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Daily Interlake Article by Lynnette Hintze

An article written by Daily Interlake journalist Lynnette Hintze. Click the title below for full article.

Posted: Saturday, March 10, 2012 7:26 pm | Updated: 8:41 am, Tue Apr 22, 2014.

On the cutting edge: Acutech expands waterjet, ironwork capabilities at new facility

By LYNNETTE HINTZE
The Daily Inter Lake

A business initially built on cutting-edge waterjet technology has expanded into a new facility on Montana 40 with broader capabilities and a new name.

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Josh Boyce, co-owner of Acutech, cuts mild steel into short pieces to be used as support straps at the new Acutech building outside Columbia Falls on Tuesday. Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake

A business initially built on cutting-edge waterjet technology has expanded into a new facility on Montana 40 with broader capabilities and a new name.

Glacier Jet Technologies, started in a small shop in Evergreen nine years ago by Joshua Boyce, merged last year with Creations Studio, owned by Dean Grommet. The result is Acutech, a one-stop shop for any kind of metal fabrication.

The 18,000-square-foot plant opened recently at 3816 Montana 40, midway between Whitefish and Columbia Falls.

“There wasn’t anybody who did it all in one place,” Grommet said. “Before, to get the service we offer, a person would need to go to three or more vendors.”

Grommet said his manufacturing background blends well with Boyce’s expertise in computer numerically controlled equipment.

Acutech builds parts for a variety of other manufacturers that runs the gamut from gun components and helicopter parts to beam and truss brackets and wrought-iron furniture.

“We’re servicing their needs in lots of different ways,” Grommet said, noting that Acutech has installed several machines that are either one of a kind in the Flathead Valley or have a bigger capacity than other area machine shops.

The company’s plasma machine, for example, uses a torch that runs 200,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hotter than the sun — to cut 10-by-20-foot sheets of steel up to 7 inches thick.

There is a smaller plasma machine in the Flathead, Grommet said, but none with the capability to handle such big sheets of thick steel.

The plasma machine is equipped with a water bath to capture the smoke, gases and any particulate matter.

The waterjet cutter, which harnesses the power of water and crushed garnets to precisely cut metal or stone into artwork or industrial parts, is another key component of Acutech. Its capacity has been expanded for faster cutting.

Waterjets can cut materials ranging in thickness from .05 inch to 6 inches. Unlike laser and plasma cutting techniques, waterjet cutting does not use heat, so it prevents the “morphing” of hardened and heat-sensitive materials. Without manipulating the temperatures, waterjet cutting is less wasteful and more green than other kinds of fabrication, according to Boyce.

Boyce first became interested in waterjet technology when he worked as an apprentice machinist at his father’s Precision Engineering business. His machinist background was helpful when he opened Glacier Jet Technologies in 2003. Prior to the recession, his peak year was 2007 when he was running two shifts, 18 hours a day. In addition to doing fabrication work for artists, he tapped into parts needed by the electronic and aerospace industries.

Beyond waterjet and plasma cutting, Acutech offers autocad design, blacksmithing and iron work, certified welding, machining milling and turning, laser cutting, manufacturing and assembly.
“We do anything you can imagine, really,” Grommet said. “We do all kinds of intricate pieces.”

Boyce and Grommet still are putting the finishing touches on the new facility and have several machines to put on line in addition to some finish work inside the plant. A large space across the front of the building could become an art gallery, but Grommet said he hasn’t made a final decision on how to use that space.

After Grommet sold a manufacturing business in California 15 years, he eventually wound up in the Flathead Valley. He was looking for something to do as a hobby, so he delved into making antler furniture and iron chandeliers with Western motifs such as waterjet-cut horses.

Grommet said the embers of his passion for such artwork originally were stirred to life five decades ago while tramping the creeks and forests of Kentucky as a child, “observing artifacts of primitive man, pursuing game, and generally seeking the raw edge of wilderness that is left to us in these modern times.”

Boyce said his partnership with Grommet will help grow their business.
“I think Dean and I complement each other,” Boyce said.

Acutech has four full-time employees in addition to Boyce and Grommet, each with a specific expertise in machining and blacksmithing. The owners expect to hire more employees as time goes on.
Despite having to pay a premium for shipping because the Flathead Valley is “off the beaten path,” the business climate for the waterjet, laser and plasma cutting services is very good, Grommet said. Acutech has a solid customer base and is reaching out to contact new supply chains.

Delivering top-quality parts to customers is paramount.
“We pride ourselves on high-end fixtures and parts,” Grommet said.

For more information about Acutech, go online to http://waterjetcut.co.
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by e-mail at lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.