Frequently Asked Questions
What is water jet cutting?
Although water jet is often used, most modern systems are abrasive water jets. Water jets were developed in the 1970’s for cutting. However, the materials and part thickness were very limited. It was not until the 1990’s that big advances occurred by adding an abrasive to the water jet stream. By adding abrasive, virtually any material can be cut with thicknesses of up to 5 to 6-inches.
With abrasive water-jet water is pressurized to levels of up to 90,000 psi to produce the energy required for cutting. The water is focused through a nozzle where abrasive is added to create the extremely high-energy cutting stream. The water is moving so fast that the cutting head body must be cooled to avoid the water overheating the nozzle.
What kinds of materials can be cut with a waterjet?
Abrasive waterjet can cut most materials from hard to soft materials, insulators to conductors, and fragile to tough (impact resistant). Arizona Water Jet has experience with the following materials:
- Ceramics: Glass, Granite, Stone, and Marble
- Metals: Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Nickel Alloys such as Inconel and Hastalloy, Copper, Brass, Magnesium, Titanium
- Laminates and Composites
- Foams, Plastics, and Various Durometer Rubbers
How accurate is waterjet cutting?
Abrasive water jet cutting speed depends on a variety of factors including the material (i.e., the material being cut, the material thickness, and the desired edge quality) as well as the machine (i.e., the water pressure, the type and amount of abrasive, orifice size, and pump horse power).
Thin materials cut much faster than thick materials. Straight line cuts cut much faster than corners or curves. Hard material cuts slower than soft material.
A typical part in 1/2″ (13mm) aluminum might take 2-10 minutes to make. In 1/2″ (13mm) steel, it would be twice that time. A 2″ (50mm) thick part may take hours. A 1/16″ (1.5mm) part will cut in seconds.
What is the thickness range that can be cut with waterjet?
As with speed, thickness is a strong function of the material, the machine, and the required tolerance. Practical limits are 2-3 inches for material such as steel with a thickness range of 0.010 to 12-inches thick. However above 2-3 inches there are losses in tolerance due to divergence of the water jet stream as well as loss of speed negating the practical value of using water jet cutting.
Much thicker cuts are possible with softer materials such as plastics, some rubbers and foams. In these cases, thickness of 5-6 inches can be economically cut with water jet. For thin materials several layers can be stacked and cut simultaneously.
How does waterjet compare to other cutting technologies?
Waterjet enables incredible flexibility and versatility in manufacturing compared to conventional milling, laser/flame cutting, and EDM. Examples of the benefits are listed on the benefits page of this web site. Waterjet breaks the conventional dichotomy of good, inexpensive, and fast….meeting all three.
Examples of the beneficial attributes of abrasive water jet include:
- Cut a tremendous variety of materials ranging from extremely hard/fragile to extremely soft. In addition water jet can cut dielectric materials such as plastics and composites as well as reflective metals such as aluminum and copper (materials that cannot be cut with EDM and laser/flame, respectively.
- Water-jet does not heat the part avoiding heat deflection, developing a hardened heat affected zone, or edge slag.
- Although not often mentioned, water jet is also more employee and environmentally friendly since no potentially hazardous gases are formed.
- Water jet allows the unique ability to create intricate parts since it has a very small kerf width…approximately ½ the diameter of the water jet stream.