01625 610 441

All You Need To Know About Water Jet Cutting

Not sure if water jet cutting is suitable for your needs? Want to know what water jet cutting can cut? Always wondered just how the technology works?

In this page, leading UK water jet cutting experts TMC Water Jet answer all those questions and more.

So, what is water jet cutting?

Water jet cutting, as the name implies, is cutting objects by use of a water jet, this water forced through a cutting head at extreme high pressure.

However, the name is ever so slightly misleading in that water alone does not achieve the cut, an abrasive called garnet is mixed in. This one addition has a huge impact on the effectiveness of water jet cutting.

Prior to the introduction of an abrasive in the 1970s (and commercially from around 1984), water jet cutting could only cut paper, cardboard and similar. Now it can cut, well, let’s come on to that…


What can water jet cutting cut?

We always answer this by flipping the question on its head as to list what water jet cutting can cut would take many thousands of words.

Professional water jet cutting machines can cut virtually any material, the few exceptions limited to diamond, tempered glass and, occasionally, composite materials.

Water jets can typically cut to a depth of at least 25 centimetres, this through metals, glass and more. 

This ability to cut through so many materials sees water jets used for a variety of industries and projects…


Who uses water jet cutting?

A key client for professional water jet cutters is obviously major industries. Industries such as oil, gas, petrochemical and more require parts cutting with 100% accuracy, the parts used where critical integrity is essential.

For the water jet cutter, having major clients of course helps keep the business profitable.

However, the truth is that water jet cutting is increasingly used by a huge range of clients. Speaking for ourselves, we work with major industries, smaller firms, sole traders, hobbyists, artists and sculptors and more.

We have worked with a vicar who needed new keys cutting for the parish church (these keys you couldn’t just take to Timpsons), hobbyists working with model railways and Star Wars replicas and also artists. One piece of particular note is the Ghost Tree at Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery. We can’t claim any impact into the design, that was there work of renowned artists Anya Gallacio, what we did do is make the vision reality.


How popular is water jet cutting

Fortunately for us, water jet cutting is only growing in popularity.

One interesting trend is that growth is fastest in South East Asia, potentially giving economies in that region a competitive advantage over global rivals.

Many companies who previously used lasers and machine CNC cutting technologies are switching to water jet cutting; tempted by increased accuracy and, in many cases, cost savings too. 

For a recent report on the growth of water jet cutting, please head this way.


Is water jet cutting accurate?

To quote our own recent blog post on this topic, There are two ways to approach the question of accuracy – there is the technical specification and also what water jet cutting can produce. How targeted is the jet of water and then, in real terms, what does this create?

Our machines can deliver a water jet at 87,000 psi, this through a cutting head 0.75mm in diameter. The result is cutting that is accurate to a tolerance of 2mm, and this true of virtually any material.

Through XD cutting, an advanced cutting heads that can work in multiple axes, is it also possible to cut complex 3D shapes to this accuracy, removing the need for secondary cutting processes.

A common follow-up question is how this compares to other technologies, with laser the most obvious comparison;

Laser cutting can have a slightly smaller cutting head, so theoretically could make cuts with a slightly lower tolerance. However, laser cutting creates heat and burns the cut edge, potentially creating micro abrasions and even damaging the structural integrity along the cut edge.  Waster jet cutting does not create heat, the process best described as accelerated erosion.

Water jet cutting creates a pure cut, with no abrasions, no minor burning, no structural imperfections. These benefits far outright any nominal, invisible tolerance advantage that laser might have.


How will water jet cutting improve further?

Considering water jet cutting only really became a major commercial cutting technology in the 1980s, its rise to prominence has been remarkable.

However, nothing stays still, how will the technology develop?

Improvements now probably centre on speed and efficiency – an ability to cut more to the same accuracy more quickly. As global demand for water jet cutting this could be key – either there will need to be a lot more water jet cutting machines and companies, or the efficiency of each unit will have to increase a little. In reality, both might happen.

The technology is, though, in a great place. Bar that ability to cut diamonds and tempered glass, it can already cut everything and to great depth too. The accuracy, when factoring in structural integrity, is also unsurpassed. 

To use the language of the football manager, there is always room for improvement, but if you’ve won the league multiple seasons in a row improvement isn’t so important.


How do I get my parts cut?

If you have any parts that need cutting or would like to discuss if water jet cutting is for you, then please do get in touch.

A UK company, we also have clients across Europe, these clients of all sizes and for all manner of jobs. 

Despite our success, we remain a company that focusses on every client and work on projects of all sizes.

If you think water jet cutting might be of use for your project, please do get in touch for an obligation-free chat.

Call us on 01625 610 441 or use our Contact Form.