The Latest Innovations in Waterjet Cutting
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!
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