General Information about owning a Protomax

Making the most with your ProtoMAX.
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protomaxer8
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Sep 13, 2019 6:57 am

Fri Sep 13, 2019 7:25 am

Hey All!

A little background on me: I've had a ProtoMAX for about a year. My work involves relatively high production sheet metal parts (about 8" x 10", usually 10ga - 1/4" A36, mild steel). I bought the ProtoMAX to prototype these type of parts before sending them to my laser / powder coat vendor for production.

Before owning the ProtoMAX my general workflow went like this:
1. Design part in CAD (Autodesk inventor)
2. Detail print (my least favorite activity)
3. Send print to vendor, ask for a sample
4. Wait 1-5 weeks for sample to arrive
5. Figure out I need to move a hole 3mm to the left
6. Go back to step 1until I'm happy with the part...

As you can tell, this workflow was less than ideal...

After owning the ProtoMAX my workflow goes like this:
1. Design part in CAD
2. Save DXF
3. Open in LAYOUT, click AutoPath, then Post .omx file to dropbox.
4. Walk from my office to the machine, load said .omx file into MAKE
5. Load material, home machine, set zero, Click START!
6. Drink Coffee...
7. Go back to step 1 until I'm happy with the part.

This workflow is ideal! I can usually iterate a part to completion in less than a day, typically half a day.

I was recently asked by an acquaintance about my experience with the machine, and after replying I thought this might be useful information for anyone else out there thinking about purchasing a ProtoMAX. Let me know if you have any questions/comments.

This is not a paid endorsement, just an opinion from someone who spent the money on a Protomax and has used it for about a year!

---

Most importantly - I would buy this machine again!


Setup:
The entire process took between 4 and 5 casual hours to complete. The unit ships on a crate, partly assembled and comes with everything you need to complete the assembly, save for tools, which IIRC were basic allen keys and wrenches. They say you need 2 people to get it off the crate, and I would agree with that - I called one of my employees over to help with that step, but then did the rest on my own.

The instructions for assembly could have been more clear, but the videos omax has of the assembly setup will give you enough information to finish the install. I found the written instructions to be lacking, so the videos were really the only other resource available.

The waterjet ships with a laptop - it is a decent Windows 10 computer that has the software pre-installed. Because it is windows, it took about 3 hours (and about 100 restarts) to actually get the thing updated. I installed dropbox so I could just drop my DXF files from my cad workstation.

Side Note: You can install the CAD/CAM package on ANY computer you own! I spent the first year running it only on the PC that comes with the ProtoMAX, this worked fine but was not as convenient as running it on my everyday CAD workstation, then just saving the .omx files to dropbox!

Software:
There are 2 software packages. LAYOUT and MAKE. Layout is the cad/cam and MAKE is the machine controller.

I'm not crazy about layout - it acts A LOT like AutoCAD (which I despise) - very moues click driven and tedious to use. But it is feature rich and does what it is supposed to do.

The machine control software (make) - is just fine. You can home, set job zero, and start/stop jobs. It's nothing fancy, but it works as advertised and hasn't given me any problems.


Operation:
The machine works basically every time I want to use it.

There is occasionally a USB error where the control software (MAKE) cannot connect to the machine. I have found that simply restarting the workstation fixes this. Sometimes I have had to power-cycle the machine as well.

There are some other things to note:
1. The distance between the nozzle and the material makes a HUGE difference. They send a little bracket/setter to place between the material and the nozzle to set your distance correctly - this has to be done every single time you cut something. The height is a manual operation and feels tedious the first few times, but gets smoother as you get used to the process.

2. The abrasive tube is finicky - go on mcmaster and buy 100' of it at the same time you order the machine. Inevitably, one of two things will happen - either your height will be set too close, or you'll run out of abrasive on accident. When either of these things happen, the vacuum that should be pulling the abrasive, will reverse and start pulling water back through the tube and ejecting it out the side of the machine! When this happens, your tube will need to be replaced. Once water is in the tube, the abrasive will cling to the water and build a dam and never get down to the nozzle again. When this happens, it'll piss you off and take about 30 minutes to replace the hose and re-setup your job.

