YOXO (St. Paul, MN) is a rapidly growing manufacturer of creative toy construction kits. To meet skyrocketing demand, YOXO (pronounced “yock-so”) recently installed a second waterjet cutting system, the Jet Edge Waterjet Shuttle System which allows the operator to keep cutting while unloading finished parts.
Designed to fuel kids’ creativity, YOXO kits inspire kids to design and build their own toys using Y, O, and X-shaped links that connect with everyday household items such as toilet paper tubes, paper towel rolls and cereal boxes as well as other connector toys like LEGO, KRE-O and Mega Bloks.
YOXO’s “eco-awesome” toys are made in the company’s wind-powered workshop in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the links are waterjet cut from colorful sheets of locally sourced recycled wood fiber. A truly closed-loop sustainable toy, YOXO can be recycled when kids are done playing with them and made into new YOXO creations.
When YOXO founder and CEO Jeff Freeland Nelson launched his innovative toy company in 2011, he wanted to do something different that would encourage kids to use their imagination. With the encouragement of his wife, Alisa Blackwood, he set an ambitious goal for YOXO to be the most sustainable toy manufacturer in the world.
“Most toys are made from plastic on the other side of the planet and will eventually end up in a landfill,” said Freeland Nelson. “We decided to do it differently. We wanted to make a product from sustainable, recycled and recyclable material, and we wanted to manufacture it in the USA.”
Initially, YOXO cut its connectors using laser cutters, but the lasers burned the edges of the material, forcing the YOXO team to spend hours cleaning parts. “Parents don’t want their kids playing with sooty toys, so we needed a better solution,” Freeland Nelson said.
With contracts then in negotiation with Target and Barnes & Noble, YOXO sought a more productive way to cut its parts. The company tested a variety of cutting technologies before concluding that cutting its water-adverse material with 55,000 psi (3792-bar) jets of water was the most cost effective and cleanest solution.
The toymaker turned to Jet Edge in nearby St. Michael, MN, and worked closely with the waterjet manufacturer’s engineering and sales staff to custom engineer a solution for their unique application, taking delivery of their first waterjet system in late 2014.
The results were immediately noticeable, said Trevor Burns, YOXO’s director of production. “We saw a 15–20% productivity gain without sacrificing any of the quality of our products after switching from laser to waterjet. These are remarkable gains to be made from completely switching manufacturing methods.”
A year after installing their first Jet Edge, YOXO, growing by leaps and bounds, needed a second system. “The second waterjet was a no brainer,” Burns said. “We needed the production capacity, redundancy, and efficiency. The investment in another waterjet has more than doubled our production output quickly, with an increase in the quality of our product.”
For their second waterjet system, YOXO decided to take production goals a step further by installing a high-production Jet Edge High Rail Gantry Waterjet Shuttle System with 10 OmniJet waterjet cutting heads. The custom-engineered shuttle system maximizes productivity by allowing YOXO’s operators to continue cutting as parts are unloaded.
“This upgrade was done due to the observations that our longest loss of production time was caused from the loading and unloading of our table,” Burns said. “With the shuttle, this time is down from 10 to 20 minutes to 1 to 2 minutes, a huge leap in productivity for our process.”
The new system also features a custom slanted tank with blow down system, a feature YOXO also had retrofitted to its first waterjet. The slanted tank makes it easier to clean out pulp debris, while the blow-down system helps hold the material in place during the cutting process. “This has drastically cut down on tank cleaning and increased the quality of our cuts by almost completely eliminating splash-back onto our products,” Burns said.
“Jet Edge has been more of a partner than we ever anticipated in helping to build our brand and increase our production capabilities,” said Burns. “In all aspects, Jet Edge has been there to answer questions, work to solve issues, and deliver parts in a quick reliable way. The hands-on treatment from Ben Callahan, our Jet Edge salesman, has from the start allowed us to build a system to fit our needs and budget, and our Jet Edge technician is always available for quick answers and reliable onsite repairs. Jet Edge waterjets are not the cheapest systems out there, but the investment in a greater up-front cost more than makes up for itself in the reliability of the waterjet, the service capabilities of Jet Edge, and the reliability of the necessary consumable parts Jet Edge’s parts department has in stock,” Burns said.
With its waterjets running an average of 100 hours a week, YOXO goes through a fair amount of consumable waterjet parts. Burns tried to save money with knockoff parts, but quickly switched back to genuine Jet Edge parts. “There is no comparison. After that experiment I have no problem paying more for parts that last two to three times longer,” said Burns. “Jet Edge makes the best consumable parts by far. They are better designed and more reliable than any other company’s parts that we have tried. You get what you pay for, and they pay for themselves quickly.”
YOXO’s Jet Edge waterjet equipment has been very reliable and is easy to operate and maintain, according to Burns. “The pumps are almost indestructible. Waterjets by their nature take a higher level of maintenance than some modes of production. However, by and large, the maintenance itself is quick and well described by the manuals and Jet Edge training program. Our off-the-street operators with no prior experience were quickly able to perform the necessary daily and preventive maintenance requirements to an adequate level. We have used inexperienced operators from the get go. After the install training, we were ready to begin full production within days. And with the second machine, we were ready within hours of the final installation testing,” said Burns.
For more information from Jet Edge, go to www.jetedge.com, or phone 800-538-3343.
Edited by Senior Editor Jim Lorincz.
This article was first published in the November 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read “Waterjet Cuts Creative Toy Construction Kits” as a PDF.