Waterjet cutting technology developed and evolved during the post-war times when newer and more efficient cutting methods were being explored. The use of low-pressure waterjets began in 1852 in California for gold mining. In 1958, a system that used liquid at very high pressure to cut hard materials was developed by North American Aviation. In the industry, the use of abrasive water jets came into existence around the 80s.
Waterjet cutting technology cuts any material by eroding it by using a fine stream of water at a very high speed and pressure. While pure waterjet cutting uses only water to cut softer materials, abrasive waterjet cutting makes use of an abrasive material usually granite, added to water that makes it suitable for cutting harder materials such as ceramics and metals. Waterjet cutters do not get overheated and do not get dull, unlike other types of cutters, which makes them superior options for cutting.
Characteristics of Waterjet Cutting
Types and Thickness of Material
You can cut a wide variety of hard and soft materials of varying thickness and shapes using waterjet technology. You can cut metals including aluminium, 10 gauge steel, titanium, 4340 alloy, bronze, honeycomb, etc., non-metals such as plastic, tile, stone, rubber, fiberglass laminate, etc., and non-metals including silicone, food, urethane, foam, etc.
Waterjet cutting produces excellent cut quality and there are no heat-affected zones produced. The quality of the cut and the edge smoothness can be controlled by controlling the cut speed and the abrasive grit. Smoother edges are produced if the cut speeds are slower.
While cutting thinner materials with waterjet cutting can be slower than laser, oxyfuel or plasma cutting, waterjet cutting of non-metallic materials is very fast.
While the cost of waterjet cutting equipment and operating cost is higher than plasma, laser and oxyfuel cutting and the abrasive also adds to the cost, waterjet cutting produces precise and high-quality cuts.
Cost of Capital Equipment
The capital equipment cost of waterjet cutting systems usually ranges from medium to high as the system requires sophisticated and hi-tech motion control that positions the jet precisely.
Although waterjet cutting is comparatively more expensive when you are cutting thinner materials and is also a slower cutting method, it is an excellent method of cutting items other than metals which require very precise cuts or where a heat-affected zone is not desired. Waterjet cutting is indeed the most versatile process when it comes precision cutting.