualization assembly with the protector cover in place. [0054]
  • FIG. 36 shows the adjustable protective sleeve that protects the telescoping slide bars. [0055]
  • FIG. 36A shows one of the telescoping bars. [0056]
  • FIG. 37 shows the nozzle cover placed in abutment with an object to be cut.[0057]
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • FIGS. [0058] 1-10 and 13 illustrate a plurality of embodiments of a fluid jet cutting system 20 with FIG. 1 illustrating a cut-away view of a first embodiment that comprises gas purged abrasive feed assembly 22 in communication with fluid jet cutting nozzle assembly 24 via abrasive feed line 26 (with “line” being in the broad sense and including, for example, the abrasive passageway extending from the abrasive hopper or access ports therefore to the interior nozzle outlet port that opens into the fluid stream passing through the nozzle). Gas purged abrasive feed assembly 22 comprises means for introducing positive pressure 28 that is preferably gas based (e.g., air) and functions to prevent the fluid being supplied to the fluid jet nozzle (e.g., liquid as in water with or without liquid additives as in emulsions or cutting promoting chemicals being illustrative) by way of high pressure line 30, from entering the abrasive line 26 (e.g., prevents passage of liquid into the abrasive outlet port in the nozzle and into any portion of the remainder of the abrasive line leading to that port). The air purge assembly 22 provides an upstream to downstream air flow in the abrasive line, and thereby prevents the formation in the abrasive line of clumps of moistened abrasive “A” either relative to any abrasive already present in the abrasive line or later introduced abrasive material which, in either situation, can easily clog the abrasive line. This purging is operational regardless of the orientation of the nozzle and thus works particularly well in addressing the more problematic (less gravity assisted) situations as where the nozzle, in use, is not arranged either in a true vertical orientation or essentially vertical (e.g., within 10 degrees of vertical).
  • FIG. 1 illustrates a first embodiment of means [0059] 22 for introducing positive pressure into the abrasive line 26 which comprises an in-line pressure access means 32, such as a “Y-fitting” as shown, a “T-fitting” (see FIG. 1A) or an alternate similarly functioning gas access means, installed in the abrasive line 26 between and in communication with a means to provide thereto positive pressure as in air compressor 34 (FIG. 18) (e.g., provided in-situ or remote with a communication line with a receiving chamber represented by 34′ when dealing with a remote compressor), with the source of pressurized gas also providing a potential source for functioning other components in the system as in an abrasive shut off solenoid. In a preferred embodiment, fitting 32 is provided at a location in line between the outlet 38 of abrasive hopper container 36 and the abrasive feed line outlet into the main body 42 of nozzle 40 where the high pressure liquid and abrasive come into contact prior to being ejected out of the high pressure nozzle as in through a standard small diameter, highly wear resistant orifice insert provided in the nozzle.
  • FIG. 1 further illustrates the abrasive feed source with air purge system [0060] 22 having means for mounting 44 system 22 on a hazardous duty robot 46 (FIG. 13) or another alternate movable support member with a movable support foundation as in the wheeled or track robot 46 or a fixed foundation support member with means for moving the nozzle to desired positions as in a manipulation arm supported, or an entirely fixed platform or fixed support member. In FIG. 1 there is illustrated mounting means bracket 44 which provides for robot attachment as shown in FIGS. 9 and 13. Bracket 44 further supports support wall 48 to which is attached manifold 50. Hopper container 36 is supported on the upper surface of manifold 50 which also provides gas feed channeling. Suspension bracket 52 is suspended below manifold 50, and is preferably L shaped and supports abrasive line inlet conduit 54 extending between the base of bracket 52 and manifold 50 and positioned to receive abrasive A (e.g., garnet) passing out of hopper container 36 via the converging (e.g., conical) hopper feed outlet 38 (see also FIG. 6) formed in the central area of manifold 50 and out the hopper exit tube 56 and into line inlet conduit 54 when the abrasive line feed stop assembly 58 is in a flow position. The abrasive is precluded from entry into conduit 54 when stop assembly 58 is in abrasive flow block position (the position shown in FIG. 1).
  • Stop assembly [0061] 58 is preferably an automated remote activatable stop which is in gas pressure or electrical communication via gas or electrical communication line 60 with the fluid jet cutting system control system (discussed below) and features a driver 64 (e.g., a solenoid (fluid or electrical), gearing, or fluid based driver movement to position the stop) for adjustment of stop plate 62 (e.g., a linear or rotational adjustment as in a slidingly supported plate for positioning at a location flush or essentially flush (minimal abrasive leakage) with the outlet end of the outlet of hopper exit tube 56 when in an abrasive flow stop mode). Mechanical activation can be carried out through use of the pressurized air from compressor (or compressor receiver) 34 via the noted line 60.
  • Bracket [0062] 44 also provides support to the stop assembly in a preferred embodiment, although manifold 50 can also support components in a suspended state. Alternate flow stop means are also featured under the present invention such as a vertical plug valve and the like which can be moved between outlet blocked and free flow access modes, although the illustrated sliding plate is preferred as it provides disruption free throughflow when in a removed position, and readily provides for flow orifice size adjustment.
