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1. What Is Waterjet Machining?

WaterJet machining is a computerized cutting technology that cuts and machines virtually any material. WaterJet is also used for multi axis machining such as 5-axis cutting. Waterjet is a clean process that does not result in heating or residual stress in the cut materials.

2. Why Waterjet?

Waterjet allows for very fast cutting while minimizing material waste as is common with other machining technologies. Intricate cutting geometries are also possible with tight radii and sharp corners easily performed.

All metals can be machined via waterjet including aluminum, brass, bronze, copper, steels, nickel alloys, titanium, soft metals, & metal composites.
Non metallic materials are particularly suited for cutting via waterjet. Examples include carbon fiber composites, ceramics, granite, glass, refractories, laminates, marble, plastics, concrete, and natural stone.
Soft Materials
Rubber, plastics, elastomers, foams, synthetic fiber materials, paper, and wood are readily cut with Waterjet. Many of these are cut with water only (no abrasive)

Major Benefits:
• NO heat generated structural changes – This is a cold cutting process
• Virtually burr-free cut edges - Reduces finishing operations
• NO material discoloration or oxidized edges
• NO toxic or fume discharge
• Multi-head operation for rapid cutting of multiple parts simultaneously

3. Quality Numbers

Edge quality of cut is determined by the quality numbering. In general, the best edge finish is achieved though a slower cutting time. A quality 5 generally is the best edge finish. Quality 3 is most common for the best cost with reasonable edge finish. Quality 1 is typical for ‘blanking materials. Shown below is a graphical representation of edge quality.

Note that the cutting speed is dynamic and is indicated by the different colors along the path (seen in the upper right image).  Complex motion control algorithms assure for the best finish for a specific geometry.


4. How does WaterJet Machining Work?

The WaterJet machine processes computer generated numerical code (NC) into appropriate X & Y cutting head movements. The cutting head is essentially the nozzle from which the water and abrasive are ejected through. The cutting action of the WaterJet head occurs at pressures up to 55,000 psi with stream velocities greater than three times the speed of sound. Hard materials such as metals and ceramics are cut with an abrasive 'Garnet' that is introduced into the stream for strong erosion cutting. Soft materials such as plastics are often cut without abrasive.

The computer controlled process results in a controlled and narrow kerf (cut width < 0.020"). This allows for efficient machining of expensive materials such as composites and titanium while providing detailed precision.

Tolerances for high-speed cutting are typically held up to +/- 0.005 inch. Precision cutting via a high tolerance nozzle yields tolerances to +/- 0.0015 inch.

WaterJet is a leading robust technology for industrial & architectural machining applications. WaterJet alone or combined with other machining technologies such as CNC milling can result in vast savings of process time and fabrication cost. When applicable, WaterJet cutting has significant advantages over competing cutting methods, such as routers, plasma torch, laser cutting and electrical discharge machining. WaterJet can cut through materials such as rock and ceramics that may normally be considered "un-machinable" by conventional cutting methods.
The following link will provide a simulated view of how the high-pressure abrasive jet cuts through virtually any material.

WaterJet Nozzle Simulator (Courtesy of the OMAX Corp: Click Here)


5. AWC Publications (PDF Link) - “Waterjet Evolves Into Precision Alternative” ; Calder

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