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The Change That Revolutionised Water Jet Cutting

So often it is possible to look back at one moment and see it as crucial to what then happened.

John Lennon meeting Paul McCartney shaped all music that followed, sport fans might remember Mark Robins scoring for Manchester United – an otherwise forgettable goal that supposedly saved Sir Alex Ferguson from the sack before his Man Utd managerial career had really begun.

Perhaps slightly less written about, but still as crucial in its own way to our industry, there is a moment that was key to the development of water jet cutting.

Water jet cutting is now the leading cutting technology, it can cut to greater depths than rival technologies, is more efficient and does not damage the cut edge,. Recent advancements have seen water pressure get ever higher, computer software introduced to control the cut and complex 3D cutting made possible.

But, none of this would have happened without sand. It was introducing sand into the stream of water that transformed water jets into something that could cut accurately, but also quickly.

Let’s jump back a little.


Water jet cutting history

Water jets were used before sand was added, but the use was very limited. Dr Norman Franz invented water jet cutting in the 1950s, but this was just a basic jet of water. 

Over the following two decades, improvements were made – a pump system introduced to create a constant flow of water and the cutting head refined to become more accurate and powerful.

Still, though, there was no sand. Water jets could cut through cardboard, home insulation tissue paper, disposable nappies and more, but, had you tried to cut 25cm thick steel with this jet you’d have required a huger degree of patience. Probably several lifetimes’ worth.

At this point, Dr. Mohamed Hashish enters our story. Dr. Hashish was keen to increase the power of water jets and tried numerous different approaches, the one that showed promise was the addition of sand into the water stream, the desire being to create something with the power of a sand blaster, but the accuracy of a water jet.

The sand was mixed with the water in a mixing chamber and then pumped through, this one change effectively revolutionised the technology. Previously, even the thinnest metal or glass could not be cut by a water jet, but the change made cuts to virtually any material possible.


Adding Abrasive

In 1984, in a step George Orwell failed to predict, water jet cutting machines that used an abrasive hit the commercial market.

In years since, garnet has come to be the abrasive that is always used, but the principal remains the same, forcing water mixed with abrasive substance through a tiny cutting head at immense pressure to create a cutting force that effortlessly parts materials.

But for Dr. Hashish’s work, where would water jet cutting be now? It might have remained on there fringes, perhaps more likely it would have ceased to be regularly used. Of course, the potential of water jet cutting is such that someone else might well have made the breakthrough at some stage.

What we do know is that it was a development that facilitated huge change. Water jet cutting is now used by major industries, smaller enterprises and artists alike. It is used by anyone who needs a part cutting accurately, quickly and at a competitive price.


Work with the UK’s leading Water Jet Cutters

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.