Although pure waterjet solutions are still used to cut soft materials (like paper and food), most manufacturing companies use abrasive waterjets to shape parts and components. In an abrasive waterjet system, the efficiency of the cut is about more than just hitting material with pressurized water — it’s also about selecting the correct abrasive, designed to cut through the material as cleanly as possible.
While garnet is the most common choice for waterjet grit — providing the hardness needed for clean, powerful cuts in even the most intricate of designs — this abrasive comes with flexibility, in regards to the grit size. Depending on what you’re cutting, the types of cut you’re making, and the intricacy of each cut; you have a crucial decision to make before you start the waterjet process. A larger grit won’t produce the same results as a smaller grit.
Choosing the right size grit for your waterjet project can minimize the consumption of abrasives, reduce unnecessary costs, and maximize productivity on the manufacturing floor.
The Factors Involved in Choosing Grit Size
Commonly, fabricators will have a selection of “mesh” grades they can choose from, when selecting the perfect abrasive (or grit) for a waterjet project. Each “mesh” grade represents a different grit size — and although they might not dictate the exact dimensions of each particle, they do give some insight into the general distribution of grit size.
There are three mesh grades that commonly appear on the waterjet market. These include:
- 50-60 mesh — This covers larger sized particles, and tends to be for rougher grit applications.
- 50-80 mesh — The common standard, known as “moderate” grit.
- 100-220 mesh — The smallest grit size, for the finest possible particles.
Of these options, the 80 mesh solution is the most popular, for the majority of “general” projects.
How Grit Size Determines Your Project Results
Knowing the grit sizes available is one thing, but understanding how those grit sizes affect your project is another matter. Typically, the bigger your grit size, the rougher the cut will be. Smaller grits are for finer, more precise details — which means that your ideal abrasive will depend on what you’re trying to achieve in the machining process.
The grit size impacts a variety of factors, including:
- Expenditure — While the cost of the materials for your project might not be the most important factor, it’s worth thinking about when choosing grit. Smaller mesh batches are generally much more expensive than larger grits; so, depending on the mesh you’re looking to use, your project could become costlier.
- Speed and efficiency — The larger the grit size, the faster the cutting process will be. This means that a 50 mesh will often blast through materials faster than an 80 mesh; but it may also mean that you have to compromise on other things — such as surface finish.
- Surface finish — If you are jetting with the hope to avoid secondary finishing procedures, the grit size you use is essential. Smaller grit will always lead to a finer, cleaner finish than larger grit. This means that a polished surface aesthetic requires a far smaller grit size.
Problems with Choosing the Wrong Grit Size
While it may seem simpler to choose an 80 mesh because it’s most popular, or stick to the least expensive grit you can find, selecting the right abrasive for your particular project is essential to achieving the results you want. The wrong abrasive can not only damage your components, or waste materials; it may also damage your waterjet machine by clogging the nozzles, and delaying productivity.
Clogs can easily occur in waterjet machines, as a result of too much abrasive, or a mesh size that’s too large for a specific orifice diameter. Regardless of which grit size you choose, make sure that it not only suits your project, but the other parts of your machine too. Always use the correct nozzle/orifice combination, and select the proper orifice for the grit size you need.
Waterjet Abrasives and Cutting Performance
Grit size will not be exclusively responsible for your waterjet cutting experience — pressure settings, nozzle sizes, and orifices must all be considered, as well — but it does play a crucial role. Tailoring your grit size to your specific project will help you to get the best results possible, while structuring each cut in a way ideal for streamlining workflow. Choosing the appropriate grit size is essential to getting the perfect results you need, for a cost-effective and efficient fabricating process.
Which are your preferred grit sizes, and why do you like using them? Have you found that specific grit sizes work best for certain projects? Let us know in the comments below!
In the machining and fabricating industries, abrasive waterjet cutting is a process for accelerated erosion of hard materials like metal. A waterjet works by firing high-pressure water through an orifice, and into a mixing chamber, which uses a vacuum to introduce garnet sand into a water stream. While waterjets are versatile and powerful cutting tools, the heart of these machines are their jewel orifices – a tiny nozzle made of synthetic sapphire, ruby, or diamond – which the water is pushed through.
