A yacht manufacturer required a more precise cutting method without relying on outside help
By Gretchen Salois

hree years ago, private equity lender Robert Gutierrez heard from business partner Aaron Browning about a houseboat company shutting down in landlocked Tolleson, Arizona. He and his wife Mia flew to Phoenix, combed through the company’s financial records and toured the facility. After a marathon of negotiations with the previous owners, Browning and Gutierrez decided it was a venture worth pursuing.

“It was an interesting purchase for us,” recalls Bravada Yachts co-owner Robert Gutierrez. “When we started, we inherited a press brake, a shear and an older waterjet, which were decent machines. But when we started making design changes, we realized we needed a more flexible and accurate cutting method.”

With his team in place, including his wife, son and a shop full of seasoned fabricators, his next prerogative was to find new equipment. He met fabrication machine merchant Dave Graf at Mac-Tech in Milwaukee. “Dave introduced us to Techni. I went to look at what the machines could cut and how detailed the work could be,” he says. “We use a lot of different materials from composites to aluminum and steel.”

Bravada Yachts sent some samples of parts they would need to cut. Techni mailed the finished parts back to Gutierrez to show him what the waterjet could do. “The parts were pristine,” Gutierrez says. “I tried to cut the same parts on my existing waterjet and it just didn’t compare.”

The purchase of the Techni i713 with linear scales for precision accuracy—“fully equipped with all the bells and whistles—took us to the next level,” Gutierrez says. “The waterjet became the key instrument we use to cut the intricate designs for our new yachts.”

Quick response
The process behind part cutting is user friendly. Techni’s trademarked Softec waterjet software was developed to help users make accurate parts at minimal cost and give the operator a simple and intuitive interface. The software can be used for nesting, CAD, maintenance diagnostics, automatic kerf compensation, and access a standard parts library and import DXF files.

“The software has been designed to have minimum keystrokes to go from drawing to cut path,” explains Jim Fields, vice president of sales and marketing at Techni.

Jim Fields, Robert Gutierrez and Dave Graf on Bravada Yacht’s shop floor in Tolleson, Arizona.
The Techni reloads and uploads new cut files with fast transitions from part to part.
Robert Gutierrez, bravada yachts
Jim Fields, Robert Gutierrez and Dave Graf on Bravada Yacht’s shop floor in Tolleson, Arizona.
The Techni reloads and uploads new cut files with fast transitions from part to part.
Robert Gutierrez, bravada yachts
Using Techni’s Tru-Cut Technology, the operator selects the material to be cut, its required thickness and surface finish. “The computer takes care of the rest,” Fields says. “The software ensures the minimum cutting time for any given part.”

The Techni Waterjet Quantum NXT Electric Servopump uses the manufacturer’s patented Advanced Diagnostic Intelligence. “Combined with the absence of hydraulically generated pressure and extreme ‘dead head’ pressure spikes that occur in all hydraulic pumps, this makes the Quantum NXT reliable,” Fields says.

The pump is able to minimize stress on high-pressure and other components and can determine the most likely failure modes.

“The [diagnostic control] illuminates extreme operating inefficiencies that can be caused by unplanned downtime associated with hydraulic pumps as well as premature preventative maintenance cycles associated with direct drive pumps,” Fields says. “For veteran waterjet users like Bravada, they can immediately recognize and appreciate the cost savings associated with the efficiencies, ease of maintenance and lower operating costs.”

Image of Bravada had to cut and grind down angles
Image of Bravada had to cut and grind down angles
Image of Bravada had to cut and grind down angles
Before installing the Techni i713, Bravada had to cut and grind down angles in order to get a full penetration weld.
Before using the Techni software, Bravada’s operators had to use an older waterjet machine to convert CAD files. “Techni’s team has come out here to train our team on the software and it’s easy to use,” Gutierrez says. “Our operators have been responsive and can take the AutoCAD files and create parts on the new waterjet.”

Versatility and easy access to CAD files is important as Bravada is working on up to nine yachts at any given time.

“Every boat we’re working on is at a different stage of construction,” Gutierrez says. “Every stage is scheduled out and planned for ahead of time. The engineer figures out how to make the best use of material by using the Techni’s nesting software whenever possible.”

It is sometimes difficult to nest parts for that many different boats at once, he says, so Bravada’s operators perform presswork as the Techni is cutting. “Then the team reloads and uploads new cut files as we’re able to. It doesn’t take long to transition from part to part.”

The heaviest parts use 1/2-inch-thick steel and almost everything else is thinner. Parts require mitering and the Techni is capable of mitering at 60 degrees. “That helps us when we’re planning welds,” Gutierrez says. “We used to cut and grind down a 37.5-degree-angle to get a full penetration weld. Now the Techni cuts that for us. It eliminates the grinding step that we used to need in order to get that full weld penetration.”

With the new machine and its software system, the boat builders can operate without scheduling two to three days of downtime each quarter to empty out used granite.

“The Techni automatically removes it,” Gutierrez says. “We have a booster pump on the water line and we can keep going; the other machine didn’t have anything like that. We’d have to hire two local guys to come in and manually clean it out and the cost would be through the roof.”

Adapt on the go
The metalforming machinery sector has felt the sting of COVID-19, whether through delayed orders, downturn in new orders or a complete overhaul of the shop floor footprint. “COVID-19 caused us to take a step back and reinvent some of the ways we present ourselves to the market,” Fields says. “There are more Zoom calls, fewer visitors, etc. However, Techni was ahead of its time in our onboard Advanced Diagnostics (ADK) module.

“We had already developed intelligence and real-time monitoring of heat, oil flow, incoming pressure, stroke rate, etc., in order to diagnose maintenance needs over the internet,” he continues. “We’ve actually accelerated the use of ADK. It was designed to give factories real-time information and troubleshooting assist and has now matured into a true lights-out unmanned operation.” Companies are making the best of challenging circumstances while moving forward. “We hope that we will get back to the face-to-face trade shows and relationships that are best in person but we are still the best choice for the technology to support our customers during this unfortunate sickness,” Fields says.

Bravada has felt the pressure COVID-19 has had on its supply chain, production and employees. In order to comply with social distancing rules, Bravada has employees work remotely when possible.

“We had to have 53 members on the plant floor shift to 24-hour, 7-days-a-week rotate so there are no more than eight production team members at a time,” says Gutierrez. “Our engineering team was able to email files and/or upload directly to the Techni machine. We realized no slowdown from that part of the operation, thanks to the waterjet.”

Upon reflection, Gutierrez says spending time with his father on an old 24-foot Reinell boat ingrained in him a love for boating. “Looking back, those years hanging with Pops on the water motivated my desire to see this deal close and build a legacy brand,” he says. “I know he would be proud if he were still alive today.”

Bravada Yachts, Tolleson, Arizona, 800/272-8232, bravadayachts.com.

Mac-Tech, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 888/MAC-9555, mac-tech.com.

Techni Waterjet, Charlotte, North Carolina, 913/492-3700, techniwaterjet.com.