Waterjet cutters are a category of automated cutting technology which use a high pressure stream of water for cutting or cleaning purposes.
There are 2 main catergories of waterjet cutting namely:
- Pure Waterjet – waterjet cutting where water at high pressure is used and without the introduction of abrasive for the cutting.
- Abrasivejet – waterjet cutting in which an abrasive (like garnet, olivine, aluminium oxide, silicon carbide etc.) is introduced to enhance the cutting process. This is used for harder materials like steels or reinforced plastics or ceramics.
One of the biggest advantages of waterjet cutting is the versatility of the machining tool. Typically waterjet systems are easy to set up and are usually controlled by computers. A CAD program which interfaces with the cutting equipment to produce very accurate components.
Waterjet can be used to cut a wide range of materials and is a cost effective approach to cutting.
Waterjet is ideal for cutting metals. The absence of heat in the cutting process ensures that there is no change to the properties of the material caused by heat treatment (which can be a problem when other cutting techniques are used). There also is no heat distortion during the cutting process and this leads to a more accurate cut. Relative to other cutting techniques, waterjet cutting has the added advantage of not introducing mechanical stresses into the material being cut.
Additional to this, the surface finish of the material does not affect the cutting process as is the case with laser cutting where a reflective surface can be an issue.
- Mild steel
- Carbon steel
- Stainless Steel
- Hardened Tool Steel
Other Hard Materials
The abrasive introduced into the machine can be adjusted according to the material that is being cut. For example, if ceramics are being cut, the garnet abrasive may not meet the requirements in which case a harder abrasive like diamond could be introduced. An advantage of waterjet for cutting fibreglass is that there is no need for dust or fume extraction if submerged cutting is used.
Softer materials like rubber and plastics can be cut using a water-only nozzle and no abrasives. Harder fibre reinforced plastics and rubbers may need the addition of an abrasive.
- Foam rubber
- Carbon fiber reinforced plastics
- Glass reinforced plastics
There are few materials that cannot be cut using waterjet. Thes include diamond where the extreme hardness of the diamond makes diamond to hard to cut and temered glass which is designed to shatter when damaged.