The jewel orifice is responsible for focusing the water stream, allowing for smoother, cleaner cuts. While diamond orifices last longer, they’re also by far the most expensive, which can make ruby or sapphire options more appealing for certain circumstances. Following, we’ll address the positives and negatives of each potential option.
Sapphire and Ruby Waterjet Orifices
Many people don’t realize that ruby and sapphire waterjet orifices are actually grown using the same base material: synthetic corundum. The only differences are in the chromium added to rubies to provide their red pigment, and the fact that manufactured geometries for each type can vary. Corundum is used extensively in various applications, due to its extreme hardness and easy reproduction. Five times more abrasive resistant than carbide, and ranking at a 9.0 on the Mohs hardness scale, corundum is high-temperature tolerant, resistant to chemicals, and reliable.
Because rubies use a robust inlet edge radius of around .001″ (depending on the diameter of the orifice), they can sometimes withstand greater abuse than sapphires before failing; however, they also create a shorter coherent jet stream. Ruby can also produce a stronger vacuum than sapphire. On the other hand, sapphires use “sharp-edge technology” to produce a longer, smooth, coherent stream for cutting.
When to Use Ruby and Sapphire Orifices
Unlike many orifice materials tested in the past, ruby and sapphire can stand up to harsh environments without significant corrosion. Unfortunately, both ruby and sapphire can be vulnerable to minor impacts from debris in the high pressure system, which may destroy their integrity.
Although ruby and sapphire orifices often cost far less than a diamond orifice, they only last for anywhere from 0-40 cutting hours, compared to the hundreds of hours you’ll get out of a diamond. If a manufacturer needs to change orifice combinations frequently, sapphire or ruby could present a less risky choice; frequently changing the nozzle not only increases the likelihood that debris will enter and damage the orifice, but it also heightens the chance that the orifice might be lost, leading to a wasted investment. While a lost ruby or sapphire worth $20 may be frustrating, it’s not nearly as catastrophic as a lost diamond, worth hundreds of dollars.
Diamond Waterjet Orifices
Diamond waterjet orifices combine the robust inlet edge radius of rubies with the sharp edge technology of sapphire, to offer a maximized jet stream, benefitting from smooth cutting and robust material integrity. Rated at 10.0 on the Mohs hardness scale, diamonds are the strongest available orifice for waterjet machining. Four times harder than sapphire or ruby, diamond orifices are becoming the industry standard for most jewel orifices, capable of offering versatility for effective use in many cutting applications.
Because diamond orifices improve stream quality, the resulting cut is often smoother – making diamond an ideal choice when cutting expensive, or incredibly detailed components.
When to Use Diamond Orifices
Some machining components may require time-intensive, detailed cuts; and replacing a jewel orifice midway may ruin the results. Using a diamond orifice that can last longer – usually a minimum of 600 cutting hours – can prevent wasted materials, and reduce uneven wear in the cutting head.
Though they are more expensive than rubies and sapphire, the longer lifespan of the diamond makes it particularly beneficial for large-scale tasks. Diamond orifices are often preferable in machining organizations that use multiple cutting heads, as operators can switch out orifices reliably and routinely, either once or twice a year. With ruby or sapphire heads, orifices can wear out at different speeds, leading to constant changing.
Choosing the Right Orifice
While most industry experts commend diamond as the best option for waterjet cutting orifices, there are equally valid reasons to choose ruby or sapphire, especially if your specific manufacturing process requires frequent changing of orifice combinations. The right choice for your business will depend on your personal circumstances, including your budget, the specs of your cutting jobs, and your short-term and long-term machining goals.
If you’ve had experience with ruby, sapphire, and diamond orifices in the past, how did you rate each one in terms of performance? Let us know in the comments below!
By forcing high-pressure water through a very small orifice, waterjet cutting machines can shape and cut materials with all sorts of strengths and textures. This approach to cutting provides a wide range of benefits – for industrial purposes, the cold-cutting mechanism eliminates unwanted HAZ (heat affected zones). Waterjets are easy to use and environmentally friendly, especially in their reduction of waste material. The omni-directional capabilities make for very precise cuts, and waterjets perform faster than many other conventional cutting tools.
