When is water jet cutting the technology to use and when is it better to use something else? Here we take a look.
Water jet cutting can cut to roughly ten times the depth of laser cutting – a fact which is surprising to many (people have an inflated opinion of what lasers can do, perhaps based off a few movies!)
Lasers can cut to around 2.5 cm depth, water jets to 25cm.
If you want to cut through a thick material, a water jet isn’t just a sensible choice, it might be the only choice.
Or at least it might not always be the best choice.
If your cutting task is to go through a simple material to a shallow depth then the speed of laser can make it an appealing option.
With water jet cutting, there is no damage to the material being cut. Water jet cutting is often described as accelerated erosion, and so away from the cut no structural imperfections are created.
Other technologies run the risk of creating abrasions and also causing structural damage – whether this is acceptable might depend on what the part is then going to be used for.
The fact that water jet cutting in no way weakens the material being cut makes in the technology of choice for many jobs where safety is key, for example clients include formula 1 and aircraft manufacturers.
Traditionally more complex, three dimensional cutting required multiple cuts be made. The part would be cut in one dimension, then removed and set up for the secondary cut – a difficult and time consuming process and one which added considerable expense.
Water jet cutting counters this with XD technology, a cutting head which can cut in three dimensions. A complex, three-dimensional part can be cut in one fluid motion, and without the risk of error or damage to the material.
XD cutting means that more complex cuts can be done both cheaper and more quickly than was previously the case.
And in some cases, laser can also be the right choice. Some laser cutting heads can cut to a diameter even smaller than that of water jet cutters.
However any slight difference in cutting head diameter is more than offset by the quality of cut, is a cut to a slightly more narrow diameter better if it has abrasions and imperfections along its edge?
The more we think about it, it’s quite simple. Water jet cutting is the right choice for complex cuts, for cuts deeper than 2.5 centimetres. for 3-D cuts and cuts where structural integrity is important.
There’s only a question over really quick, simple cuts of thin material – and even then it might be.