Water Jet FAQ

What kinds of materials can be cut with a waterjet?
Will waterjet cut my material? What are its limitations?
What is unique about waterjet compared to other cutting technologies?
How does a waterjet work?
How fast can a waterjet cut and how does it hold accuracy?
How thick can a waterjet cut?

What kinds of materials can be cut with a waterjet?

A waterjet can cut both hard and soft materials including, but not limited to titanium, stainless steel, aluminum, exotic alloys, composites, stone, marble, floor tile, glass, automotive headliners and door panels, gasket, foam, rubber, insulation, textile,
food and many more.

Soft materials are cut with water only, while hard materials require a stream of water mixed with fine grains of abrasive garnet.

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Will waterjet cut my material? What are its limitations?

The following list describes the types of materials that are typically not good applications.  Wood is often a poor application, due to its fibers' absorption of water, which causes them to splay and become rough.  Many fabrics do not cut well, as the fibers "squirm" out from under the cutting stream, rather than remain in place during the cutting process.  However, the most common application that is thought to be incompatible with waterjet is pipe.  Any material requiring the waterjet to cut through one layer, cross a void, then cut through another layer does not produce desirable results.  The cutting stream does not remain cohesive after cutting through the upper layer, causing a poor edge quality on the next layer(s).  Hydro-Cut has, however, developed special techniques which allow one or both walls of a pipe to be cut in most cases.

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What is unique about waterjet compared to other cutting technologies?

Waterjet allows tremendous flexibility and versatility in manufacturing and provides for more cutting possibilities.  Simply put, waterjet cutting is by far, the most flexible and desirable technology for cutting and delivers results with amazing reliability.

Here are a few examples that set waterjet technology apart from the rest:

  • Due to water's cold nature, the material cut does not show heat affected zones or hardening
  • Environmentally friendly, in that debris is removed by water, thereby reducing dust and hazardous gases
    - a process, which other technologies cannot claim
  • Cuts fragile materials like glass and stone with ease
  • Cuts plastics without showing signs of noxious fumes
  • Has the ability to perforate most materials without starting holes
  • Saves raw materials due to small cutting kerf width
  • Cuts composite materials without any special treatment
  • And many more...

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How does a waterjet work?

There are two main steps involved in the waterjet cutting process.  First, the ultra-high pressure pump or intensifier generally pressurizes normal tap water at pressure levels above 40,000 psi (2760 bar); to produce the energy required for cutting.  Second, water is then focused through a small precious stone orifice to form an intense cutting stream.  The stream moves at a velocity of up to 2.5 times the speed of sound, depending on how the water pressure is exerted.

The process is applicable to both water only and abrasive jets.  For abrasive cutting applications, abrasive garnet is fed into the abrasive mixing chamber, which is part of the cutting head body, to produce a coherent and an extremely energetic abrasive jet stream.

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How fast can a waterjet cut and how does it hold accuracy?

Speed and accuracy depend on material texture, material thickness, and the cut quality desired. In case of rubber, foam, and
gasket cutting, speeds of up to 350 linear inches per minute are available.

Hydro-Cut has software available which calculates cutting speeds for a wide variety of materials.  We will be happy to perform test cuts on a sample of your material in our shop.  Cutting speed is determined by several variable factors, including the type of edge quality desired.  Variables such as amount of abrasive used, cutting pressure, size of orifice and focusing tube, pump horsepower, and etc.) can be adjusted to produce the desired results, whether your priority is speed or the finest cut.

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How thick can a waterjet cut?

It varies with the softness or hardness of the material being cut.  This can range anywhere from a .001 up to 12 thick.

Hard materials are normally cut within a .001 to 3.0 range.  This does not mean Stainless Steel or stone with a 4 or 5-inch thickness cannot be cut with a waterjet.   It all depends on the purpose for which cutting is done (i.e. prototype, production, etc.), as well as the system operating conditions.

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