Perhaps the most interesting advantage of waterjets is their versatility. Not only can these innovative machines cut through metals, wood, and glass, but they can also deliver intricate and satisfying results from a variety of other, less conventional materials. Here are some of the most interesting videos that show off the many features of waterjet cutting.
1. Pastry (Fresh and Frozen)
When people think of waterjets, they generally think of high-intensity streams slicing through wood or metal to deliver a precise, clean cut. However, the intricacy and precision of waterjets mean that they can cut through almost any material placed in front of them – all the way from aluminum to delicious frozen pastries:
If you’ve ever struggled to get succulent cuts of fish with a knife, waterjet cutting may present an interesting solution. The following video shows how pure waterjets can cut through trout and perch, for some of the most precise cutlets you’ll ever see:
3. Bullet-Proof Glass
A defining feature of many action movies – and a high-security form of protection for banks and other organizations – bullet-proof glass may be able to defend you from someone wielding a gun, but it can’t stand up to the pressure of an abrasive waterjet:
Although not the most conventional use of a waterjet system, the pure streams of a waterjet can offer a clean and precise way to shape hundreds, if not thousands, of cakes for extravagant parties. This option is great for reducing waste too, as the waterjet uses the cake as economically as possible! All you need is the right software, and a flat slab of delicious sponge:
Ever wonder how those pre-prepared vegetables from the store are perfectly sliced into symmetrical chunks? You’ve probably suspected this task isn’t done by hand. With a waterjet cutter, everything from celery to tomatoes can be sliced and diced into shape – hundreds at a time:
Cutting geodes without damaging them, or scuffing the beautiful gem inside, can be a difficult process. Traditional methods sometimes lead to abrasions and poor results, whereas waterjet cutting helps to provide a smooth cut – perfect for geodes displayed in homes, museums, and stores:
If the employees at produce factories had to cut thousands of onions themselves, management would likely be dealing with a lot of complaints about streaming eyes and impaired vision. Fortunately, waterjet cutting offers a solution that washes away the irritating reactions caused by cutting onions, while speeding up the process at the same time:
8. Pumpkin Carving
Most people don’t have access to a highly-efficient waterjet machine when they’re carving pumpkins for Halloween. However, the following video suggests that if they did, the jack-o-lanterns sitting out on porches might look far more precise and artistic:
From a practical standpoint, cutting through your own laptop with a high-intensity stream of water doesn’t make a lot of sense – at least, not if you’re planning on continuing to use that laptop. However, it’s safe to say that watching someone else cut through one of these high-tech machines is a fascinating experience:
10. Motorbike Helmet
One of the greatest benefits of waterjet cutting is that it allows for precise and accurate manufacturing, one component at a time. The following video showing a waterjet shaping a motorbike helmet, offers an insight into just how effective these machines can be:
The Abilities of Waterjets
These videos aren’t just loads of fun to watch – they also help to demonstrate why the waterjet cutting process is one of the most versatile and effective machining processes in the world. Today, waterjets are used in high production applications across the globe – for more projects than you might imagine.
The waterjet has regularly shown that it can do things other technologies cannot – from cutting precise shapes into glass, stone, and metal; to slicing food, carving pumpkins, and detailing helmets.
Have you found any amazing waterjet cutting videos in the past? Share them with us in the comments below!
Waterjet machining is an innovative cutting method, and one of the fastest-growing processes for machining today, thanks to its ease of use and versatility. While most professionals in the manufacturing industry have heard of waterjets, they may not realize there are actually two distinct forms of this process available. Though the word “waterjet” often refers to abrasive cutting, the term actually defines a broader approach to machining – one that covers the use of both pure and abrasive jets.
Understanding the difference between the two waterjet options is crucial when choosing the right tool for your project.
Defining Pure and Abrasive Waterjets
A pure waterjet, as the name indicates, is the cleanest original form of waterjet technology. Pure waterjets work by directing a stream of pressurized water onto a material, for a precise cut. Unlike other machining solutions, the pure waterjet process is a form of cold-cutting, which removes the risk of heat-affected zones in the material – preventing it from hardening during the machining process.
The only issue with pure waterjet is that it’s limited to use on thin or soft materials; such as foil, cardboard, fabric, wood, and rubber. Alternatively, abrasive waterjet technology maximizes the benefits of pure waterjet cutting for use on harder materials.