  • FIG. 1 further illustrates, as part of the air purge system [0063] 28, air intake port 65 (receiving the end of an air purge feed hose not shown in FIG. 1) in on/off flow valve 66 suspended by manifold 50. Air fed from the compressor 34 (either compressor itself or in-feed location from a remote compressor) passes through regulator 68 and its outlet port 70 before traveling to fitting 32 via a short fitting branch line 72.
  • The pressure of the gas is controlled by way of the regulator in association with compressor output and preferably maintains the outputted purge air at a pressure between, for example, 10 to 20 psi, more preferably 12 to 18 psi with 15 psi being a suitable value in a preferred embodiment. The regulator can thus provide a means for stepping down a higher pressure compressor output operating at, for example, 100 to 150 psi (see [0064] 34 in FIG. 18). Other pressurize gas providing means include, for example, air tanks preferably with regulators to provide the desired purging line pressure.
  • Thus, from the Y-fitting [0065] 32 pressurized air will pass though the flexible conduit portion 74 of abrasive line 26 and into the non-flexible abrasive nozzle inlet conduit 76 forming part of nozzle body 42. The pressurized air then passes through the interior mixing region of the nozzle and then exits the fluid jet cutting system 20 through the nozzle outlet 82 for the cutting fluid (e.g., mixed water and abrasive) at the end of the nozzle tube 43 (see FIG. 37). Nozzle tube 43 is surrounded by protective sleeve 78 which is secured to the internal nozzle tube 43 by way of hand screw 79. Protective sleeve 78 (e.g., steel) functions to protect the focus tube (typically formed of more brittle hardened material to accommodate the abrasive flow) from damage upon contact with objects (e.g., a vehicle side wall to be cut which provides for rapid positioning of the nozzle).
  • FIG. 37 illustrates protective sleeve [0066] 78 having a convoluted front end which presents diametrically opposed contact points as well as diametrically opposed recessed areas which provide for pressure release that allows high pressure fluid to escape through the sides of the nozzle upon coming into contact with an object where there is liquid flow. The gas flow is preferably maintained continuous when in an “on” state and flows from its entry point in the gas purge path and from that location to the outlet nozzle or both downstream in that direction and, possibly, upstream, toward the container or some other upstream non-sealed release location if there is not a sealed off air blocker or actuator between fitting 32 and the upstream portion of the abrasive feed line 26 or the abrasive container 36. In such circumstances where there is flow upstream and downstream to the nozzle relative to the purge air access location via fitting 32, the purge air volume flow rate of air is increased such that a sufficient amount of air is supplied to allow for exiting through the upstream opening as in container 36 and the downstream end of nozzle 40. In either situation, the air exiting through the nozzle 40 is supplied at a sufficient flow rate to prevent water from entering the abrasive line. The flow rate and pressure levels are thus designed to provide for the purging function of keeping liquid out of the abrasive line, but is maintained at a relatively low setting to avoid an overly pressurized system. Also, in the situation where the gas flow is supplied upstream, it is free to travel in a preferred embodiment back into the hopper container and provides an abrasive percolating effect which facilitates non-clumped feed from the container into the abrasive feed line (e.g., the relatively low pressure provides for percolation without blow out or flow disruption)
  • FIG. 1 further illustrates nozzle assembly [0067] 24 having a high pressure inlet end receptor 80 into which flexible high pressure line 30 extends at the inlet side and having an outlet extending into nozzle body 42. The high pressure fluid is fed into receptor 80 and into the interior liquid/abrasive mix region prior to the cutting mix exiting through nozzle or focus tube 43 and out high pressure outlet 82. The high pressure flow is preferably generated by a nozzle supported small orifice insert (not shown) which is conventional in the art. The gas purging feed assembly preferably operates to ensure that during times when there is insufficient vacuum generated by the high pressure cutting fluid passing through the nozzle (see the above discussion regarding FIG. 2 and the delay in vacuum generating during early stages of liquid flow), there is provided positive gas pressure to maintain abrasive line 26, 76 clean of liquid which is of greater concern when situations where the nozzle is not oriented vertically as in a horizontal or generally horizontal (having a significant horizontal component as in more than 10 degrees removed from a vertical orientation) robot mount or a hand held operation. In situations where it is desired to have purging air flow during times when there is insufficient vacuum generating liquid flow, a control process can be carried out such as a turning on of the gas purge system 22 for a predetermined time. In this regard reference is made to FIG. 19 which provides a high pressure liquid/purge air/abrasive flow “on/off” supply sequence illustration. As seen from FIG. 19, T0 represents the time when high pressure liquid flow is turned “on” (e.g., an operator induced “on” button on a control board located at a remote location from a hazardous duty robot supporting the nozzle). At time T1 the purge air is switched from its pre-existing “on” state into an “off” state. In a preferred embodiment, a range for T1 includes T1=T0+10 sec to T1=T0+20 or 30 seconds, which provides for the generation of sufficient vacuum generation by the liquid flow in the system to avoid a nozzle pressure introduction of liquid into the abrasive line. As further seen from FIG. 19, T2 represent the time when the abrasive is turned “on” with abrasive flow being locked out when the purge air is “on”. The T2 activity is preferably automated based on time passage, for example, or operator controlled (with a lock out of the “on” state for abrasive flow when T2 is less than T1). T3 represents the time when the abrasive is turned off either in an automated timer based system or, more preferably, by operator control. T4 represents the time when the high pressure liquid supply is turned off by the operator or in a timer based automated sequence. In a preferred embodiment, the turning off activation signal for the liquid flow, as in the operator pressing a liquid flow turn off button, leads to an automatic turn “on” of the purge air flow and a delay sequence relative to the actual stoppage of water supply. This is represented in FIG. 19 by way of the maintenance of the liquid flow up to T5 upon an activation signal to shut down at T4 at which time the purge gas is initiated. The liquid flow shut off time T5 preferably ranged in time from T5=T4+10 seconds to T5=T4+20 to 30 seconds. The present invention features control means for precluding the shut off of liquid flow until after a preset time period (e.g., 10 to 20 seconds) has expired and the continuation of liquid flow for a period after above shut off which is helpful in that the vacuum effect generated by the continued high pressure fluid supply helps clean out the shutdown abrasive line of remaining abrasive. FIG. 19 also shows that on the start up end, the purge air is first placed “on” prior to liquid flow start up and then continues on with the liquid flow in the on state for 10 to 20 seconds (again to allow for sufficient vacuum build up).
