Cudahy tool and die shop sees future in water cutting technology

Although Astro Tool & Die Corp., a Cudahy-based tool and die shop, has felt the pinch of the economic slowdown, the company believes its water jet cutting machine, purchased last April, will give it future growth.

The company now has 27 employees, down from 48 one year ago, said Elmer Lorenzen, president. However, demand for water jet cut pieces has grown over the year.

"The water jet can cut virtually any material except for safety glass," Lorenzen said. "We can do metal, stone, glass, wood. Our standard thickness is up to six inches thick, but our capacity is up to 10 inches. We’ve cut steel up to four inches thick.

"The water jet is the busiest machine (in the shop) now. We’re running two shifts on it to keep up with demand," he said.

The water jet is also helping keep some of Astro’s other areas busy, Lorenzen said, because of value-added services.

Adding the water jet machine was a $250,000 investment for the company. While expensive, Astro is now considering adding three dimensional cutting capabilities to its existing machine.

"It’s a possibility – we’ve had some requests already,” Lorenzen said.

He’s also hoping that his company will be able to re-hire some of its workers it laid off.

"I am being very optimistic," he said. "We are doing very well with our water jet capabilities. When more work comes in the door, that’s when we’ll start coming people back in that are on layoff."

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