In the 1980s, manufacturers found that adding abrasives to the water stream generated a new process for cutting, which expanded waterjet applications. Though abrasive waterjets follow the same operating principles as pure waterjets, they introduce the use of abrasive particles – such as garnet – which mix within the high-pressure stream, eroding virtually any material (of any thickness) with precision and speed. The opportunities offered by abrasive waterjets has made them an ideal choice for parts manufacturers and fabricators across a number of industries.
How Pure and Abrasive Waterjets Cut
The primary difference between pure and abrasive waterjet cutting is whether additives are mixed into the pressurized water that streams from the machine nozzle. In pure waterjets, the pressure of the water alone, when forced through a tiny orifice, is used to cut through materials like foam (and even food). In an abrasive waterjet, the water stream mixes with an abrasive when it leaves the orifice. The abrasive particles use the water as an accelerant, which allows them to erode through much harder materials.
In abrasive waterjet cutting, the water is no longer the cutting tool – instead, the abrasive particles are responsible for the machining work. The waterjet’s job is to focus those particles at the right level and speed for an efficient cut. Manufacturers can achieve faster cuts by increasing the number or speed of the particles.
The Capabilities of Pure and Abrasive Waterjets
Because pure waterjet cutting uses only water, it’s more suitable for delicate materials, such as felts and foams. The purity in the water stream prevents damage to finished components – even during detailed machining.
Abrasive waterjets are often used to cut metals, like steel and aluminum. A good rule of thumb is that if you can cut the material with scissors, you can cut it with a pure waterjet. Pure waterjets can cut through:
- Food products (like cake, chicken, or fruit)
- Thin Plastic
Abrasive waterjets can cut through:
- Thick Plastics
Which Waterjet Is Right for You?
Because they are based in the same process, pure and abrasive waterjets share many of the same advantages; including quick cutting speeds, reduction of heat-affected zones, precise cuts, reduced environmental impact, and minimal finishing requirements. Determining which method is right for your projects depends on your future business plans and operations. In terms of budget, abrasive jets cost more to operate, as a result of abrasive consumption and wear. These additional costs are worth the investment if your organization needs to cut a diversified range of materials.
If your focus is on thin or soft materials, pure waterjets will make the most economical sense. Pure is also the way to go if you’re using waterjet machines to cut food, as you need to stick to the technology in its purest form to meet with USDA standards for hygienic cutting.
What kind of waterjet cutting do you use most often? If you use both, how do you feel about the differences between abrasive and pure waterjets? Let us know in the comments below!
The use of pressurized water streams to cut materials has been growing in popularity since the 1930s, when the first low-pressure waterjet systems emerged as a method for cutting paper. After achieving commercialization in the 1970s, the waterjet technology continued to evolve from a rough cutting tool into a high-precision process for fabricating and machining intricate parts. Today, waterjets are on equal footing with lasers in terms of accuracy – and can even offer additional benefits, thanks to their low environmental impact, and elimination of Heat Affected Zones (HOZ).
Some of the newest innovations revolutionizing the manufacturing industry include upgrades to the waterjet systems designed for micromachining and precision cutting, as well as the introduction of video measuring accuracy systems – for greater automated precision, and increased component longevity within waterjet machines. Let’s take a look at the next steps in the world of waterjets, and what they mean for the machining industry.
Micromachining and Precision Cutting
As technology continues to evolve, various industries – from healthcare to metal fabrication – struggle to meet a demand for the machining of smaller, more complex parts. While waterjet technology up to this point has performed well-above other tools, the issue of downsizing abrasive waterjet streams to machine even smaller microproducts has caused a number of challenges in the industry.
The recent years have seen significant advancements in downsizing waterjet technology, implemented by scientists at OMAX Corporation, and expanded to an industrial level. Today, abrasive waterjet cutting uses stronger elements, high-precision nozzles of 0.002 in., and downsized materials – such as smaller abrasive particles, and mixing cylinders. Clogging is a common issue associated with micromachining through waterjets; and engineers have even begun bypassing with innovations like a miniature 0.015 in. diameter nozzle that allows for pure, unhindered jet flow.
