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What Is Abrasive Water Jet Cutting

Water Jet cutting has been in existence since the 1950s, but abrasive water jet cutting is more recent still, first used commercially around 1984.

What, though, is abrasive water jet cutting and how does it differ from standard water jet cutting? What is the point of the abrasive?

The short answer is that abrasive water jet cutting turns a limited technology into one that has the power to cut through virtually anything. Abrasive is the magic ingredient.

Water Jet Cutting Without Abrasive

The earliest water jet cutting machines did not mix the water jet with an abrasive, it was water alone acting as a high pressure cutting force. 

This had its uses but it was not suitable for industry, it was a force that could cut through cardboard, home insulation tissue paper and items of similar density, but would not have made much impact on plastic or steel.

These early water jet cutting machines had an automated pump feature to create a constant jet of water and yet they remained largely of theoretical use. The potential was clear but this potential was as yet unrealised.

Adding an Abrasive To a Water Jet

We have Dr. Mohamed Hashish to thank for the addition of an abrasive. Dr Hashish had an idea that a water jet could become a sand blaster of sorts, only with far greater accuracy.

He produced a machine that mixed the water jet with sand, these small, harsh granules increasing the jet’s power exponentially. Crucially, no accuracy was lost, water jet cutting remaining highly accurate but now powerful too.

Sand though was not the perfect abrasive. The benefits of abrasive had been proven, but the ideal abrasive was still to be found.

Modern Abrasive Water Jet Cutting

Modern machines simply build on the foundations of Dr Hashish’s work.

The jets are ever more powerful – at TMC Water jet we have jets of up to 87,000 PSI pressure – and they now use garnet abrasive. Garnet is a naturally inert, sharp, angular, 12-sided particle. The garnet is mixed at stage three in the image above.

Garnet can be used in smaller quantities than sand and creates a more accurate cut, one where there are no micro abrasions or structural imperfections. This is very different from a technology such as laser cutting, whereby the edge is burnt and can be damaged in the process.

The combination of a water jet under huge pressure, focussed, narrow cutting head and garnet abrasive creates a cutting force that can cut through at least 25 centimetres of virtually any material, this including metals.

It is a technology that is far greener that alternatives, the only waste the particles from the cut edge, water and the inert garnet abrasive. 

Abrasive Water Jet Cutting is, in the majority of cases, what people mean when they speak of water jet cutting; the abrasive is an integral part of the process.

What is Abrasive Water Jet Cutting Suitable For?

Abrasive water jet cutting has a huge range of uses, it is a technology used by big industry, smaller companies, individuals such as artists and sculptors, hobby enthusiasts and so many more besides.

Anyone who requires a part cutting should consider water jet cutting. It is accurate, can cut to greater depths and through XD Cutting can cut complex three dimensional shapes in one fluid motion.

In a previous blog post, we looked at Who Uses Water Jet Cutting.

If you think water jet cutting might be suitable for your needs, please get in touch for an informal conversation.

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.