What exactly is water jet cutting, what can you cut, what are the advantages, when isn’t it suitable?
In this blog post we’ll run through all the common questions we get at TMC about water jet cutting – from how it came into being, to how it’s used in modern manufacturing and design.
And if you have a question which isn’t answered, just add it in the comments and we’ll do our best to provide an answer.
At the most basic level, the details are in the title. It is simply cutting by using a high-powered water jet rather than a blade, laser or other method.
More specifically, the jet is extremely high powered, running at 87,000 psi, this is powerful enough to cut through 250mm of virtually any material, including metal and even armour plate. Many materials can be cut to significantly greater depths.
The water is actually mixed with garnet (a silicate mineral) and forced through a tungsten carbide tube with an orifice just 0.75 in diameter. In layman’s terms, this means an abrasive, extremely narrow water stream is focussed on the material to be cut.
The best description for water jet cutting is accelerated erosion.
A quicker question to answer would be what can’t you cut!
This list is far from exclusive, but we have regularly cut plastics, carbon fibre and metals including steel, stainless steel, copper, brass, bronze, aluminium and titanium.
We have also cut acrylics, ceramics and composites, glass, stone and rubber.
If you’re not sure whether a material can be cut by water jet a quick call can tell you one way or another.
Water jet cutting has some significant advantages over other methods.
As the process is cold, there is no heat damage to edges and no adverse effect on the material’s structural integrity.
With no surface pressure and no heat, the targeted jet is able to cut complex shapes to the highest tolerances.
XD Water Jet cutting is also available from some companies, including TMC. More on that now.
XD cutting is the latest development in water jet cutting. It utilises a cutting head with greater flexibility, one which can tilt automatically sideways and forwards to enable the cutting of complex three-dimensional shapes.
Prior to the development of XD water jet cutting, these more complex parts would have required expensive second machinery cutting. XD cutting enables even the most complex jobs to be delivered entirely through water jet cutting – potentially saving the customer money as the whole task is undertaken in one process rather than two.
Accuracy and the elimination of damage to the surface being cut are undoubtedly key benefits of water jet cutting.
However, it is also a versatile option, there are different options for the cutting head, from a separation cut through to an excellent edge finish. Different jobs demand different qualities, naturally the more accurate the cut the longer the process takes.
Water jet cutting is also an environmentally friendly option. Typically, there is less waste material produced as uncut parts can be close to each other.
A closed loop system also means the water can be re-used, and even the garnet is a non-toxic material which can be recycled for repeat usage.
If you’re in the lucky position of having diamonds to cut, unfortunately water jet cutting won’t be suitable.
However, water jet cutting can be used for everything from stone to meat (reducing the risk of contamination) so it is rare for it not to be a suitable option.