The work on micro waterjet applications continues with the development of smaller, and more accurate nozzles. These nozzles are enhanced with the use of advanced computerized software, for precision unlike anything achieved in the industry before. Today, micro abrasive waterjets using cold-cutting processes can shape materials for various applications; including surgical equipment, and even details on innovative technology, like prosthetic limbs.
Video Measuring Accuracy System
Waterjet machines work by pushing pressurized water through a tiny orifice that’s made from a mineral known as corundum. Without the precision the orifice affords in controlling and directing the stream, a waterjet system would be useless – which is why many industries invest in the highest quality material for their machinery.
Diamond orifices are emerging as the standard for most waterjet machining organizations, because they are more durable, capable of producing a cleaner stream, and far stronger – ranking at 10.0 on the Mohs scale. Unfortunately, even these high-quality orifices can incur damage as a result of high pressure and abrasive erosion – leading to poor stream quality, equipment wear, and ineffective production standards.
One of the latest innovations in the field of waterjet cutting has been introduced by Nikon, in the form of a measuring system designed to inspect diamond orifices, improve accuracy, and enhance longevity within machines. Using a TTL (through-the-lens) laser and edge-detection algorithms, the video measuring system inspects the dimensions of precision components in a waterjet machine. Using image processing and optical measuring, these technologies examine the edges of the sample; and then process the data for shortened measurement times, enhanced accuracy, and reduced problems with diamond orifices.
The Evolutions of Waterjet Technology
As various industries continue to demand more from their reliable and accurate machining processes, waterjet technology will continue to evolve and adapt. Where once it was little more than a rudimentary tool for cutting paper, the waterjet machine can now:
- Cut virtually any material
- Allow for fast programming and automated setup
- Reduce heat generation during cutting – for no HAZ on parts
- Provide safe and environmentally friendly options for manufacturing
- Offer cost effective machining solutions
- Shape and cut micro parts
- Minimize waste with video measurement systems
How do you feel about the latest innovations in waterjet technology? What do you think would make this machining process even better? Let us know in the comments below!
Laser cutting machines allow fabricators to develop high-quality parts accurately — without need for much finishing work. As the laser cuts, excess material burns, melts, or vaporizes away, while a high-pressure gaseous jet removes debris for a precise and clean finished cut.
Laser cutters offer distinct advantages to alternative mechanical cutters; because the laser never makes physical contact with the component material, there is often no wear, less chance of heat damage, and fewer opportunities for contamination of the component. What’s more, most laser cutters can cut with greater precision than mechanical machines.
Following, we will consider the technology behind laser cutters, and how they are able to produce accurate results on a wide range of materials and parts.
Step 1: Choosing the Material
In laser cutting machines, the actual laser is at the back of the system, emitting an almost parallel beam of light in one specific wavelength. Manufacturing experts and trained professionals can control the powerful, yet precise beam with computerized access to mirrors and lenses. When focused on a material, the laser reacts with the localized space, causing it to burn, vaporize, or melt.
Fabricators place the chosen material on a substrate table, which moves up or down relative to the focus point in order to achieve the right results for the project at hand. Experts can set the cutting line according to the strength of the material in question, the desired results, and the depth of the cut. This means that the laser can either cut through the material completely, or etch a design into the surface.
For engraving purposes, some available materials include:
For cutting purposes, laser machines can work on:
Step 2: Inputting a Design
Most laser cutters cut complex parts for machines, or engrave designs on artistic architectural pieces. However, with the right expertise, they can be ideal for a variety of other tasks. Many of these systems are controlled through computer programs, or “CNC code”, which adjusts the Y and X axes of the machine according to the blueprints or vector files uploaded. These computer programs not only map out the correct cutting pattern for the machine, but also provide functions for an engineer to adjust the power of the laser beam to optimize the depth and width of the cut, as well as the cutting speed.
The computerized control panel provides a secure way for manufacturers to manage cut quality, without having to manually adjust mirrors or risk coming into contact with the laser.
