Schneider Electric and Flow International partnered to design a waterjet/control cabinet custom cutting system for Orange County Choppers, a renowned maker of customized motorcycles.

Lance Armstrong commissioned one. So did the New York Jets and the New York Mets, as well as the United States Air Force, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Coca-Cola and Microsoft. Even the Statue of Liberty has one … An Orange County Chopper, that is. Orange County Choppers (OCC) is regarded as one of the world’s premier builders of custom motorcycles. It was established in 1999 by Paul Teutul, Sr., and his son Paul Jr. The company’s success was elevated in 2002 when the Discovery Channel made the company the basis of what is now the hit TV series, American Chopper. Some of the company’s best known bikes are built around a theme, usually for specific corporate or celebrity customers, or charitable causes.

Since 2006, OCC’s ability to custom craft motorcycles has been supported by the Mach 4 5-Axis waterjet from Flow International, a machine capable of fabricating parts in three dimensions and similar to those used to fabricate composite aerospace components. Flow International is a global manufacturer of ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) waterjet technology.

Enhanced Bike Building
Waterjet technology is both simple and extremely complex. When water is pressurized up to 87,000 pounds (or more) per square inch (psi) and forced through a tiny opening, it can cut a variety of soft materials, including food, paper, baby diapers, rubber and foam. When small amounts of abrasive particles, such as garnet, are mixed into the jet stream, the resulting “abrasive waterjet” can cut virtually any hard material, such as metal, composites, stone and glass.

Orange County Choppers and Flow International have enjoyed a close working relationship since 2003 when the first Flow waterjet cutting machine was introduced in OCC”s facility. Now, OCC is using the Mach 4 5-axis waterjet to custom cut gas tanks, fenders, handlebars and carburetors faster and out of new materials. The cutting speed of the 5-axis waterjet also allows OCC to rapidly prototype bikes, cutting multiple iterations of the same design until the designer achieves the desired effect.

“A machine like this is priceless to us,” says Paul Teutul, Jr., chief designer and fabricator at OCC. “It would take you a week to cut something like a sissy bar out of a ½” plate of steel, where using the waterjet we can get it done in about 20-30 minutes.”

The Mach 4 5-axis waterjet also gives OCC the ability to be repetitive and do production runs of bikes so everyday customers can customize a bike from a series of pre-set templates.

Solution Partners
Schneider Electric, a global supplier of power, control and automation solutions, and one of its distributors, Hagemeyer North America, have been longtime partners of Flow International. Six years ago, rather than building its own control cabinets in house, Flow turned to Hagemeyer and Schneider Electric for help in building turn-key control cabinets, including for the Mach 4 5-axis waterjet.

According to Mike Ford, account manager for Hagemeyer, he and the local Schneider Electric representative spend quite a bit of time with the engineering teams at Flow on these types of projects.

“We work with Flow to understand their needs and develop a comprehensive, reliable, commercial solution that meets all of their requirements so they don’t have to build cabinets piecemeal” Ford said.

Schneider Electric’s indirect relationship with Orange County Choppers has now come full circle with the custom bike builder creating a motorcycle for Schneider Electric. And OCC will be using the Mach 4 5-axis waterjet powered by Schneider Electric equipment to build it.