What is Abrasive Waterjet Cutting?
Waterjet technology is a computerized cold cutting technology that can cut most materials into any two dimensional shape. Marble, granite, porcelain, ceramic, linoleum, sports flooring, vinyl, and all metals are excellent materials for the waterjet process. Waterjet cutting is a clear cold process that does not heat, harden, or distort metals. Waterjet cleanly and efficiently cuts stone, ceramics, and porcelains.
Anything that can be drawn on a computer can be cut by waterjet. Many materials like stone, porcelain, and stainless steel cannot economically be cut into complex shapes in any other way.
How Does Abrasive Waterjet Cutting Work?
The customer submits a drawing, blueprint, or electronic file. Aquacut then scans, digitizes, or loads the file or drawing with AutoCad. The customer’s drawing is then converted into a language that waterjet machines can read through a process called CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing). The customer’s image is then ready to download onto one of our waterjet machines.
A waterjet machine has essentially two components: the x-y-z table which moves the cutting head over the material and a high intensity pump that generates 55,000 psi. At this pressure, water alone can cut plastics, foam, wood, resilient floor coverings, rubber and similar soft substances. The cutting head is a .030 nozzle, with a .014 sapphire crystal orifice through which water is forced at three times the speed of sound by the high intensity pump. The movement of this nozzle is determined by the computer instructions the machine follows (the customer’s drawing). When cutting harder materials such as metals, stone, ceramics, glass and dense composites, a garnet abrasive is fed into the waterjet stream for stronger erosion action. The waterjet stream does not exert pressure or heat on the working material.
Waterjet is an important breakthrough in fabrication methods for both industrial and architectural applications. Depending on the material, thickness and intricacy of the cut, the savings compared to traditional cutting methods can be substantial. Waterjet cutting has significant advantages over competing cutting methods, such as routers, plasma torch, laser cutting and electrical discharge machining (EDM). Waterjet can be an alternative to casting forged blanks. Waterjet can cut through materials considered “unmachinable” by conventional cutting methods.
The advantages of this process extend beyond its cost-competitiveness with other cutting techniques. Waterjet allows for complex and difficult shapes, such as inside corners, notches, architectural and artistic shapes, to be cut with equal ease and with a high level of accuracy and precision. Because this is a CAD driven process it also offers the capability of repeatability, not available with most other cutting methods. Waterjet can be used for cutting composites and plastics that cannot tolerate heat, mechanical damage or delimitation. There are no molding or tooling costs associated with waterjet.
The CAD-CAM process and narrow kerf (or cut) resulting from the waterjet allows for exceptionally efficient usage of expensive materials such as titanium, composites and optical glass. The narrow kerf allows for optimum yield due to nesting (tight tolerances +/- .010 inches depending on the material). In addition the process provides mass production capability with CAD/CAM repeatability. Parts can be manufactured by simply reentering previously run computer programs.
The waterjet cutting process is an environmentally friendly solution to many complex cutting operations. The process is clean, does not create dust, grindings, chips, or chemical air pollution. Waterjet carries away the eroded material, practically eliminating dust and does not generate pollutants and fumes associated with other cutting methods. Cutting oils or emulsions are not needed with this process.