Waterjet: Buying Downstream

   Buying used is often a great way to pick up equipment, but it may not be ideal for snaring that first waterjet. Not only are such machines scarcer than bridge saws and edgers; you also may not be getting the best solution for your needs.
   Calypso Waterjet’s Brody Fanning says many of the machines that company sees on the used market are smaller.
   “Often, they’ve been traded in for larger machines,” he says. “Most of them aren’t large enough to accommodate a full slab of granite.”
   Where used machines are available, the price break can make them a viable option for some people, but only if they shop carefully. The best options are those where the manufacturer maintains some relationship with the new owner.
   Some of the manufacturers offer refurbished machines, or they may charge a fee to the new owner to provide updated software, as well as support and access to training.
   For instance, Mike Ruppenthal of Flow International Corp., says buyers of that company’s used equipment may obtain training on it from the company, but the protection of the warranty is no longer available.
   John Cheung of OMAX Corp. agrees that the warranty is important, but he says it’s not an insurmountable problem if a buyer finds the right machine at the right price.
   “We design our equipment so that later on, if we have retrofits and upgrades, they’ll be applicable to the old machines,” he says. “If people buy used equipment, we can certainly retrofit them. Of course, we charge an upfront transfer fee, and we will then train the new customer.”
   In general, however, the biggest knock against buying on the used market is that it doesn’t get the latest software and technology into a buyer’s hands, which can be critical as the industry continues to evolve.
   “This is a technology that’s been growing pretty rapidly,” says Ruppenthal. “The machines we made five years ago are about 20-percent less-productive than those we build today. What you’re giving up when you buy a piece of used equipment is some of the productivity.”
   Joe Blackmon of ESAB Welding and Cutting Products says it’s important to know the age of the machine, how old its drives are, and whether there is manufacturer’s training or service available.
   Chris Reed of Perfect Technology Waterjet Co. explains that the age of the machine is directly related to the availability of repair parts. While that’s less of a problem with a refurbished machine, it’s a good idea to find out which parts have recently been replaced, and to figure higher maintenance costs into your purchasing equation.
   It may also be important to know the top speed of the machine, since cutting velocity has increased in recent years.
   “In stone cutting, the top speed requirement is lower than for other industries,” Reed says. “Still, if you plan to use the machine for other cutting jobs, it would be nice to know that the used machine can meet those needs.”
   He also cautions would-be buyers to take a close look at the structure of the machine itself. Just like a used car that’s seen one too many winters of road salt, a machine that’s made from something other than aluminum and stainless steel may show serious structural wear-and-tear over time.
– K. Schipper

This article first appeared in the March 2005 print edition of Stone Business. ©2005 Western Business Media Inc.