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Water Jet Cutting Machines: How Do They Work?

While there have been recent technological advances, the basics of how a water jet cutting machine work have remained the same for decades.

The software controlling the cutting head has advanced, the pressure of the water jet increased and there is now the possibility of complex three-dimensional cutting through a technology known as XD Cutting.

However, they all build on the core concept, that being a high-powered water jet that can cut through a huge range of materials to a great depth.


Water Jet Cutting Machines – The Key Concepts

How exactly does it work? What turns a jet of water into an unstoppable cutting force?

water jet cutting machine diagram of how they work

A diagram of a water jet cutting machine

In the image, we see that number 1 is the water inlet, this taking in highly-pressurised water, we use water at a PSI of 87,000, although some professional cutters have PSIs as low as 50,000.

Point two in the diagram is the jewel, this an actual jewel, typically ruby or diamond. This narrows the water jet, creating that incredibly focussed, narrow, pinpoint, powerful jet of water. You now have water at 97,000 PSI being forced through an orifice that is just 0.755mm in diameter!

Those dots in part three of the diagram represent the abrasive being added. The modern abrasive is garnet, but in the 1970s they used sand. Prior to that, prior to the idea of an adding an abrasive, water jet cutting was useful for cutting card and similar but completely unsuited to cutting metal.

You can read more about the breakthrough moment of adding sand to water jet cutting in an earlier blog post.

The water and garnet then mix in part four of the digram – the mixing tube. The water is travelling at high speed and so the garnet picks up this speed, each individual grain having huge cutting power. The abrasive is the main cost of each water jet cutting job, the higher the PSI of the cutting machine, the less abrasive necessary and so costs are kept down.

Part 5 of the diagram is the guard – you don’t want a water jet at terminal velocity coming flying out at unexpected angles.

The water and abrasive mixed together and forced through the orifice, you have the actual cutting jet, this shown in part six of the image.

Part seven in the image isn’t really even part of the cutting itself, this represents the item cut. It looks like a nice thick slab of material, which is fitting – weather jets can cut through 25 cm of virtually any material – this including metals, plastics, ceramics and more.

As with all the best technologies, water jet cutting is simple at heart. It takes the awesome power of water and turns it into a cutting force that is fast and effective and one that is free of heat and chemicals.

Through XD Cutting and modern software, it is possible to cut the most complex of parts – key parts for planes, off-shore industries and more, as well as helping sculptors and artists to turn their visions into reality.

However, the technology remains those seven points – from ingest of water through to final, cut product.

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.