It was the morning of Friday, June 17, 2011. I got calls and emails from Guillermo Diaz, telling me to come to Building 5. “We’re cutting metal.”
Guillermo is a participant in the 2011 NASA Goddard Engineering Boot Camp and the Mechanical Team Leader for the GROVER 2 project. It’s his responsibility to pull four teams of young engineers together and build the mechanical portion of a solar-and-wind powered, ice-crawling rover called GROVER 2 in just about 10 days. On this day, Guillermo’s team started to cut components from aluminum sheets to build the caterpillar-like lower chassis of GROVER. That happened in Building 5, the machine shop and metal fabrication facility at Goddard. We watched, somewhat amazed, as a high-pressure jet of water, mixed with an abrasive material (ground-up garnet mineral) sliced through the aluminum sheet like a knife through butter.
One of the metal cutting technicians from the Advanced Manufacturing Branch, Marvin Kaufman, explained how it all worked as his colleague Emeril Gary operated the Mach 4 Waterjet machine, made by the Flow International Corporation of Kent, Washington. He said the pressure on the machine was set today to 55,000 pounds per square inch (psi). That is the pressure you would experience at a depth of 24 miles under the sea surface!
The machine could go up to an unimaginable 98,000 psi. You can cut steel with it. An intern with the Branch, Christine Redmond, pointed out a cylinder of solid aluminum more than 5 inches thick, resembling a cheese wheel, that had been cut with water. Nearby, a pallet of paper sacks contained the glittering red garnet mineral that, when mixed with water, forms a liquid knife to cut the metal.
Imagine being a college engineering student cutting metal like this and building a robot in 10 days!
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.