(the other thing that has happened to me: I forgot to flip the yellow cup down around the nozzle before starting the job and when the waterjet tried to pierce the part - water deflected off the surface and sliced through my abrasive tube creating hudreds of tiny 'cuts'... this has happened a few times)

3. Abrasive is cheap. I bought 10 buckets from OMAX when I bought the machine - I run the machine at least a few times a week and I still have 4-5 buckets left. I'm not 100% sure about this next statement as a fact - but here is my take on the abrasive: Consumption is non-linear. So cutting say 1/8" material vs 1/4" material uses more than 2x the 1/8" - my point is that if you're going to be cutting thick stuff (1/2"+) you'll eat through abrasive faster.

Also - buy the maintenance kit when you buy the machine. You'll want the extra yellow cap and the extra filter!

4. The machine is messy - your hands will get wet every single time you use the machine. The machine will be filthy every single time you finish using it. Be sure to get the spray down hose when you order - it would be terrible not to have it. Every part has to be sprayed off to get the spent abrasive off the surface (it tends to just sit on top of the stock and pile up as the job runs). I spray the machine down after every use and mine is still really really dirty. After a year, I haven't had to clean the abrasive out of the bottom of the machine - but that day is come soon and I'm not looking forward to it...


Summary:
The machine will cut anything! I cut everything from 0.080" aluminum to 1" Mild steel and quite a bit of plastic as well (UHMW, HDPE, Acrylic). I cut a lot of plates that have tiny holes (2mm) and the accuracy is always spot on.
User avatar
Dave F
OMAX Employee
Posts: 34
Joined: Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:13 pm

Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:16 am

Thanks again for sharing your experience! I've talked with folks internally to assure we had comprehensive feedback:

1. Software compatibility: When your production rate requires you consider acquiring a an OMAX industrial unit, or want to outsource to a shop that has one, the programs built with your ProtoMAX software, (Intelli-Max Porto) are 100% compatible with the software loaded to OMAX industrial equipment. Programs can then be enhanced to achieve additional capabilities from industrial versions. This is one of the essential capabilities we knew would be required so users have a convenient path to greater productivity at heightened output.

2. Computer hardware: Yes, you can run Intelli-MAX Proto offline at another computer to develop all the drawings needed to then run on the ProtoMAX provided laptop. Main requirement is running with Windows 10, 64 bit.

3. Powder Coated Part cutting: Great to see the benefits of cutting powder coated parts. Abrasive waterjets are uniquely qualified to assure material separation with no heat affected zone which maintains the integrity of the coating.

4. Microsoft updates: These can be an issue during operation. We would advise disabling updates when running the system.

5. Layout: We invest most of our Software resources in optimizing the controls end of the package, (MAKE, our CAM) and also working with 3rd party CAD developers like Solidworks and Autodesk. You can download plug-ins from either package and post directly to MAKE. And, Autodesk Fusion 360 is FREE from OMAX, (one year subscription)! To receive your free one year subscription, visit
http://autodesk.com/fusion-360-promos, and enter the code "omaxoffer".

6. USB Errors: let us know when this occurs again. Sometimes a reboot is required but hate to see you have to suffer thru this. It’s essential the USB be connected before MAKE is opened and there may be some electrical noise that could contribute. Keep us posted.

7. Clogging: Search for “clog” in the Knowledgebase, (from MENU on www.protomax.com ) and you’ll see some suggestions though we have found 2 additional things that have helped mitigate: (NOTE: Most crucial is to assure proper stand-off or height between the work-piece and the mixing tube thru out the cut.)
- Use anti-static dryer wipe or pad to wipe around the inside and outside of the hopper (when empty), the abrasive feed block, and the length of tubing that goes into the feed block.
- Cut off the last 14” of the polyurethane line and replace with polyethylene. The ethylene line is more lubricious. Simply wet and press the urethane line over the ethylene. Both are ¼” and available from DIY stores.

8. Maintenance Kit: There are 2 types, one with a drain water filter tank and water spray nozzle and bunch of spare parts, recommended at purchase of the system, (318239) and one to replenish consumables stock, (318662).

9. Clean-up: With use, the day will come to clean the tank. The frequency is mitigated by the continuous emptying of the garnet bins located each side of the cutting deck. When tank cleaning is necessary, go to the Knowledgebase and type in “clean” in search box. (Also be sure to use acrylic or plastic cleaner with microfiber towel when cleaning lid).
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