Waterjet cutting is essentially cutting through any material with the highest level of precision using a water jet. When it was discovered that laser cutters were not strong enough to cut through materials or not adequate for parts that were needed to be produced in large quantities, this digital fabrication process emerged. Waterjet cutting was discovered in the 1930s in Scotland and this process of cutting has become very popular and is being used from large industrial processes to producing small artworks across the world.
Overview of Waterjet Cutting
Waterjet or abrasive waterjet cutting is a widely used cutting process that can cut through almost any material and provide high-quality cuts. Abrasive waterjet cutting machines can cut materials from 1mm-15omm thickness in varying sizes.
Although waterjet cutting was invented in 1930, it was not until the late 70s that the advancements in nozzle research along with high-pressure water pump technology allowed waterjet cutting to become commercially viable.
In the 90s, the accuracy of waterjet cutting, the cuts and detailing was greatly enhanced due to the introduction of CNC technology along with OMAX software-enabled motion control systems. The technology was also made compatible to be used with PCs.
Waterjet Cutting Process
Waterjet cutting systems are equipped with 50 HP or 100 HP water pumps that produce water at 60,000 PSI, which is supplied to the twin cutting heads. The water is then forced via a diamond, sapphire or ruby orifice, which is 0.245mm in diameter, at the cutting head. An abrasive, usually garnet, is added to the water jet that is travelling at an extremely high speed and this is then directed by the nozzle to the material to be cut.
Waterjet Cutting Using CNC
These days waterjet cutting machines are controlled by CNC and require CAD drawings for operation. You require an AutoCAD 2D electronic drawing along with the material specification, type and thickness. The drawing file is then converted into the CNC format and the cutting can begin. Sometimes, PDFs or hard copies of the 2D drawings of the required parts with the proper measurements or even existing parts can be copied using technical drawings to produce the required parts.
Waterjet Cutting Capabilities
Waterjet cutting can be employed to cut various types of materials such as metals, foam, rubber, synthetics, stone, glass (except tempered or toughened glass), tiles and wood, and it can cut from varying sheet sizes up to 4 x 2 m. Waterjet can cut from 0.2 – 0.5 mm accuracy depending on the type and thickness of the material. There is minimal material wastage as the kerf per width of the cut is around 1 mm.
Advantages of Waterjet Cutting
There are numerous advantages of waterjet cutting – there is no heat used for cutting, the cutting process produces very accurate and high-quality cuts and most importantly, the waterjet cutting process is extremely versatile and can be used for cutting almost any kind of material.
Today, waterjet cutting has become a very popular method of cutting commonly employed by fabricators, metal manufacturers and precision engineers. The cutting method is also popular with glass and metal sculptors, architects, tile workers and product designers. Waterjet cutting can be used in large scale industries, as well as in small hobby shops for small projects.