Water, grit and speed provide a cutting edge

Speed is everything in Dwayne Epp’s business of fabricating metal parts for industrial customers.

“The ability to deliver when you say you’re going to deliver — I think it’s the only thing that matters,” said Epp, 45, at his Central Saanich plant, where water infused with a gritty material cuts through metal, stone or ceramic up to 20 centimetres thick.

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Epp and his wife, Nicole, own Eppic Waterjet Inc., a business they started in April 2013 after moving to the Island from their native Saskatchewan.

The jets shoot water at 90,000 pounds per square inch, and can cut twice as fast as Eppic’s closest competitors.

“It’s how fast you can get the product out to the customer, and if you can do it before anyone else does,” Epp said.

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Customers include everyone from aircraft manufacturers to artists requiring precisely cut metal, glass, granite and other material. “You basically can cut anything you want,” he said.

The high-tech equipment also allows Epp to cut metal to the high degree of accuracy demanded by aircraft manufacturers such as Viking Air of North Saanich.

Epp said there’s an advantage to cutting metal with water — as opposed to using a laser — because heat from a laser can change the structure of the material. And in the aircraft industry, there’s no room for error, he added.

The cuts are also accurate to a thousandth of an inch, which is the standard required by the aircraft-manufacturing industry.

The equipment sits on a two-by-four-metre table. The water is mixed with grit to make the cuts. The sound of the powerful equipment reverberates through the shop.

Used water is diverted to a recycling unit. “Nothing goes into the drain, into the ocean,” Epp said.

The Epps had another manufacturing business in Fiske, Sask. (pop. 90) before they moved west and started Eppic Waterjet — first in Parksville and Nanaimo and then on the Saanich Peninsula.

Epp, born into a farm family, has spent more than 25 years in manufacturing and said that experience helps him to know what other manufacturers want.

They moved to be closer to family, and the mild climate was also a draw.

“The climate is so much nicer here and Nicole’s family is here — but really, it was just time for a change,” Epp said.

The move, Nicole said, “has been absolutely wonderful — the best decision ever.”

Their two children — a 14- and 13-year-old — miss the snow that comes with Prairie winters, but not Dwayne and Nicole.

Nicole works in the office out front, while Dwayne keeps busy in the back.

The future of manufacturing in Greater Victoria looks bright, Dwayne Epp said.

“I can’t see how it’s going to be bad — you’ve got guys like Viking Air that are growing. I don’t think it makes a difference where you are manufacturing as long as you’ve got a good product at a good price and you can deliver on time.”

The work demands a high degree of concentration, which is why Epp prefers to do much of the work himself.

“You have to put the owner on the machine and not many owners want to be out there on the machine when they are running the company,” he said.

Epp wants to see the business grow so he can hire someone to do the hands-on work while he focuses on fabrication.

Online: eppicwaterjet.ca

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