Jet Edge Waterjet Plays Key Role in the Growth of Illinois-Based Custom Job Shop

More than a decade ago, Gary Lee was working as a purchasing manager in a 100-man job shop located in Illinois. The company was growing at a rate of 30 percent annually. Lee was doing well for himself, but at only 35 he was bored and looking at possible career options.

His longtime tooling salesman suggested he look into precision waterjet technology, a relatively new technology at that time. Lee realized the potential of waterjet technology and approached Jet Edge of St. Michael, Minnesota, along with wife LaSondra, to explore its cutting-edge systems.

Lee and his wife opened a custom job shop, named JDA Aqua Cutting, Inc., in the south Chicago suburb of New Lenox (Figure 1). They used all of their financial options to start the business. After analyzing the leading waterjet systems available on the market, they decided to buy the Jet Edge.

According to Gary, the Jet Edge systems were the best built machines. He liked the way the gantries and ball screws are integrated into the system, allowing for easy loading with a forklift. The system has been operated for eight to ten hours a day for more than a decade, but so far there have been no major problems.

The Lees also praise Jet Edge’s customer support. Gary would prefer to buy Jet Edge systems due to their reliability; the check tubes and seals last for years and keep on functioning.

JDA Aqua Cutting, Inc.

Figure 1. In 1996, Gary and LaSondra started up JDA Aqua Cutting, Inc., a custom job shop in the south Chicago suburb of New Lenox.

A True Family Business

The Lees named their company in honor of their sons Joshua, Daniel and Andrew. LaSondra now has plans to start a new business venture, named in honor of their daughter Rachel. Joshua played a key role in the development of JDA and he was studying Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology when the business first started. He is now 30 years old, and helps Gary run the company. Daniel, 22, is responsible for welding, part design, and CNC milling.

The Lees began their business with one waterjet, one compressor and accessories from their garage. Their first table was a 4X8 Jet Edge High Rail Gantry equipped with a 50-horsepower intensifier pump. They made $13,000 in the first year. In the following years word spread about the high quality workmanship of JDA, and as a result, a solid customer base was developed, cutting everything from copper electrical components to rosewood guitar frets (Figures 2 and 3).

The company grew 25 percent to 30 percent annually. After four years of operation the Lees business grew, they purchased a CNC mill and expanded into another bay. They bought their second waterjet, a Jet Edge High Rail Gantry with 72 by 120 inches of travel, powered by a 75-horsepower intensifier pump, at the end of the fourth year.

Copper electrical component cut on the waterjet.

Figure 2. Copper electrical component cut on the waterjet.

Rubber floor inlay cut on the waterjet machine.

Figure 3. Rubber floor inlay cut on the waterjet machine.

JDA received a contract worth $132,000 from a nuclear power company, to cut a 3 ½-inch thick, 48-inch wide, 102-inch long, 4,400-pound piece of inconel. The company has been involved in a number of high-profile projects. The inlay flooring for the skyboxes at U.S. Cellular Field (formerly Comiskey Park) located in Chicago was cut by JDA. In another project, cores were cut out of encyclopedias for an innovative exhibit held at the Art Institute of Chicago. JDA created panels for a world globe at Adler Planetarium situated in Chicago. JDA have successfully performed various creative projects for Las Vegas casinos and high-end retailers.

New Product Solutions

The Lees also cut parts for the World Trade Center, which was completely destroyed in terrorist attacks on 9-11. The manufacturing industry was facing a slowdown at that time and the attacks further affected the growth of mom-and-pop businesses.

Although JDA was affected by the event, they came up with a solution; they wanted to develop their own product. It took a year for them to complete the product line and JDA Custom was established as a result.

JDA Custom, a division of JDA Aqua Cutting, fabricates custom components for all lines of sport bikes. The majority of the components are sold online at The company’s 1,100 components are also available on eBay, and it has distributors all across the globe. Following the success of JDA Custom, the Lees launched a retail performance parts, accessories and clothing shop.

They have now become authorized distributors for various companies, such as Oakley, Tucker Rockey, Lockhart Phillips, and Parts Unlimited. JDA Custom now represents 50 percent of JDA Aqua Cutting's business, is popular among celebrity motorcyclists. Gary Lee has no regrets about his family's decision to run their own business, and he wouldn't purchase anything but the Jet Edge systems.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Jet Edge, Inc.

For more information on this source, please visit Jet Edge, Inc.


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