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Increased demand prompts expansion for Rib Falls Waterjet

CNC waterjet machining company cuts signs, gaskets, stairs and more for clientele

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May 13, 2024

RIB FALLS – Scott and Lisa Pietrowski said starting Rib Falls Waterjet, located at 232550 County Road S in Edgar, was an easy decision to make.

“Scott’s brother has a business – Rib Falls Fabrication – and Scott was working casually, helping him, and we saw a need for waterjet cutting in this area,” Lisa said. “So, we decided to purchase the waterjet and start our own business.”

The couple said they officially opened their business in 2016, sharing space with Rib Falls Fabrication, specializing in cutting a variety of products for their varying customer base.

About CNC waterjet machining

A CNC waterjet machine, Lisa said, is a large tank of water with a computer-controlled cutting head.

“You lay a piece of any kind of material you can dream of – metal, granite, plastics, rubber, anything up to seven inches thick – and then we can take a special kind of drawing called a DXF (drawing exchange format) file and download it to the file we need,” she said. “Then the computer uses that drawing and follows the pattern of the drawing to cut the material into whatever shape you want.”

A waterjet’s versatility allows Rib Falls Waterjet to service various industries, Lisa said, such as manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and defense.

“We might cut door handles for products,” she said. “We cut a lot of signs, we cut out parts for snowplows and cut out screens that different industries use for filters.”

Lisa said the company also does cuts for individuals – cutting signs with a client’s house number on it, for example.

And, though the waterjet can cut through just about any material, she said certain ones are easier to work with than others.

When the team cuts granite, for example, Lisa said it’s mainly used for countertops, whereas aluminum and stainless steel can serve various purposes.

“If you try to do too much decorative (work) with granite, it breaks easily because it tends to be fragile… (and) it tends to crack,” she said. 

For cutting projects using metal, Lisa said Rib Falls Waterjet tries to reuse scrap pieces clients don’t want back from previous projects. 

“Any small pieces that are too small to use for future projects we scrap out,” she said.  

Lisa said the business also has a press brake machine to bend some of the metals the team works with. 

With the press brake, Lisa said the team can make metal stairs, which has been one of Rib Falls’ “big projects in the last year.”

“It’s a big thing,” she said. “We can cut out the pattern of the steps and then use the press brake.”

Cutting gaskets, Lisa said, has also become much “more common for us to be cutting.” 

And, with Rib Falls Fabrication being located in the same building as Rib Falls Waterjet, she said the two businesses collaborate on projects often. 

“We’re currently working on building metal boxes for a municipal project,” Lisa said. “The metal boxes go in the ground for pipe builds. It works well because we can cut out the boxes, bend the metal to make the boxes and then Tom at Rib Falls Fabrication does all the welding for the boxes.”

New technology, new expansion

Lisa said though Rib Falls Waterjet has experienced steady growth since opening in 2016, they’ve seen an even larger increase in business since 2021.

“Our business is dependent on other businesses,” she said. “So, if the manufacturing industry is doing well, it trickles down to us because we’re a subcontractor.”

Lisa said the growth in clientele led to an expansion of the building to house the CNC waterjet machining company’s new Mach 200c waterjet – which she said has allowed the business to offer different cuts.

“On the waterjet, they have different dynamic cutting heads… so you can cut slanted into different materials and get more detail,” she said. 

The new waterjet’s computer technology is also “much more advanced.”

With keeping the original waterjet and adding the new Mach 200c, Lisa said Rib Falls Waterjet can produce more, but the turnaround time still varies. 

If a client brings the material they want cut, she said the team can typically complete the project within 48 hours. 

“If we need to order material, it depends on how long it takes to get it,” she said. “It might take two to four weeks.”

Looking to the future

After eight years of business and recent growth, Lisa said the team at Rib Falls Waterjet looks to the future with hopes of continuing to expand.

“We can see ourselves utilizing both of these waterjets and our press brake to take on more customers and better projects,” she said. “I’m not sure if we’ll expand our services beyond our waterjets and press brake because those two machines work so well together.”

Time will tell, Lisa said.

To learn more about Rib Falls Waterjet, visit its Facebook page.

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