Everything You Need to Know About Waterjet Cutting

Waterjet-Cutting

Introduction

If you’ve ever used a pressure washer, you’re probably aware of how powerful water can cut and slice through objects. Introducing waterjet cutting, the new and improved version of pressure washers, only it’s 20x times as powerful. 

This unique process uses a high-pressure stream of water to cut through stone, hard metals, and tough solids –– a popular method used in numerous industries. It is easily one of the best versatile processes for cutting out precise shapes as the narrow kerf width gives it an advantage for dealing with detailed work and producing smaller projects. Before you begin running for the nearest New Jersey waterjet cutting services, read on more to find out about this particular form of cutting.

How Does It Work?

This process begins with placing the workpiece on the machine’s table, held together by a series of clamps. Afterwhich, an operator then will punch in the details into a computer, which pre-program and guide the entire process. With the computer’s aid, the waterjet machine will begin operating through the workpiece. Don’t worry though! All the water used will be recycled and reused, thus making it significantly more environmentally friendly than other modes of cutting. 

However, unlike laser cutting, a waterjet cutting process may require a longer period as the thicker the workpiece, the more time is required for the waterjet cutter to slice through. Although it can be a slow process, waterjets are still able to cut through some of the thickest materials such as stainless steel, brass, nylon, polypropylene, aluminum, and copper.


What Pumps Are Used?

Waterjet cutting mainly uses a direct drive or a hydraulic intensifier pump, which are both high-pressure pumps that kickstart the process well. Within the majority of industrial waterjet cutters, the hydraulic pump is used as its rams can help to raise the system’s pressure to an ideal level. This is done by moving a high-pressure water stream through several pressure gauges and valves before traveling through the intensifier, which significantly amps up the water’s force. Although these are more suitable for heavy-duty cutting, hydraulic pumps have a higher upfront cost and may be less efficient when dealing with light-duty cutting. These do require less maintenance in the long run, though!

On the other hand, direct-drive pumps are used commonly in light-duty cutting. Within direct-drive pumps, high-pressure water is generated through mechanical crankshafts to boost up its efficiencies up to 90 percent. This percentage is much higher as direct-drive pumps have a significantly simpler system with fewer moving parts; this reduced contact means that they deal with much less energy loss from friction. However, whilst their upfront costs are much less than the other pumps, direct-drive pumps require regular maintenance. 

Nozzles And Orifices

After passing through the pumps, the water moves along to the nozzle area, where it must cross the first gateway –– a jewel orifice. These are made with precious gems, such as sapphires, which are extremely resistant to heat, pressure, and corrosion. These jewels are also very low-friction, which is useful during a buildup of heat from friction, which can cause mechanical failure, energy loss, and minimized efficiency. 

The jewel orifice will then lead the water stream downwards through the nozzle, and towards an abrasive inlet with grit. This allows for abrasion to be accelerated and occur during the cutting process, which will quicken the slicing process later on. 

Pressure Levels

This is often debated amongst the waterjet community -– how much should the optimal level of a water system’s pressure be? Most people take two stands: either team 60,000 PSI or team 90,000 PSI. Those who prefer high pressure argue that the speed and efficiency of cutting increases with higher pressure (90,000 PSI), which has been proven to be true –– a faster velocity does increase cutting speed by 1.5 times, and requires less abrasion. 

On the contrary, those who prefer lower-pressure (60,000 PSI) claim that higher pressure reduces efficiency levels. They believe that a waterjet cutting machine can do the same amount of work with a 60,000 direct-drive pump as compared to a 90,000 hydraulic intensifier. 

Overall Advantages

In summary, there are several advantages that waterjet cutting has over its competitors –– plasma and laser cutting. 

Cold Temperatures

Firstly, waterjet cutting is a cold process and uses extremely cold temperatures to achieve its signature cutting results. Because it does not use the same intense heat laser and plasma cutting use, waterjet cutting does not melt, warp, or harden the edge of the materials involved. This ends up with a flawless and smooth edge that is not disproportionately affected or strained from heat. 

Versatility

Secondly, it can cut in all directions. The nozzles are not merely a two-dimensional set of axes but can swivel and rotate to cut in every different angle you please. Moreover, the machine programming used in these processes is extremely flexible and can adapt to numerous parameters and needs. Not only does this allow for many creative uses, but its operators are also able to alter the process at any given point in time.

Precision 

Owing to its precision and accuracy, waterjet cutting can easily produce a finished product without requiring a further touch-up. Furthermore, its high-pressure water stream allows it to cut through virtually any material –– be it solids or metals!

Efficiency

Although waterjet cutting may require more time than its counterparts, it does not require a starting hole, which can save on costs, labor, and manpower for both parties. This also makes it quicker than traditional cutting methods!

Sustainability

Waterjet cuttings reuse and recycle all of the water in a closed-loop system, which makes it available to be used again in the next session. Furthermore, the higher the pressure involved, the lesser abrasion needed to aid the cutting process, which helps to save on waste. It also reduces the amount of dust or dangerous gas emitted, as the water and abrasives flush out any debris into the drains immediately, thus limiting its exposure to the surrounding air and people nearby. 

Uses, and Applications

Waterjet cutting is perfect for creating intricate and precise heat-less designs. This can be found in numerous industries, such as aerospace, automotive, electronics, and the food industry. Fiberglass is one key material that waterjet cutting is known for. Boats, jet skis, and other automobiles require either pink fiberglass or rigid foam board insulation, which waterjet cutting creates the precise edges and shapes for a perfect fit. 

Alternatively, waterjet cutting can be used to create gaskets, which play an important role in engines, marine, aerospace, and automotive mechanical devices. These devices are often required to withstand high amounts of heat whilst providing sufficient insulation and cushion. 

Lastly, waterjet cutting is ideal for altering materials used for interior design, such as tiles, shower screens, balusters, and fiberglass. These can help create aesthetic benchtops and stepping stones to place around the house. 

Conclusion

With so many advantages to waterjet cutting, it’s no surprise that such a method has been widely adopted all around the world! If you’re looking for something efficient, precise, and environmentally friendly, waterjet cutters are what you need.

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