  • In FIG. 1A there is illustrated an alternate embodiment of the present invention featuring fitting [0068] 32′ shown mounted directly on nozzle body 42 and thus has a gas introduction location that is closer to the abrasive line outlet into the liquid abrasive mixing chamber formed in the central interior of nozzle body 42 than to the hopper abrasive outlet. The positioning shown in FIG. 1A entails having a purge gas feed line that is of a similar length as that of the flexible abrasive feed conduit (e.g., to a less than 200 inch abrasive line length as in 10 inches to 200 inches or 100 to 140 inches for some abrasive conduit positions under the present invention). Thus, with the fitting associated with the nozzle body or close thereto, the purge gas supply line length would be the same or essentially the same as the abrasive line feeding to the nozzle. Thus, having the fittings at the abrasive hopper as in FIG. 1 provides for a purge air line that is much shorter and thus more desirable from that standpoint. Additional fitting locations can also be implemented under the present invention as at a location intermediate the two illustrated in FIG. 1A.
  • In the FIG. 1A embodiment an optional actuator [0069] 84 is illustrated which provides a means for blocking off purge air flow directed upstream from the fitting location in the abrasive line 26. In this way all supplied air is forced to thereby forcing all of the air to exit through the nozzle outlet 82. FIG. 20 illustrates an embodiment of actuator 84 which is in the form of a pinch valve that is preferably automated as in an on/off switch at that operator control panel. As shown in FIG. 20, actuator 84 includes housing H in which is mounted pinch valve V with the housing being retained, for example, on a portion of flexible abrasive line section 74 which threads though an opening in the. In this way when the pinch valve V is triggered (e.g., a solenoid drive either electrically or also air line driven—not shown), it closes off all or a significant portion of upstream purge gas flow, such that the purge gas flow is focused downstream to the fitting in the direction of the nozzle outlet. If it is not desired to block off the abrasive inlet upstream portion of line 26, (e.g., to provide the percolation effect in the hopper container) the volume flow rate of air supplied is increased to account for the amount of air that will exit through the abrasive upstream portion of the abrasive line such that sufficient purge air still exits through the nozzle 42.
  • Rather than supported at the nozzle assembly [0070] 24, the abrasive line purge fitting can be moved upstream such as an integrated fitting (represented by Y-fitting 32″ in the flexible conduit portion 74 supplying abrasive between exiting the abrasive hopper system and before entering the preferred solid abrasive conduit extension 76 or even further upstream as in the additional preferred embodiment described above at the hopper assembly discharge and also as in the below described sealed, pressurizable enclosure embodiment described below.
  • FIGS. [0071] 3 to 10 and 21-30 illustrate an alternate “closed system” embodiment (as compared to the generally “open” system described above) for preventing fluid from entering the abrasive line and thus avoiding the prior art problem of clumping of the abrasive when introduced into the line and the clogging of the abrasive line. The closed system embodiment of FIGS. 3-10 utilizes the aforementioned timing sequence for the open system and/or places reliance, at least in part, on sensor means (primarily mechanical as described below or an electronic sensor or one or more of the purge gas, abrasive feed line and pressurized for an automated switch over (e.g., via mechanical switch over means) between purge gas supply when needed (when no or insufficient vacuum generated) and when not needed (e.g., sufficient vacuum generated—See FIG. 2 for an example).
  • As shown in FIGS. [0072] 3 to 10 and 21-30 there is featured an alternate gas purged abrasive feed assembly 88 with abrasive hopper mount assembly 90 comprising mounting bracket 92 for robot attachment as shown in FIGS. 9 and 13. As shown in FIGS. 3 to 10, the upper surface of mounting bracket 92 supports base block 94 on which is provided water hose guide means 96 which, in a preferred embodiment features a triangular array 98 of rollers 100 supported on brackets 102 for the high pressure water hose 30 (see FIG. 13) which is threaded through the roller set before connection with the nozzle assembly. The rollers 100 are supported on the triangular array so as to be free rotating but to have end-to-end spacing which is smaller than the diameter of the hose 30 to always present a roller contact surface during the riding of the hose within the confines presented by the mounted rollers. Mounting bracket 92 further supports support wall 104 to which is attached to manifold 106. Hopper container 108 is supported on the upper surface of manifold 106. Sealed enclosure 110 is suspended below manifold 106 and as shown in FIGS. 6 and 10 the central area of the upper surface of manifold 106 includes conical hopper feed outlet 112 provided in the central bottom portion of the abrasive container 108 and includes the hopper outlet port 114 which delivers abrasive to the inlet opening of the upper region of abrasive line 74 at abrasive inlet port 26. The manifold also provides a convenient location for providing a gas passage for introducing the pressurized air from an external to enclosure location to an internal to enclosure location.
