What’s Waterjet Cutting Process

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What’s Waterjet Cutting Process

Water jet cutting is a kind of sheet metal fabrication process cutting nearly any type of material, soft and hard. In this process, pressurizing pumps deliver high-pressure jets of water that can cut various types of materials.

Waterjet cutting machine can deliver water at a speed of three times the speed of the sound that can create a destructive force to cut almost any material. Besides, water jet cutting technology is an excellent solution to cut thermally sensitive or thicker materials.   

Here in this guide we will educate you about water jet cutting technology to help you how this process words and what to look for before choosing a water jet cutting service provider.

History of Waterjet Cutting

Water jet cutting technology came into the scene right in the middle of the 18th century. Initially, the water jet cutting principle was used to excavate materials in coal mines. Then, Russia and Newzealand are the first two countries that used this technology in the coal mines.

Very soon, Californian coal miners learned the water jet cutting definition and started using this technology in their coal mines also. Moreover, they used water jet cutting technology to find gold beneath a rock.

McCartney Manufacturing first started water jet cutting technology commercially, and they used pure water jet cutting tools for the aerospace industry. Then in 1971, they started manufacturing paper tubes utilizing this technology.

history of waterjet cutting technology

As a result, engineers planned to upgrade the machine, and in the 1980s, they were able to produce the first abrasive water pressure cutter machine. Egyptian scientist Mohammad Hashish invented the first nozzle for the abrasive water jet machine. Also, Chinese company Ingersoll-Rand introduced their first water jet cutting machine, which was a very efficient one.

Timeline of the Water Jet Technology

1930s – Low-pressure water pressure cutting system.

1940s – High-pressure system used for the first time for automotive hydraulics and aviation.

1950s – High-pressure technology was introduced for cutting plastic.

1960s – Up to 50,000 psi (3,450 bar) pulsing waterjet created.

1970s – Commercial water jet cutting technology was launched for the first time.  

1980s – Abrasive waterjet came into the scenario.

1990s – Motion control system was invented to locate water jet streams more precisely.

2000s – Significant improvement in the cutting speed.

2010s –  6-Axis machining and 3D tools were introduced.

Basic Components of Water Jet Cutting Machine

Here are the lists of basic components of water jet cutting machine:

  • CNC controlled guiding machine
  • Electric motor
  • Memory
  • Pressure intensifier
  • Abrasive Water Jet Nozzle (Standard diameter is between 0.1 mm and 0.5 mm) and Valve
  • Articulated Cutting Head
  • Jewel Orifice
  • Water treatment for filtering and desalting.  
  • High-pressure piping
  • The oil pump and oil tank
cutting heads of water jet cutting machines

How Does A Water Jet Cutter Work?

In technical terms, water jet cutting is a particular type of computer numerical control (CNC) machining technique. You can use clean water or mix different types of abrasives with the water to increase the efficiency of the pressurized water.  

The cutting machine that is used as a water cutter comes with a table to support the material. A computer-generated program controls the CNC machine. Therefore, the entire process needs no human interaction.

abrasive water jet machine diagram

Working Process

We have listed the basic rules that most waterjet cutting machines follow:

  1. First, you have to pressurize the water. Specially manufactured “Crankshaft pumps” are used to produce water with extremely high pressure.
  2. The cutting head is the next destination of highly pressurized water. A high-pressure tubing is used to make the water travel. When the pressurized water reaches the cutting head, it goes through a hole.
  3. The opening section is made of solid jewels such as ruby, diamond, or some kinds of hard materials. And the orifice is very narrow, smaller than a pinhole. Now use the fundamental law of physics. The pressure converts into velocity when that travels through the tiny hole. We mentioned earlier that an intensifier pump could produce pressurized water at 90 thousand psi. And when that water passes through the tiny hole of the CNC machine, it can generate a velocity of nearly two thousand and five hundred miles per hour! That is a colossal velocity to create destruction.
  4. A Mixing chamber and nozzle are two components of the cutting head. In most standard machines, they are set directly below the water ejection hole. The purpose of this mixing chamber is to mix the abrasive media with the steam of water.

Water accelerates the abrasive in the mixing tube located below the mixing chamber. As a result, we get powerful steam that can cut nearly any type of material.

Different machines might operate in different ways but the basic water jet cutting principle is almost the same.  

Types of Waterjet Cutting

There are two types of water jet cutting machines – Pure waterjet cutting and abrasive waterjet cutting machines. Below we have discussed the working process of both types of machines.  

1. Pure Waterjet Cutting

Pure waterjet cutting uses pure water to complete the operation. This process is ideal for soft and medium-hard materials.

This machine is considered the most environmentally friendly machine as it does not release any toxic gas or dust. In addition, you can use the water further and, in the end, feed into the water cycle.

pure waterjet

In a pure waterjet machine, the water jet is comparatively small, which can be less than 0.1 mm. These machines are excellent for precise cutting at the optimum level for materials with small thickness.

2. Abrasive Waterjet Cutting

Abrasive waterjet cutting machine incorporates abrasive water for a more dynamic cut. You have to add three additional components to convert a pure water jet into an abrasive one.  

  • Abrasive focusing nozzle
  • Abrasive mixing chamber
  • Pure water focusing nozzle

In addition, you will need an abrasive agent also. The primary task of the pure water nozzle is to form highly compressed water into the jet. Then the jet passes through the water to the abrasive mixing chamber at a speed of 1000m/s.

abrasive waterjet

The abrasive material mixes with the water and exits at high speed to cut the desired material. In most cases, olive sand and garnet sand are used as abrasive materials. If the cutting material is softer, corundum is used as abrasive.