Step 3: Focusing the Laser
Finally, once the design has been set, and the material situated on the substrate table, mirrors, and a powerful lens concentrate the laser beam. The very thin light stream —powered by carbon dioxide in most modern industrial lasers — emits radiation at a wavelength of 10.6 micrometers – invisible to the naked eye. The curved mirrors within the machine and the special lens focus the laser beam into the cutting head, concentrating the light source so that the energy density and focus spot are consistent and applicable to the chosen project.
Because the heat generated by the focused beam is so high, the material will melt, burn, or vaporize within the localized area. At the same time, gas flows along the cut line to clear waste materials from the area. Oxygen is for mild steel cutting, whereas nitrogen is for stainless steel, and combination gasses are used in aluminum cutting.
Effective Laser Cutting
Just like with any other fabricating or manufacturing machine, the benefits and limitations of laser cutters must be carefully considered before the start of any project. For example, while they’re exceptional for cutting hard materials like steel, laser cutters don’t function well on reflective metals, because the light reflects and heat dissipates, prompting the need for a much more powerful beam.
There are many other forms of cutting available, such as waterjet cutting, which may be more appropriate in certain circumstances. However, when used for the right projects, laser cutting machines can provide accurate and precise results for high-quality components and parts.
Have you used laser cutting machines before for your business projects? How did you find the experience, and the results? Let us know in the comments below!
Quality is a crucial factor to consider in any industry — particularly designing a product or service. The higher market competition becomes, the more quality is identified as the market differentiator for consumers seeking dependable companies and resources.
In the fabrication and manufacturing industry, companies construct components for numerous industries, using the techniques of quality control and quality assurance to maintain consistent results. Though accuracy is essential for every market, when it comes to the precision machining used to fabricate products for the military and aerospace, reliability takes on a critical role.
Human lives can depend on the ability of thousands of components to work together as designed; in precision machining there is no margin for error.
Complete Quality Control Begins With Clear Standards
Most precision machining companies use a system of “Total Quality Management” to oversee each step of the production process, from manufacturing floor processes to distribution. This approach considers the responsibilities of each staff member, as well as the tools, techniques, and materials used.
In order to implement an effective quality control program, the enterprise must decide on the specific standards each product must meet. For instance, products for the Military and Aerospace industries must meet rigorous standards for durability and dependability at every turn. Once standards are outlined, the company must find ways to implement and test various factors in each fabricated product, including:
Ways to Implement Quality Control
In some cases, automated systems inspect the factors determining the overall quality of a product. For instance, using the same CNC software in a laser-cutting machine for certain parts can help to ensure consistency and cost-efficiency. However, the fabrication company is still responsible for ensuring accuracy by selecting high-quality materials and tools, adhering to standards, facilitating precision through the use of innovative technology, and determining reliability through product testing. Implementing quality control measures for these purposes may mean:
- Enhancing staff training: A high quality workforce is essential to producing high-quality components. Standardized training means that each component is created using the same consistent, standardized set of techniques.
- Upgrading machines: Using the most effective tools for precision machining means that products can be created faster, and to a higher standard. Innovative technology such as laser cutters and waterjets are necessary to achieve accuracy in intricate designs, maintain material quality, and develop customized solutions to complex problems.
- Developing clear company goals: Management have a role in clarifying the standards all staff members should work towards in successfully fabricating parts and machining products. These standards should be clearly explained and upheld, so that everyone works towards the same, uniform goals. At precision waterjet we have a dedicated quality department that stringently inspects finished products to ensure they meet standards.
In the machining industry, one important part of quality control is maintenance. This means investing regular time (and money where necessary), on ensuring that each machine is performing at the highest standard to produce quality results. From examining errors in waterjet cutters, to testing for accuracy in laser jets and CNC machines, maintenance is an unavoidable step in both quality control, and quality management.
Quality Control Is an Ongoing Process
The final step in quality control for any industry is to measure results. While there are many reasons for implementing a quality control process – particularly when machining parts for critical industries like the military or aerospace sector, one reason will be to ensure that each part meets the standards of the company that machined it. Results gleaned from customer feedback can contribute to necessary changes in quality management, while errors documented during production can be essential to preventing further issues in the future.
The driving force behind a machining company should be to achieve the highest level of quality. This could involve more customer service training, leadership development, and higher levels of staffing, or it could mean making changes to the product, service, or production process. Whatever the cost, fabrication companies cannot afford to compromise on quality.