  • Air pressure in the system shown in FIGS. [0073] 3-10 will exit the fluid jet cutting system 14 through the nozzle 40 and the abrasive container 108. The volume flow rate of air is such that a sufficient amount of air is supplied to allow for exiting through the container 108 and the nozzle 40. The air exiting through the nozzle 40 still prevents water from entering the abrasive line 74. The enclosure 110 around the abrasive inlet port 113 also prevents the elements such as wind and blowing rain from interfering with the flow of abrasive from the container 108 to the abrasive inlet port 118 (FIG. 10), and thus is particularly well suited for use in external environments or where the noted elements are present. When abrasive is flowing, the positive air pressure is removed from the sealed enclosure 110 and external air is allowed to enter the enclosure 110 through the (preferably mechanical) pressure sealing/release means 129 (see FIG. 10—with flap seal 129 mounted about an aperture formed in a side wall of enclosure 110 with FIG. 10 showing mounting on one wall and FIG. 3 an alternate wall) by the force of the vacuum resulting from the high pressure water stream. The design of the pressure sealing/release means 129 is passive in nature and is closed by the positive air pressure injected into the enclosure 110, and is opened by the vacuum when the high pressure water is flowing, and thus operates automatically with relationship to the timing of when sufficient vacuum is generated to avoid a wetting of abrasive outside nozzle mixing chamber. As shown in FIG. 10, means 129 operates relative to a port formed in an enclosure wall as in a side wall or the bottom wall illustrated. This port is a circular hole in the enclosure 116 preferably with means 129 having a rubber flap attached on the interior surface of the enclosure 110.
  • FIGS. [0074] 3-10 further depict positive air pressure supply means 116 for introducing positive air pressure to be introduced at the abrasive hopper inlet port. In FIGS. 3-10, the sealed cuboidal enclosure 110 is suspended below manifold 106 and encapsulates an exchange area between the hopper outlet port 114 and a further downstream portion 122 of the abrasive line 124 which exchange area further includes automatic abrasive flow stop assembly 126 (similar in function to the 58 described above). Compressor 128 (or a compressor line reception chamber) supplies positive air pressure through valve 132, via regulator 134 and regular line 136 which extends into enclosure 110 via manifold 106 to pressurize the enclosure to a desired level (e.g. to provide gas pressure and flow rates similar to those described above in first embodiment). For example, the gas is fed from compressor source or receiver 128, through the pressure step down regulator 134, past the on/off valve 132, into a first of two reception ports in the manifold that feeds into the enclosure 110. A second intake port/channel is also preferably provided in the manifold for feeding pressurized air from compressor 34 to the enclosed abrasive flow shut off valve or stop. Thus, a desired pressure level for the pressurized purge air and a desired flow rate is maintained
  • FIG. 9 provides a close up view of the preferably transparent container [0075] 108 and the abrasive A contained therein. Container 108 is preferably the sole source of abrasive and is preferably carried on the hazardous duty robot (e.g., no separate feed lines needed during hazardous interdiction). Container 108 thus preferably has a volume of about 300+/−50 in3 a volume being well suited for use with the high pressure liquid supply of, for example, about 50,000 psi (e.g. +/−5,000 psi) which is workable with the flexible high pressure hoses currently available. At the upper end of container 108 there is provided abrasive feed cap vent port 140 for venting air out or in the container 108 while at the same time preventing rain water from entering the container (e.g., a flap valve). FIG. 9 also illustrates U-shaped handle 142 for container cap 143 with the cap preferably being releasable relative to the cylindrical, transparent main container body shown. For example, Velcro strap attachment of cap 143 with handle 142 separation for filling the container once empty.
  • Purge gas supply flow rates of 5 ft[0076] 3/hr to 10 ft3/hr are illustrative of the flow rates involved when the upstream gas passage toward hopper is blocked off in a closed system while 10 ft3/hr to 12 ft3/hr illustrative of a non-blocked off upstream gas flow embodiment. The volume of sealed enclosure 110 is preferably about 40 in3.
  • With reference to FIGS. [0077] 11-17 an additional embodiment of the present invention is illustrated that features high pressure nozzle assembly 24 as described previously, attached to a remotely controlled arm 144 via a manipulator device 146 as in grasping means (e.g., a gripper, claw, clamp, chuck etc) on a hazardous duty robot 150 (see FIGS. 13-17). The method of attachment is such that other intended operations of the robot arm 144 are still available to the robot operator. It is preferable that the nozzle 24 be mounted on the grasping means 146 shown supported on robot arm 144 such that it protrudes somewhat past the grasping means 146 to allow the proper location of the nozzle 24 with respect to the object being cut. The illustrated “gripper” 146 or “claw” of the robot 150 is preferably a component that can be moved to be in the most forward portion of the robot 150 and therefore the nozzle 12 is preferably mounted such that it even further protrudes from the gripper 146. To enable the continued use of the gripper 146 for intended purposes, the gripper 146 is not used to grasp the nozzle 24. Instead, nozzle 24 is mounted on one prong or portion 152 (preferably a movable portion) of the gripper 146 by way of a bracket assembly 154 that is mounted on an exterior side 156 of the gripper prong 152 (see FIG. 12). This structure leaves the gripper available for grasping and picking up objects as desired by the operator.
