Evolving, changing, developing. These are the adjectives that best describe the current state of abrasive water jet cutting today. It has been so for the last 30 plus years and counting. As always, there is a trove of useful and relevant information about this subject on the Internet, but in the meantime here are some of the observations we have about the water jet cutting method.
What is an abrasive water jet machine?
As the name itself suggests, the roots of this modern method of cutting materials are in the use of water. Water in a comparatively low amount of pressure has been used in cutting out “soft” materials, including paper and sometimes, even food. This came about as early as the 1930s.
Over the years, the emergence of high-pressure technology water came to the surface and became exceptionally useful. In later years, the technology was further developed and fine-tuned. What we have today, abrasive water jet cutting is the result of these series of evolutions for this kind of technology in the material cutting industry.
In the basic sense, an impressive abrasive water jet cut can be achieved by making use of a stream of high-pressure water mixed with abrasive particles like garnet fibres. The stream of high-pressure water is directed onto the workpiece. Cutting the parts to shape and fashion it into your desired form is done by eroding the surface of it. By adding granular abrasives to the water, its “gentle” cutting power is further intensified.
When the abrasive particles in the water reach the nozzle, you have the liberty to switch between water with abrasive particles and just water-only. This measure allows the water cutting machine operator to use the water-only feature of the equipment for positioning purposes, then eventually to the abrasive option for the workpiece.
Abrasive water jet machines are usually grouped with methods of choice, such as oxy-fuel cutting, plasma cutting, and laser cutting. The common denominator shared by each of these material cutting methods is that they allow users to cut out complex shapes in the C/Y axes on a flat sheet material.
The one technique that comes with the lowest operating cost among the group is the plasma cutting, yet it can be considered as the most brutal while at the same time tends to make the largest kerf.
In the case of oxy-fuel cutting, it tends to produce a rather smaller kerf with smoother edges and ends. Abrasive waterjet cutting is more advantageous than many other kinds of cutting methods in such a way that it doesn’t produce heat. But it can also cut through non-metallics, yet tend to produce smaller kerf. In major applications, laser cutting is the main challenger for waterjet cutting. Among these 4 methods of cutting, it produces the smallest kerf.
To Use or Not to Use Waterjet Cutting Machine?
There has to be a few good, underlying reasons why anyone would be choosing an abrasive water jet machine instead of other available material cutting methods, from say a large sheet of material down to cutting complex shapes and intricate forms – or even laser cutting, plasmas or oxy-fuel.
We can just opt to leave the discussion here to the hands of the experts in these methods. When it comes to applications like a 2-axis cut-off of small precision rods, tubes, and wires, other available material cutting techniques often prove to be a better choice.