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The Incredible Power of 1950s Water Jet Cutting

In the 1950s, a water jet cutting system was developed that could reach a pressure – measured in psi – of 100,000psi.

Modern machines do not typically reach this figure – so what happened? Why was the 1950s version so powerful and why is less power needed now?

The huge power of the 1950s machine is actually a useful reminder that you cannot judge a technology purely on one metric. Many will remember back to cars of the 1980s with three and four-litre engines, and yet none of the actual power of a modern engine that is far smaller in simple litre terms. It still amazes many that a 1-litre engine car can transport a family.

The 1950s system came at a time when there was great experimentation with water jet cutting. Forward thinkers had realised the potential but a version had yet to be made that could be used commercially for numerous tasks.

Two improvements were required – higher pressure and also the genius of adding an abrasive to the water.

To reach 100,000 psi a pumping system was used to force water through at incredible pressure. The power cannot be disputed, but the accuracy was not there. This was more of a blunt force water cutting rather than the accuracy of a scalpel. Dense materials could be cut through, but the parts cut might not be of much use.

Instead, the developments required were to create a cutting head that could be super accurate and controlled with precision, thus directing a narrow beam of water to cut with precision. The more important development was not in reaching ever-higher psi, but in the invention of a nozzle that could deliver high-pressure water and mixed garnet to the part to be cut.

Mohamed Hashish, an Egyptian engineer, takes the credit for developing this nozzle.

From this development, everything else could stem, right through to the ultra-modern machines that can cut complex three-dimensional shapes in one fluid motion, the cutting head controlled by the accuracy of computer software.

This modern version can cut through virtually any material to depths of many inches.

Future enhancements might increase the pressure a little, but more likely greater automation and efficiencies will be the developments – like how food processing plants can use water jet cutting that automatically cuts expensive items such as fish fillets to the perfect size, minimising waste whatever the shape of the individual fish.

Those 100,000 psi machines had power – but not much subtly,

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At TMC, we are a water jet cutter that serves 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 focuses 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.

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