Abrasive water jet cutting machine is 0.2mm larger than a typical water jet machine on average. With an abrasive water jet cutting machine, you can cut steel up to 50 mm and 120 mm of other metals.

What Materials Can a Waterjet Cut?

Waterjet is a versatile cutting process that can cut a wide range of materials using pressurized water and abrasive. You can cut very thick material and fragile material also. As a result, manufacturers are using this technology more and more.

Here are some of the important materials that water jet can cut:

  • Metal
  • Glass
  • Composites
  • Tile
  • Plastic
  • Rubber
  • Ceramic
  • Stone

Water jets can cut a thickness that much other technology can not. You can cut 12 inches or greater with a water jet!

Which Industries Use Water Jets for Cutting Needs?

Waterjet cutting technology is environmentally friendly and precise. Therefore, more and more industries are adopting the water pressure cutter. Here are some of the top industries that use water jets for cutting:

  • Manufacturing
  • Aerospace
  • Electronics
  • Automotive
  • Food
  • Architecture

Do you belong to any of those industries or from any other industry that can use water jet pressure technology for cutting materials? Send RapidDirect your requirement to get a free quotation.

Upload your files and get started with RapidDirect today!

Why Might You Use Waterjet Cutting?

Whether you are new or already using water jet cutting technology, you should be aware of the benefits of this technique. Below we have listed some benefits of using the water jet cutting principle:

  • Cut Whatever you want. In the present, water jet cutting technology is so versatile that you can use nearly any material in the process. Plastics, composites, ceramics, rubber, metals, you name it, a water jet will cut that for you.
  • No Heat Affected Zone. Water jets are cold cutting technology, and when you use the technology, you will not find any heat-affected zone. As a result, the operators also remain safe along with the entire process.
  • Eliminates the Chance of  Material Distortion. This is another benefit of cold cutting. The metal does not expose to heat. Consequently, you get a clean-cut, and there is no chance of material distortion.
  • The Finishing process is self-sufficient. The cutting quality of waterjet technology is so precise that in most of time you don’t need any optional surface finishing. Besides, this process enhances the cutting process, increasing overall efficiency and reducing cutting time.
  •  Environmentally Friendly. The most concerning point of modern manufacturing is the impact on the environment. What’s best,  water pressure cutter does not produce any hazardous waste. Therefore, it is an environmentally friendly process, and more industries are embracing this process.

What’s the Downside to Waterjet Cutting?

Though waterjet cutting has some notable advantages, it has some disadvantages too. Here are  its disadvantages:

  • Initial costing – Researching and adding abrasive materials is crucial for optimum cutting. Finding the appropriate abrasive and using them can be expensive sometimes because of their price.
  • Orifice Failure – This often happens to low-quality water jet cutting machines. Orifice failure disrupts productivity and increases production costs.
  • Cutting Time – Water jet cutting technology can cut almost any material, but the cutting time is higher than traditional cutting tools. As a result, you will get less output.
  • Less Accurate for Thicker materials – The stream goes away from the nozzle when the material is too thick. It impacts the cutting accuracy.

 Conclusion

If you are looking for extreme precision and accuracy metal parts,  water jet cutting technology is one of the best cutting solutions.

But this is a sophisticated method and you will need state of the art equipment and highly skilled engineers, technicians, and workers to complete the process. Therefore, you must be very careful before choosing a company for the service.

No worries. RapidDirect provides professional sheet metal fabrication services at competitive pricing. RapidDirect is an ISO certified water jet service provider and all of our team members have years of experience in the manufacturing field. Top-quality service, less lead time and competitive price have made us a leading manufacturing service provider globally.

With our platform, you can manage your quotations and orders which means that comparing different quotations of your project is available. Also, after placing order, you can check the production stage of your parts at any time from production start and order delivery. Feel free to upload your file.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What’s the difference between Pure and Abrasive Water Jets?

Most waterjet cutting machines use abrasive components with steam. They are ideal for cutting hard materials. For example, rock, glass, metals will need abrasive for a precise cut. Garnet is the most used abrasive because it’s tough and more available.

But abrsavie is not mandatory for cutting all types of components. If you are cutting soft and medium-hard materials such as foam rubber, you can use a pure water jet machine.
Pure water jet machines do not use any abrasives. Instead, they use pure water, and the water used in this process is reusable.

2. Which is better? Waterjet cutting, Plasma cutting, or laser cutting?

Every cutting technology has its own advantages and disadvantages. We have listed the three most important factors to find out which one is better.

Cost: Laserjet cutting is the most expansive, and plasma cutting is the least expensive cutting solution. However, if you consider the accuracy of the cutting, plasma cutting has the lowest accuracy.

Operational Speed: Water jet is the slowest cutting process among all three methods. Plasma jet is the fastest method, and laserjet stays in the middle.

Cutting Quality : The comparison between the actual measurement of the final product and the programmed product determines the cutting quality. And as the water jet ensures less heat distortion, its cutting quality is the best of all.

3. Can I cut thick materials with waterjets?

Yes, you can cut thick materials with a water jet cutting machine. In fact, they are famous for cutting thick materials. But thicker waterjets are not very efficient for thicker materials. The accuracy reduces for thicker materials.

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