  • FIG. 11 illustrates an exploded view of the nozzle mounting assembly [0078] 158 of the present invention with the above noted cutting nozzle 24, grasping prong 152 and nozzle attachment assembly 154. As shown nozzle attachment assembly 154 comprises a first bracket section 160 with a bolt access hole with bolt (not shown) or alternate fastening means 162, for engagement with one of a plurality of threaded reception holes 164 (e.g., three in series for providing a degree of operator induced adjustment as to the axial extension of the nozzle outlet port relative to the supporting gripper prong 152). First bracket section 160 is shown as having a U-shape with the presentment of a back interior wall and upper and lower interior walls which are sized for friction reception of the multisided inlet end 166 of nozzle assembly 24. Nozzle mounting assembly 158 further comprises second bracket section 168 which is designed to close off the open end of the first bracket section 168, and features a plate with upper and lower fastener holes which receive bolts (not shown) that extend into bolt reception holes formed in the free ends of the legs of the U-shaped bracket section 160. The multisided inlet end (hexagonal cross section depicted) is sized so as to extend out of the U-shaped enclosure to some extent such that it is placed in a state of compression when plate 168 is bolted into position. Additional optional axial stops (e.g., male/female engagement between multi-sided inlet end 166 and one of the interior walls of the U-shaped bracket section 160) are also featured under the present invention.
  • FIG. 12 shows the nozzle mounting assembly in an assembled state In a preferred embodiment the blocking and other components of the nozzle mount means places the nozzle's central axis at least 1 to 6 inches external to the exterior side of the supporting gripper prong or exterior wall surface as in a 2 to 3 inch spacing. [0079]
  • FIG. 13 shows an illustration of a preferred embodiment of a hazardous duty robot with mounted hopper mount assembly and nozzle mounting assembly in operation cutting multi layered plating. As seen, the nozzle assembly (central axis of focus tube and water spray) is often positioned at a horizontal orientation or more horizontal than vertical orientation by the support provided by robot [0080] 150, thus the aforementioned air purge system is highly effective in this situation in avoiding what would otherwise be a situation having high probability of clogging difficulties. FIG. 13 also illustrates the retention in position of the high pressure fluid hose to the exterior side of the hopper mount assembly such that it can be pulled and retracted (e.g., by robot arm 144) without getting tangled or crimped in an undesirable location. FIGS. 15-17 provide closer views of a mounted nozzle assembly 24 on the manipulator 146 provided on a hazardous duty robot. FIG. 16 also illustrates an alternate hand grasp bolt arrangement for attaching the second bracket section 96 to the first 94.
  • In an alternate embodiment the nozzle support includes a swivel connector in place of the non-swivel connector C in FIG. 15 at the location where high pressure enters into nozzle assembly [0081] 24 and there is further provided means (not shown) for rotation of nozzle mount 154 (e.g., a hinge lock arrangement provided in the nozzle mount 154) to provide for an automated rotation of nozzle assembly from axial position to a radial orientation or reverse axial position to enable even more axial movement of gripper into a hole or the like.
  • FIG. 18 provides a block diagram for a preferred embodiment of the present invention describing features making up a preferred embodiment of fluid jet cutting system [0082] 20 of the present invention. As seen in this illustration there is provided a robot interface kit and a control system (e.g. processor based) for remote or automated control of the abrasive supply system, the liquid supply system and the mechanical movement for those systems as well as the mechanical and electrical features of the hazardous duty robot including drive, location finding (e.g., sensed position via sensing system S supported on telescoping pole P in FIG. 13 and/or path input) and manipulation of arm 144 and grasping means 146 such as in the step down concentric cutting sequence described above based on the degree of grasping means closure either pre-input as part of a fixed program and/or adjusted by operator determination during operation. The control means also preferably monitors characteristics of the pressurized gas system for purging the abrasive line such as the pressure level in enclosure 110 with a pressure transducer or the like (not shown) and/or flow rate, although the above described mechanical vacuum flap provides either an alternate source of control or one that can be supplemented with sensed control through use of a transducer or the like. Alternatively or supplemental thereto, a time based sequence can be utilized as described above for FIG. 19. For example, there is featured under the present invention control means for controlling when the purge air pressure is applied and when not in accordance to a logic sequence conforming the parameters set forth above for FIG. 19, as an example.
