Water jet cutting is used in a wide range of industries, cutting complex parts with unmatched accuracy.
However, a question we are often asked as the UK’s leading water jet cutters is whether the technology itself is complex.
It perhaps does not sound complex – water jet cutting – water being used to cut a substance. On the other hand, surely it must be complex – it cuts parts for the most demanding of industries after all – aviation, nuclear, petrochemical and more.
The truth, as is almost always the case, lies somewhere in the middle.
In this post, we will explain.
The basic premise of water jet cutting is very straightforward, as can be seen in the earliest versions of machines.
Water jet cutting, in its simplest form, is simply a jet of water at high pressure hitting a substance and forcing it to part, creating a cut.
This process is akin to erosion – accelerated erosion.
With high enough pressure and a focussed jet of water, it is possible to cut soft materials through a basic version of the technology. Paper can be cut, card and similar items.
Of course, it is also possible to cut paper with your standard household scissors, so whether it is worth investing in a water jet cutter purely for this purpose is open to debate.
Often, the best technology builds upon an initially simple process.
You find something that works, you improve it.
The water jet cutting machines at our facility, could not be described as being simple, and yet they build upon the initial idea of a jet of water being fired at a substance to cut it.
The additions to the simple process make a profound difference. They turn a technology that is only of theoretical interest, with little practical use into one that is driving industry around the world.
What are the additions?
One is simply the inclusion of an abrasive element into the water jet. In early versions, this was sand, but now an abrasive garnet is used. The sharp, fine particles exponentially increase the cutting force of the water – and yet accuracy is not reduced.
With garnet incorporated, the water jet can effortlessly cut through dense materials.
A power upgrade is also key – there is high pressure, and then there is water jet cutting pressure. The PSI can reach close to 90,000, this a water pressure that can cut through 25 centimetres of steel. The list of what can’t be cut by this force is incredibly short – diamonds, tempered glass and not much else.
A very modern addition is a cutting head that can move in multiple axis, this called XD Cutting. XD Cutting is available at a select group of water jet cutters (we were the first in the UK) – it enables the cutting of three dimensional, difficult parts through a singular cutting process. Previously, and with other cutting technologies, it is necessary to cut in one field, then re-align the part and cut again.
This adds to the time of cuts, costs more and also makes errors more likely.
As with other leading water jet cutters, we are blessed to have highly-skilled engineers who know everything there is to know about water jet cutting. There is, though, still room for the software to make a difference, and this is another area of advancement.
Modern software used to run water jet cutting machines controls the cutting head with pinpoint accuracy; turning the plans and design files into reality.
Human interaction is still required for quality control, but the software delivers a level of accuracy that no human eye can ever replicate.
Water jet cutting therefore builds on simplicity.
It is possible nowadays to buy lower powered machines, these pitched as suitable for hobbyists.
These are perhaps the middle ground between the prototype water jet cutting machines that only used water, and the huge, powerful machines used by professional water jet cutters.
Whether these middle ground machines serve much of a purpose is open to debate – in many instances, users would find it far cheaper to simply outsource their cutting to a professional.
What the enhancements show is that the fundamentals of water jet cutting are sound – water is a natural, accurate cutting force.
There may be future enhancements to come – greater cutting strength, faster cuts, but the basic premise will remain.
Water jet cutting is simple at heart – complex in reality.
At TMC, we are a water jet cutter who serve the whole of the UK and increasingly Europe too, with clients across the content trusting us to work on their projects.
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.