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Common Misconceptions about Waterjets

July 28, 2016MainPathNewsComments Off on Common Misconceptions about Waterjets

waterjet cutting

Waterjets can cut metals, plastics, foods, and even carbon fiber — without any risk of warping or distortion. As the popularity of waterjets increases, there are some misconceptions floating around the industry, that may leave you confused as to what a waterjet machine is actually capable of.

To help you better understand the process, here are a few of the most common myths associated with waterjet cutting:

1. Waterjets Struggle to Cut Complex 3D Parts

Some people believe that although waterjets can easily cut precise designs into flat pieces of material, they fall short when it comes to dealing with 3D components. The truth is that recent advances in the realm of XD three-dimensional cutting have maximized the versatility of this promising fabrication method.

Using a cutting head that can swerve in multiple directions — controlled with advanced software — allows waterjets to cut complicated 3D parts in a single, fluid motion; removing the need for secondary cutting.

2. Abrasive Waterjets Are Messy, Noisy, and Slow

It makes sense that people assume the results of waterjet cutting take a lot of time and effort to produce — after all, they’re quite astounding. However, waterjet cutting uses a process of accelerated erosion to slice through material — usually in a very short space of time.

This fast cutting speed doesn’t actually lead to additional problems in mess, or noise. Cutting under a small amount of water can reduce the presence of mist, steam, or spray — particularly when manufacturers use a pierce shield at the same time. Underwater cutting also serves to reduce noise levels! While cutting above water can lead to noise pollution of 95 decibels (depending on the distance between the material and the mixing tube), underwater cutting reduces that level to only 75 decibels.

3. Waterjets Use Excessive Force to Pierce Materials

While it’s true that waterjets use significant pressure to create impressive cutting results, the force might not be as high as you think. On average, an abrasive waterjet produces between 20,000 and 55,000 pounds of water pressure PSI —  about 30 times the pressure you might see at your local car wash. Although they can get up to 55,000 pounds, the amount of force exerted by a standard waterjet machine is usually only between 15 and 40 PSI.

4. Garnet Mesh Doesn’t Affect Speed

Most people in the manufacturing world know that garnet is necessary to create an abrasive waterjet capable of cutting through hard metals — but many don’t recognize the importance of the garnet mesh, in regards to the speed of the cut. Garnet abrasive is used in most waterjet machines, typically ranging from 50 mesh to 220 mesh.

In waterjet cutting, the size of the abrasive particle translates to the speed of the cut. That means that 50 mesh is likely to cut a little faster than 80 mesh, at the same flow rate. On the other hand, if you were to switch to a very fine abrasive — designed for use with special cutting, and smooth edge production — you might find that the process is a lot slower.

5. Fixturing Parts is Unnecessary

The force used in waterjet cutting may be less than you expect, but it’s still quite a force to be reckoned with — it’s important to use fixtures to hold a piece of material in place. Fixtures keep the workpiece carefully situated within the machine, to reduce the chances of unwanted movement and ruined designs. It’s very easy for a piece to move during production — which can waste both time and resources.

6. Striations Will Always Happen

It’s true that striations — the furrows and linear marks that appear on fabricated materials — can occur during the waterjet process. However, this outcome usually occurs as a result of a number of extraneous factors; which can be controlled during cutting. For instance, maintaining a consistent amount of power through the machining process will create a smoother finish. Oftentimes, the faster you cut, the more striation marks will form. The material you use can be important, too — irregularities in pieces of metal, or plastic, can quickly lead to unexpected marks.

7. Waterjets Can Cut Through Anything

The materials a waterjet can effectively cut through will depend largely on the type of waterjet you’re using. While pure waterjets are best suited to softer materials, the precise cut they produce won’t work with metals, or tougher parts. Alternatively, abrasive waterjet technology can extend the benefits of waterjet technology to harder materials — ranging from steel, to carbon fiber, and more!

The Truth about Waterjets

Today, most fabrication and manufacturing experts are aware of the benefits of using waterjets to shape and structure parts. These innovative solutions produce very little waste; while contributing to the creation of smooth edges, precise parts, and quick, efficient results. In fact, when compared to laser and plasma cutting, waterjets provide the added benefit of leaving no heat affected zone to damage the materials.

What do you think are some of the most common misconceptions about waterjets? Has our list helped to clear up your understanding of the waterjet world? Let us know in the comments below!

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