The Basics of Waterjet Cutting
Waterjet cutting is a manufacturing process that employs the use of high-pressure streams of water—i.e., jets—to cut raw material to the desired shape and size. It is suitable for processing a wide range of hard and soft materials, including metal, plastic, stone, glass, and more.
An Overview of the Waterjet Cutting Process
Unlike mechanical cutting methods, the procedure relies on erosion—rather than physical cutting tools—to cut material. Directing the jet—consisting of either pure or abrasive-laden water—at the workpiece slowly removes small amounts of material from a localized area. By moving the jet across the surface of the workpiece, industry professionals can form a continuous cut.
The choice of water solution and configuration of the waterjet depends on the part and production specifications. For example, softer materials can be processed with water-only solutions, while harder materials require abrasive mixtures. Additionally, simple designs may be able to be produced manually, while complex designs are better suited for computer numerical control (CNC) waterjet cutting methods.
A Brief History of Waterjet Cutting Equipment
In America, low-pressure water jets were first used for gold mining operations in the 1850s. Around the turn of the century, they were used for cleaning. The invention of the abrasive waterjet nozzle in the 1930s made industrial cutting—in this case, paper cutting—possible. Further developments in waterjet technology—such as the invention of high-pressure seals in the 1940s, numerical control technology in the 1950s, and abrasive waterjets in the 1980s—helped turn waterjet cutting into the process it is today.
The Advantages of the Waterjet Cutting Process
Compared to other manufacturing methods, waterjet cutting offers a number of advantages, such as:
- Broader material suitability. The process accommodates a wide range of metals with varying strengths, weights, hardness, and other properties. Some examples of suitable materials include steel, aluminum, brass, bronze, carbon fiber composite, ceramic copper, Kevlar, marble, textiles, elastomers, and more. It is also able to cut materials that may be challenging for mechanical and thermal cutting methods, such as thick or composite substrates.
- Lower risk of thermal distortion. As waterjet cutting is a cold cutting method, it is less likely to cause thermal distortion or damage to the workpiece. Additionally, it creates cleaner cuts and reduces the risk of operators experiencing burns.
- Greater precision, accuracy, and quality. Most operations produce net-shape or near-net-shape pieces with superior edge finishes. These qualities reduce the need for secondary processing, translating to lower production costs. As the equipment accommodates omni-directional movement, even highly complex or intricate part designs are achievable.
- Smaller environmental impact. As the process offers higher precision and accuracy, individual parts can be placed closer together on a workpiece. In doing so, industry professionals can reduce the amount of material needed to fulfill an order. Additionally, during cutting operations, little to no dust and hazardous gases are produced.
- Faster turnaround. Compared to many conventional methods, waterjet cutting has faster processing times, which leads to faster fulfillment.
Waterjet Cutting Capabilities at Serra Laser & Waterjet
Our waterjet capabilities are performed with incredibly high precision by the Mitsubishi Waterjet with taper control. Accuracy is ±.001, while taper accuracy is .001 per 1/2 inch of material thickness. We can adjust the angle of the waterjet so the taper is all to the waste side of the part. The machine has automatic height control, which means that the standoff of the material is consistent, allowing for the optimal nozzle position above the material.
The result is a very good surface with minimal or no striations, allowing net-shape manufacturing or near-net-shape (NNS) blanks for fast finishing. The waterjet will process a 6-foot by 12-foot plate that is up to eight inches in thickness. Mitsubishi servo drives are coupled with Mitsubishi controllers for accurate positioning along with reliable long-term operation.
Additionally, Serra added a new 5 axis waterjet from CSM in February, with a plate capacity of 78 inches x 158 inches x 8 inches. Bevel or angles up to 60 degrees from normal can be waterjet, allowing bevels, tilted edges, and gears to be blanked.
Contact the Experts at Serra Laser & Waterjet Today
The waterjet cutting process is an ideal manufacturing solution for many industrial customers. If you need waterjet cutting services, turn to the experts at Serra Laser & Waterjet. By partnering with us, you benefit from our extensive expertise and cutting-edge equipment. To learn more about our waterjet cutting capabilities or work with us on your next project, contact us today.