Fiberglass is a complex and often messy composite to work with, primarily because it contains tiny fibers made of glass and other materials. Because the reinforcement fibers used within fiberglass are abrasive, they often clash with other abrasive tools, shortening the lifespan of the machinery in question, and potentially damaging the material in the process. Many cutting methods also heighten the risk of overheating during the cutting process, leading to further damage.
There are numerous factors to consider when selecting the right method to handle fiberglass, from the discomfort and danger that can result from irritating dust fibers that come into contact with workers’ skin, to the possibility of delaminated composites ruined by burrs, edge chipping and poorly trimmed edges. With that in mind, companies who want to achieve the perfect finished product must take care in selecting the perfect tool.
Waterjets Could Be the Best Method for Cutting Fiberglass
Cutting methods that rely extensively on the use of “heat” generate a great deal of friction, which typically heighten their chances of damaging composite materials. On the other hand, waterjet cutting is a controlled-erosion, low-temperature alternative that doesn’t introduce heat-related stress to the materials involved.
Waterjet technology works by using a thin stream of water directed towards a material at a high speed, under significant pressure. By eroding the material alongside an abrasive material intended to make the tool more effective at shaping harder materials, waterjet cutting offers smooth edges, and precise results. Waterjet systems are capable of penetrating a wide range of different materials, from steel and armor plating, to fiberglass and ceramic tile.
Waterjet cutters can actively eliminate airborne fumes, contaminates, smoke and dust particles from the materials it is working on. In other words, waterjets improve the working environment, and reduce the risks associated with operator exposure.
The Advantages of Using Waterjets to Cut Fiberglass
Waterjet technology is capable of cutting virtually any material, without superheating the area adjacent to the cut in order to keep material integrity intact — an important factor in many cutting projects wherein excessive heat could damage remaining material. Not only is waterjet technology a “green” option, but it can also minimize costs for companies by cutting off large pieces of reusable scrap material that traditional cutting methods may ruin.
Waterjet cutting also expends minimal force on the fiberglass, reducing fixturing and ensuring that the material remains in place throughout the cutting procedure, producing the same results time and time again with expert precision. Following are just some of the benefits of using waterjet methods to cut fiberglass materials:
- Environmental concerns related to cutting hazardous materials are reduced as airborne contaminants are eliminated or reduced
- The erosive process of waterjet cutting reduces rough edges and burring, meaning that additional finishing operations are not required
- There is no risk of thermal distortion of parts with waterjet technology, or thermal stressing to the material
- Waterjets are capable of achieving a significant degree of accuracy, and cutting profiles are not confined to straight-lines, meaning that part complexity can be as high as required
Handling Fiberglass Projects with Safety and Precision
The versatility of waterjet cutting allows it to be a useful application in almost any industry. Not only are there a wide range of materials that waterjet machines can cut, but the evidence suggests that the results of cutting materials like fiberglass can be highly improved with waterjet technology.
Through waterjet precision, companies cutting fiberglass parts can reduce the environmental hazards of fiberglass dust and contamination, while achieving a finished piece free of distortion, burring, or the harsh, damaged edges caused by other cutting methods.