  • Additional benefits of this mounting method are also realized with robots that have the ability to rotate the gripper about its axis of symmetry. This includes for example, that the size of the hole that is to be cut is controlled by the open position of the gripper. For a large hole, open the gripper completely. For a small hole, close the gripper completely, or for three or more layers step down in intermediate fashion between full open and full closed extreme locations. The cut is completed by simply rotating the gripper set at the desired size. This design enables cutting access holes in multi-layer structures whose layers may be spaced apart several inches. One suitable process sequence comprises: (1) Open the gripper completely to cut the largest hole possible. (2) Close the gripper such that the nozzle clears the hole previously cut. (3) Extend the gripper arm in an axial manner to position the nozzle to enable cutting of the next surface (e.g., axial movement to achieve layer contact with the preferred cutting location relative to the exiting spray or jet of abrasive/fluid combination). (4) This process can be repeated until the final layer is cut. The limitation is the reach extent of the robot arm. A second benefit is that the cutting path can be easily retraced since only one degree of freedom of movement is exercised. This allows the operator to ensure that the hole is completely cut through prior to moving the robot for the next operation. The versatility of multi-dimensional cutting allows for greater flexibility in cutting through multi-layer structures such as multi-panel vehicle (e.g., van or truck) body structures as it avoids stream degradation due to contact with a previous cut layer. [0083]
  • FIGS. [0084] 21 to 24 show the combination of the abrasive hopper container 108 and positive air pressure supply means 116 separated from mount bracket 92 earlier described for FIG. 3. As shown 106 hopper container 108 is mounted on manifold (e.g., an integral or secured, sealed relationship). Abrasive purge gas line (the “blue” line—noted in FIG. 31) extending from compressor 34 (not shown in FIG. 30 since an external source operating at, for example, 100 to 150 psi pressurized air supply) feeds into inlet elbow 170 which extends into regulator 134. Regulator 134 functions to step down the purge gas line pressure from the 100 to 150 psi. down to, for example, 10-20 psi. The lower pressure purge gas is then shown in FIGS. 21 to 24 as feeding into control valve 132 designed to either preclude or allow purge air flow therethrough.
  • In addition, in a preferred embodiment, there is a second control gas line (the “green” line noted in FIG. 31) which extends into manifold inlet [0085] 133 which opens into manifold port 135 as shown in FIG. 36. FIGS. 23-26 show control line 172 extending from manifold 106 (FIG. 30) also into communication with control valve 132. Also, shown in FIGS. 23 to 26 is the abrasive purge gas conduct 174 which extends between control valve 132 and manifold 106.
  • FIGS. 29 and 30 illustrate manifold [0086] 106 and the interior gas passageways formed therein. FIG. 30 shows purge gas inlet passageway 176 receiving gas from line 174 via connection port 175. Manifold passageway has an interior end that opens into enclosure 110 (enclosure represented by the dash line square in FIG. 30) via access port 178. The opposite end of passageway 176 preferably includes a pressure gauge 180 plugging the other opening in manifold line 176. Purge gas entering port 175 thus feeds pressurizing gas through access port 178 to pressurize enclosure 110 and to further provides the downstream purge gas line pressure discussed above.
  • FIG. 30 with the enclosure cover removed for better visibility of the abrasive flow control assembly [0087] 158, illustrates manifold abrasive stop activation line 182 with control valve outlet port 184 in communication with control valve 132 via control line 172. Manifold abrasive stop activation line has an interior end 186 which has activated line feed port 188 that communicates control line gas from manifold activation line 182 to activation feed line 190 that feeds into an activator such as a air pressure driven solenoid 192 as shown in FIGS. 25-27. Solenoid 192 includes a connector 194 for operating abrasive feed line stop assembly 58. Solenoid 192 has an outlet conduit 195 extending back into contact with manifold 106 at entrance port 196. As shown in FIG. 30, entrance port 196 opens into another manifold conduit 198 which exits out at sintered outlet 200.
  • FIG. 28 provides a close up view of the abrasive flow stop assembly [0088] 58 driven by solenoid 192 via connector 194 to either an open or closed or blocking state with stop plate SP which is pivotably supported at one end by shaft SH threaded into manifold 106. Thus when solenoid 192 is activated its pusher bar moves stop plate SP against the return bias effect of the spring connected at the end opposite to the pivot shaft as shown in FIG. 27. By adjusting, for example, the threaded connection of driver connector 194, a mulit-key/slot arrangement relative to the pivot shaft connection and/or a threaded stop pin SM extending from the interior of the enclosure 110 into abutment with the edge of stop plate SP as shown in FIG. 27
  • FIG. 32, illustrates a preferred manner of the delivery of pressurized gas to the abrasive purge gas system and the abrasive feed line stop assembly. As shown in FIGS. 9 and 32, there is high pressure hose assembly [0089] 30 which extends from the remote water source 202 (FIG. 18) which in a preferred embodiment is a self contained 60 gallon water tank which is sufficient for remote operation without need for public source water or a large body of water (e.g., a 60 gallon tank supplied in a support movable vehicle). The water derived from fluid source 202 is intensified with intensifier 204 to achieve the desired high pressure level (e.g., 50,000 PSI at 0.6 gpm) and fed through high pressure hose assembly 30 of, for example, 300 feet in length to hose guide means 96 and into the nozzle fluid inlet end of nozzle 40. FIG. 32 shows a preferred arrangement featuring internal high pressure hose 206 preferably formed of a steel mesh enhanced flexible rubber material covered outer (vinyl) protection sketch 208. Within the annular cavity formed between hose 206 and sketch 208 there is extended the abrasive purge supply line 210 (blue) and the abrasive flow blockage control line (green) 212 feeding respectively inlets 170 (abrasive purge gas line) and 133 (abrasive flow stop assembly control).
