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A Quick History of Water Jet Cutting

TMC are the market leaders for water jet cutting in the UK, and have been long established in our 10,000 square-foot facility in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

But how long have water jets been used to cut metal accurately, quickly and safely?

Well, the technology has been around longer than you might think.

First used in coal mines in New Zealand and Russia in the 1850s to excavate material at the coal face, the technique was adapted in California with the addition of high-pressure water to allow miners to  strip away rock and reveal precious gold underneath. Steam power allowed pumps to reach a water pressure of 800 psi at this stage.

As more and more pressure was able to be generated, more different materials were able to be cut by a jet of water. At the start of the 20th century boilers had improved to the point where it was possible to reach a water pressure of around 1600 psi – a huge increase.

By the 1930s a narrow jet of water was being used to cut material in an industrial setting, away from mining. One of the first industries to move into water jet cutting was paper.

Around this time the idea of adding an abrasive substance to the water first took hold – originally sand was used. But it took until the 1960s for technology to reach a point where water alone could cut through metal.

That pressure, added to the rise of computer software which could control the movements of the jet to replicate the exact same cutting pattern time and time again, saw water jet cutting soon enter the market.

An early customer was the aviation industry, where water jet cutting allowed many small parts to be easily replicated to exact tolerances. At TMC, our typical tolerances are just 0.2mm.

How exactly does it work?

At TMC water jet cutting we power water to a pressure of 87,000 psi to cut through metal and other materials. The water is mixed with garnet – a crystal-like mineral – which makes an abrasive mix. Things have come a long way in the past century,

As the jet is cold there is no unwanted damage to the material and no safety risk for our employees.

At TMC we are also able to offer 3D jet cutting thanks to our tilting cutting head, saving time and money.

We are able to work with the largest, and smallest firms and our typical turnaround time is just three to four days.

Want to know more about TMC waterjet cutting? Check out our FAQs page here.