Water jet cutting is the process of a water jet, typically mixed with an abrasive garnet, being forced through a nozzle at high pressure to create a cutting force.
The process therefore involves force, the force of a water jet at up to 90,000 psi. There can be a very natural concern hat this force damages the cut part in the process of the cut.
Fortunately, we can set your mind at ease.
One of the best ways to think of water jet cutting is as accelerated erosion, the water jet acting to part material rather than cut it.
If you imagine sheet metal, with the desire to cut along a line, the water jet erodes along this line, so that the metal is parted. There is not what you might consider force or trauma involved in the cutting process.
Water jet parting might be a more appropriate name.
Of course, accelerated means incredibly accelerated. Erosion is a slow process, when we think of river banks eroding it might be by a few centimetres a year. A water jet erodes in seconds or minutes, complex parts cut quickly.
Key to this ability to erode quickly is the abrasive garnet that is mixed with the water flow.
Original water jet technology relied solely on water and produced a jet that could cut paper, card and similar but was powerless against metal or plastic.
That one change, mixing the water with a sand-like abrasive changed the water jet into one that can cut to a depth of at least 25 cm on virtually any material. Importantly, this change did not change the fundamental truth that water jet cutting operates without causing damage to the cut part.
Water jet cutting causes no damage to cut parts, but what of other technologies?
Cutting that uses force can clearly compromise the part, blunt trauma occurs along the cut edge.
Plasma cutting, whereby a jet of incised gas is used to cut, also damages the edge, potentially causing micro-abrasions that compromise the part’s structural integrity. Such as the problems with plasma cutting, it is considered wholly unsuitable for many cutting jobs, for instance it would not be used to cut laminates or plastics.
Most commonly, water jet cutting is compared to laser cutting. We have run detailed comparisons of the two technologies on this site, but when it comes to damage done to parts, there is no comparison.
While a water jet will not damage the cut part, this cannot be said for laser technology. The laser, similar to plasma cutting, creates heat and so has the potential to damage the edge and so cause micro-abrasions and lessen structural integrity.
The damage will often be very minor, the imperfections may not affect the appearance and they may not be so great as to make the part unsuitable. However, it is true to say that laser cutting runs the risk of damaging the part, while this is not true for water jet cutting.
If water jet cutting did damage cut parts then it would not be used regularly.
Instead, it is the technology that is used to cut parts for planes, for cars, for off-shore oil rigs and other environments where absolute accuracy is essential.
It is also the technology often used by artists and sculptors – we have worked with a public art exhibition in Switzerland, the Whitworth Gallery and the V&A on projects where the aesthetic had to be exactly as envisioned in the artist’s eye.
Water jet cutting is used when complete accuracy is required for the visual impact, it is used when complete accuracy and maintaining structural integrity guarantees the safety performance of a part.
No other cutting technology can match water jet cutting’s versatility and assurance of safety.
At TMC Water Jet, we are a leading UK water jet cutter with clients across the UK and, increasingly Europe. We pride ourselves on bringing unmatched quality to jobs of all sizes for clients across every sector.
We work with major industries, so too with artists and small businesses.
At our state of the art facility, we have high pressure water jets capable of 87,000 PSI, we were also the first in the UK to introduce XD Cutting, this a cutting head that can move through multiple axis and so perform the most complex, delicate of cuts in a single process.
If you have a cutting job for which you would value an obligation free quote, please contact us today.
Call us on 01625 610 441 or use our Contact Form.