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Water Jet Cutting Advantages And Disadvantages

Given you have ended on this page, it is safe to assume you either have a part or parts that need cutting or you will soon.

That leads to questions and choices. Which cutting technology should you use? Is there one technology that is better for everything or does it vary by type of job and, if so, how?

In this post we’re going to focus on water jet cutting, that is our area of expertise after all.

We believe that this technology has many advantages, but there are occasions when another method might be better suited. We will point that out too, there are more than enough jobs that do benefit from water jet cutting, we are not in the business of recommending it when it is not in a customer’s best interests.

Water Jet Cutting Advantages

Depth of cut

Water jets can cut through up to 25 centimetres of virtually any material, to put that into context that it 10 times the depth of cut most lasers can manage.

It might seem counter intuitive, a water jet as opposed to a laser of large mechanical cutting machine, however a water jet’s power is hard to match.

Think of it this way, water can eat away at cliffs, at rock faces and at any surface, water jet cutting simply greatly accelerates that process of erosion.

Environmentally neutral

Water jet cutting is kind to the environment.water cutting news

The cut itself uses water and a garnet abrasive that is environmentally benign and no cooling oils or lubricants are needed for the cut.

The cut creates only tiny, dust-like fragments of the material being cut, this being the only other waste requiring disposal.

The environmental credentials of water jet cutting also mean that it is likely to grow in importance as a cutting technology, with the use of technologies that create needless waste becoming increasingly unacceptable as countries struggle with green commitments.

3d cutting

Most cutting technologies cut flat, simple shapes and if more complex cutting is required, the part has to be re-positioned and then cut along a different axis.

This was the case with water jet cutting as well until relatively recently when XD cutting was developed. XD cutting is a cutting head that can work through any pane or axis and so the most complex of three-dimensional parts can be cut in one motion.

With the cut controlled by state-of-the-art software, this means parts can be cut quickly, accurately, without the risk of errors being introduced and also at reduced cost due to the fact everything is done in one process.


Cut a huge range of materials

Water jets can cut through virtually any material. This versatility means they are used for a huge variety of jobs and also by a great range of different people requiring cutting technology.

The food industry, artists, a local vicar, racing car manufacturers, hobby enthusiasts – they all use water jet cutting, we blogged on some of the unusual uses in a post you can read here.


Competitive on price

Water jets often come out on top when people are getting quotes for their cutting jobs and, as jobs get more complex, water jets become increasingly hard to beat.

The cut is relatively low energy, the part can be cut in one motion and it is also fast cutting technology.

Everything works in water jet cutting’s favour, even down to how the clean up post cut is so easy, there is little to be disposed of, whereas the disposal of materials adds to the cost of other options.

When getting quotes for your job, we would be surprised if water jet cutting does not come out on top – we would certainly pride ourselves on being hugely competitive.


Disadvantages of water jet cutting

We’ve had a look at all the positives, but are there areas where water jet cutting falls down? The following are worth considering.


Lasers can be a good option for very simple cuts.

While water jets can do very simple cuts of thin material, this is an area where lasers are also strong.

When comparing quotes, there might be very little to choose between laser and water jet and so other factors might be a key differentiator, such as how quickly the job can be turned round and also whether environmental factors are of importance to you, water jets having the advantage of being environmentally friendly.


Engraving is not their strong point

Water jet cutting is superb at cutting through things, but might not be the go-to technology for very fine and detailed engraving.

Engraving is possible, but the nature of the technology means that there can be some variation in the depth of the markings, depending on the size of the work this might not matter, but for small, very intricate pieces it might make other technologies a better bet.


The cutting head is larger than lasers

Lasers can use a thinner cutting nozzle and so, theoretically at least, the cut can be a fraction more accurate, perhaps key for those really small pieces of detail.

However, this gain is offset by the fact that lasers create heat in the cut and so can cause slight damage and imperfections to the cut edge, you can end up with a cut that is more accurate to an imperceptible degree, but is also marked and slightly flawed.

We would suggest, if fine detail is central to your work, discussing your requirements with both a laser and water jet cutter and also asking to see examples of similar work so that you can assess the quality of the finish.


Which to choose?

For very simple cuts of thin material or also small pieces with fine detail, there is a choice to be made and this choice might require getting quotes from different types of cutters and also getting a feel for which one can better deliver to your specifications,

As jobs get more complex, that is bigger parts, deeper cuts and complex three-dimensional cutting, the dial shifts heavily in favour of water jet cutting.


About TMC

We aim to further enhance our reputation as the UK’s leading water jet cutter, a company that can take on any job of any size – whether that’s for an individual or huge multinational.

If you want to discuss a potential job, please call us today on 01625 610 441.