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Is There Anything A Waterjet Cannot Cut?

Waterjet cutting is known for its versatility and ability to cut through almost any material, but does even this technology have limits? Are there things a water jet cannot cut through?

At TMC Waterjet, we are the UK’s leading water jet cutters, we have machines with huge water pressure, 87,000 PSI delivered through a small cutting head. We also utilise XD Cutting, this is cutting that can cut through multiple axis, cutting complex three-three-dimensional shapes in one motion.

It is fair to say we know what can and cannot be cut by a water jet.

We are definitely glad the question is phrased this way, what cannot be cut by a water jet rather than approaching it from the opposite angle of things that a water jet can cut. To answer that we’d end up with a huge list covering metals, plastics, food, ceramics, glass… you get the idea.

The list of what cannot be cut by a water jet is far more limited.

A waterjet is going to struggle to cut through more than 25 centimetres of some materials, though this does vary by material. There will be a depth of cut limit for every material, however it is worth noting that this is far less a limiting factor than with other technologies. Water jets can cut through 25 centimetres of metal whereas a laser can only cut through roughly one tenth that thickness.

Waterjet Cutting – Thickness of Material

With softer materials, far greater depths could be cut, for instance a water jet could cut through sponge many metres thick.

 A water jet cutter might also not be suitable for some composites as the water could seep between layers and so delimitate the material. However, this is not a hard and fast rule and so it is worth checking with an experienced water jet cutter if this is likely to be an issue.

It goes without saying that a water jet cutting machine is not going to be suitable for any material that has a reaction to water, anyone looking to get a big lump of salt or sand cut should look for a different technology, so too anyone who needs some caesium shaping as it would explode on contact. 

A more likely consideration is the hardness of the material to be cut. The water jet is delivered at incredibly high pressure and is mixed with an abrasive garnet. This is enough to easily cut through most materials, even significant depths of metals such as steel, however a few materials are resistant to a water jet cutting machine’s charms.

A water jet would not cut through diamond or tempered glass – with tempered glass the material would break as designed to when force is applied.

Some ceramics are also unsuitable for cutting by water jets, this is another case of contacting an experienced operator to see whether the technology is suitable in each specific case.

Ultimately, the list of what cannot be cut by a water jet is so small that it simply does not apply in most cases – most people don’t need diamonds cutting, tempered glass is not designed to be easily cut and the fact that a water jet cannot cut some ceramics in only very occasionally an issue.

All technologies have their slight drawbacks and things they cannot cut, the list for a water jet is far smaller than for other technologies – lasers for example cannot do complex three-dimensional cutting, nor can they cut through a significant depth of material. 

The fact that water jet cutting is used by everyone from big business to independent artists and sculptors speaks of its versatility and also how cost effective and accurate this technology is.

At TMC, we remain a family business yet have grown to be the UK’s leaders in water jet cutting. We take pride in every job, no matter the size or nature of the job.

We are also happy to offer obligation free advise.

To discuss your water jet cutting requirements, please call us on 01625 610 441 or get in touch via this site.