With the rise of 3-D printing, could other technologies become more accessible? Is it likely that in years to come, it will be easier for businesses and individuals even to do jobs at home, rather than having to rely on experts?
We take a look at water jet cutting; could this great technology become available to all in time?
Water Jet cutting is now the leading cutting technology available. It can cut to greater depths than other methods (10 times the depth of laser cutting), yet is also more accurate, creating cuts free of the micro abrasions and structural damage found elsewhere.
And water jet cutting can now cut complex parts thanks to a cutting head which can swivel on both axis; this has greatly reduced time and cost of complex cuts as expensive secondary cutting is no loner required.
But, how much of this could be available to anyone with decent garage space…
We think it will largely depend both on the type of cut required and also the frequency of cuts.
For anyone cutting similar parts repeatedly, a home set-up could be of benefit. Think of key cutting for example, if an accurate scan of the key to be cut was made, this could then be fed to a water jet cutter and the cut could be made in rapid time with 100% accuracy.
One garage set-up already exists, you can read about it in an earlier blog post. However, promising as it looks, the cost of purchase coupled with it being at a lower PSI than the cutters used by specialists means that in most cases people would be paying more for a lower quality cut.
At this stage, it looks like one for the enthusiast, someone who has a hobby which requires cutting a lot of metal, but 100% accuracy isn’t required.
Unlike with 3D printing, which might well take off for small scale production, there is also the waste to be considered.
Although water jet cutting is environmentally friendly, there is still the water and cutting agent waste to be considered. A professional operation of course has a system where this is built into the design, but that’s not the case in a garage or back yard. All that water and the cutting agent in the water has to go somewhere…
Ultimately though a home or small business system can emerge if the need justifies it. That though, is where we remain unconvinced.
The key benefits of water jet cutting are speed and accuracy; the technology is quick because the cut can be loaded into the software and then the cutting heads are automatically controlled. And it is this computer control which brings the perfect accuracy, even controlling the advanced head across two axis to cut those complex 3D parts in one smooth cut.
A more basic water jet cutter wouldn’t be replicating that, it would be making much more basic cuts, in two dimensions. The garage water jet cutter might be a rival for a basic laser cutter, able to cut through thin plastic and metal, but it is unrealistic to expect it to cut through 25 cm of metal with extreme accuracy.
3D printing will bring immediacy, allowing people in future to covet something and then print out its constituent parts. Or it will allow businesses to easily print out parts. However, creating something from constituent parts is easier than then cutting through it – if you’re given the parts to flat pack furniture, it’s not too hard to turn that into a wardrobe. However, cutting it into the shape of an animal is a somewhat harder task.
Water jet cutting might become available through machines designed to work in a home garage or small workshop; however it will be water jet cutting in name only, with little resemble to what industrial water jet cutting can achieve.
The water jet cutting we specialise in can cut parts for Boeing, formula 1 teams and luxury logos for some of the world’s biggest companies. They aren’t things you can do from a garage with an outside tap connected.
We don’t though want to be disparaging of home water jet cutting. For some it will be an exciting development which brings real benefit. However, we are more excited with the developments of larger scale water jet cutting.
We are already proud to work with a technology which is helping keep business costs down, speeding up the cutting of parts and helping to keep industry running smoothly.
We can’t wait to see how water jet cutting continues to improve, one thing we are sure of though is that as one of the UK’s leading cutters we will be at the forefront of that development.