  • FIG. 17 illustrates a first embodiment of visualization assembly [0090] 214 shown in a fixed support location on the manipulator arm assembly 144. FIG. 33 shows an alternate embodiment of the visualization means (216) mounted to the exterior surface of one of the grasping prong 152 of gripper 146 (e.g., the opposite gripper prong as that supporting the nozzle). Visualization assembly 216 comprises video camera 218 contained in protective metal housing 220 which entirely encompasses camera 218 but for the lens and reception aperture for receiving power and feed back cable set 222. Housing 220 is releasably secured with bolts 224 to mounting bracket 226 which is L-shaped and secured to the upper surface of grasping prong 152 with bolt set 228. FIGS. 33 and 35 illustrate that the horizontal leg 225 of L-shaped bracket 226 in preferably notched to comfort in the outline of the curving profile for gripper 157. Camera housing 321 is further connected to housing bracket 230 to which is connected light 228 and shield support. Shield 232 is shown pivotably secured to shield support 231. Light 228 also is protected by an exterior metal housing which is connected to housing bracket 230.
  • Shield [0091] 232 is preferably electrically or air driven by a driver (not shown) which is positioned within an enclosed space provided by shield support having a rotatable shaft that rotates to position the shield in either an visualization mode shown in FIGS. 33 and 34 or the protection mode shown in FIG. 35, varies other shielding assemblies or also featured in the present invention such as an Iris design (also operable by the rotation shaft driver discussed above).
  • Thus visualization means [0092] 216 is arranged external to the “other” grasping prong 152 so as not to interfere with its gripping operation in the same manner as the outlet nozzle for the fluid jet cutter assembly of the present invention. Also by manipulating (e.g., collapsing) the gripper prong 152, the visualization means can be inserted into a formed cut out and then further manipulated (e.g., expanded from the collapsed position and rotates above to visualize an opening up accessed area).
  • FIGS. 36 and 36A illustrate an additional feature of the present invention which includes protective coverage of [0093] 234 preferably formed of a water proof, durable material such as a vinyl material. Covering 234 is designed to cover over the telescoping border area between the two component manipulator arm 144 housing first telescoping a piece 236 which receives and rectangular cross-sectioned arm component 238 (FIG. 17) to which gripper assembly 146 is mounted. Arm component 238 is sized for reception within the interior of arm component 144 for sliding retraction in and out pursuant the appropriate control signals. FIG. 36A illustrates arm combination 144 with its low friction (e.g., brass) slides plates along which arm component 238 slides. As abrasive can readily disrupt smooth slide functioning, the present invention includes cover 234 which is sufficiently secured at its end to the arm components 236 and 238 so as to preclude abrasive from gaining access to this slide region.
  • Those skilled in the art can now appreciate from the foregoing description that the broad teachings of the present invention can be implemented in a variety of forms. Therefore, while this invention has been described in connection with particular examples thereof, the true scope of the invention should not be so limited since other modifications will become apparent to the skilled practitioner upon a study of the drawings, specification and following claims. [0094]

Claims (43)

What is claimed is:
1. A fluid jet cutting system, comprising:
a nozzle;
a fluid communication line in fluid communication with said nozzle;
an abrasive feed line in communication with said nozzle; and
an abrasive purge gas line which is arranged so as to avoid fluid entry into the abrasive line.
2. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 1 further comprising a hazardous duty robot and with a nozzle mount on which said nozzle is supported.
3. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 2 further comprising an abrasive hopper mount assembly comprising an abrasive supply container and an abrasive supply container robot mount.
4. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 3 further comprising a pressurizable enclosure which is positioned for providing pressurized purge gas to the abrasive feed line and is supported on said robot.
5. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 4 further comprising a pressurized gas source in communication with said pressurizable enclosure to pressurize said container when operating.
6. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 1 further comprising an abrasive hopper and an adjustable stop which is positioned between an output location of said hopper and an abrasive in feed location for said abrasive feed line feeding into said nozzle.
7. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 4 wherein said pressurizable enclosure includes a vacuum sensor.
8. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 7 wherein said vacuum sensor includes a seal member which moves into a first position which unseals said enclosure upon a predetermined vacuum level being present and moves into a seal enclosure position when there is present a more pressurized state than said vacuum level.
9. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 8 wherein said seal is a flap seal positioned relative to said enclosure so as to flap open upon said predetermined vacuum level being present in the enclosure and flap shut when a higher pressure environment level is reached in the enclosure.
10. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 1 further comprising purge gas line access means that is positioned in said abrasive line.
11. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 10 wherein said purge gas line access means is a fitting that has a gas reception component and abrasive flow component with the abrasive flow component provided in-line with said abrasive line and said branch component being in communication with a purge gas source.
12. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 1 further comprising an abrasive hopper and a manifold with said abrasive hopper supported on said manifold and said abrasive hopper feeding through said manifold and into said abrasive feed line, and said manifold supporting a pressurizable enclosure which is in communication with said abrasive feed line.
13. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 11 wherein said fitting is positioned closer to an inlet location for abrasive in said abrasive line than to an outlet opening into said nozzle.
14. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 1 further comprising an abrasive hopper and an adjustable stop which is positioned between an output location of said hopper and an in feed location for said abrasive feed line feeding into said nozzle and an air driven driver for adjusting said stop to different flow through settings.
15. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 1 further comprising a hazardous duty robot with a nozzle mount on which said nozzle is supported, and said nozzle mount including a grasping member and a mounting assembly which is secured to an exterior section of said grasping member.
16. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 15 wherein said grasping member includes a multi-prong assembly with said prongs being supported in a fashion providing for expansion and contraction and said nozzle being mounted on one of said prongs.
17. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 16 further comprising control means for adjusting said prongs to different radial locations and initiating and discontinuing fluid jet cutting flow at different radial locations of said nozzle.
18. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 16 comprising rotating said grasping arm for greater than 360 degrees to repeat a cut over of a portion of a previously impacted cut path.
19. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 1 further comprising a nozzle mount which orientates, during operation of said fluid jet cutting system, said nozzle at other than a vertical orientation.
20. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 19 wherein other than a vertical orientation includes an orientation more horizontal than vertical.
21. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 1 wherein said purge line has a pressure level of 10 to 20 psi.
22. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 1 wherein said nozzle is supported on a movable support.
23. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 22 wherein said movable support includes an autonomous or remotely operated hazardous duty robot with a manipulation arm on which said nozzle is supported.
24. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 23 further comprising a grasping device supported by said arm and attached to an outer portion of said grasping device so as to enable continued use of said grasping device for grasping functions.
25. A fluid jet cutting system, comprising:
a nozzle;
a fluid communication line in fluid communication with said nozzle;
an abrasive feed line in communication with said nozzle; and
means for preventing fluid entry into the abrasive communication line at times when a sufficient vacuum level has not been generated by fluid flow exiting said nozzle.
26. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 25 further comprising a nozzle mount which orientates, during operation of said fluid jet cutting system, said nozzle at other than a vertical orientation.
27. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 26 wherein other than a vertical orientation includes an orientation more horizontal than vertical.
28. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 25 wherein said nozzle is supported on a movable support.
29. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 28 wherein said movable support includes an autonomous or remotely operated hazardous duty robot with a manipulation arm on which said nozzle is supported.
30. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 29 further comprising a grasping unit supported by said arm and said nozzle being attached to an outer portion of said grasping unit so as to enable continued use of said grasping unit for grasping functions.
31. A fluid jet cutting system, comprising:
a nozzle;
a fluid communication line in fluid communication with said nozzle;
an abrasive feed line in communication with said nozzle; and
a movable support supporting said nozzle, said movable support including a grasping device and said grasping device supporting said nozzle at a location which provides for continued use of said grasper.
32. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 31 wherein said grasping device includes expandable and collapsible prongs and said nozzle is supported on an outer portion of one of said prongs.
33. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 32 wherein said movable support further comprises an autonomous or remote hazardous duty robot which supports said grasping device.
34. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 33 wherein said robot includes an adjustable arm on which is mounted said grasping device.
35. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 31 wherein said grasping device is rotatable around a pivot axis of said grasping device, and said nozzle has an outlet axis that rotates about said pivot axis at a distance defined by a spacing of said nozzle outward of said pivot axis.
36. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 35 further comprising control means for adjusting said prongs to different radial locations and initiating and discontinuing fluid jet cutting flow at different settings of said different radial locations.
37. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 36 wherein said prong adjustment and cutting fluid activation and deactivation is preprogrammed into said control means.
38. A fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 1 including means for timing on/off states of fluid supply in said fluid communication line, abrasive flow in said abrasive feed line, and gas supply in said purge line which includes a delay in supply of abrasive until sufficient time has passed for vacuum generation by said fluid flow in said nozzle.
39. A fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 1 including means for timing on/off states of fluid supply in said fluid communication line, abrasive flow in said abrasive feed line, and gas supply in said purge line which includes a shut down sequence of shutting off abrasive flow, subsequently shutting off purge air flow and then subsequently shutting off fluid flow to said nozzle.
40. A method of preventing a wetting of abrasive in an abrasive feed line leading to and opening into a nozzle in a fluid jet cutting system, comprising providing a pressurized gas state in said abrasive feed line which precludes liquid in-flow into said abrasive feed line.
41. A method of manipulating a nozzle in a fluid jet cutting system, comprising providing a nozzle on a grasping unit with expandable and retractable components which nozzle is positioned on an outer portion of said expandable and retractable components, and adjusting said components to achieve different radial locations in said nozzle and initiating and discontinuing fluid jet cutting flow at different radial locations.
42. A fluid jet cutting system comprising:
a fluid jet nozzle which includes an inlet for fluid and an inlet for abrasive;
a visualization system;
a multi-prong grasping assembly having a first and a second prong and means for adjusting the relative position of said prongs, and said visualization system supported on a first of said prongs and said nozzle on a second of said prongs.
43. The fluid jet cutting system as recited in claim 41 wherein said visualization system is supported on an external side of said first prong and said nozzle on an external side of said second prong such that said prongs are placeable in a grasping state relative to an object positioned between said objects.
US10/639,764 2002-08-14 2003-08-13 Fluid jet cutting system Abandoned US20040132383A1 (en)

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