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Waterjet Cutting - How Does It Work?


Waterjets are fast, flexible and accurate. They use the technology of high-pressure water being forced through a small hole (typically called the "orifice" or "jewel") to concentrate an extreme amount of energy in a small area. The restriction of the tiny orifice creates high pressure and a high-velocity jet.

Pure waterjets use the jet of water exiting the orifice to cut  material,  like thin soft rubber  or  foam, but are not effective for cutting harder materials.

The inlet water for a pure waterjet is pressurized to  between 20,000 and 94,000 Pounds Per Square Inch (PSI) (1300 to 6000 bar).   Industry  standard  waterjets  usually operate  at  50 to 60,000  PSI.  This water  is forced through a tiny hole in the jewel, which is typically 0.25 to 0.4 mm  (10 – 15 thou)  in diameter This creates a very high-velocity, very thin beam of water  travelling faster than the speed of sound approaching  Mach  4    (about 2,400 mph or 3800 km/hr)  for  94,000  PSI. As the pressure goes up the stream velocity increases, delivering greater cutting power density.

An abrasive jet starts out the same as a pure waterjet. As the thin stream of water leaves the jewel,  abrasive (usually garnet, a substance commonly used on sandpaper) is added to the  stream and mixes. The beam of water accelerates abrasive particles to speeds fast enough to cut through much harder materials.  The  resultant  jet  travels through a  tube  ( referred to as a mixing tube or focussing tube)  and  forms a  cutting  jet  usually  between 0.9 – 1.2mm  diameter.  Abrasive constitutes 2/3 of the machine operating cost, and as pressure goes up, the stream moves faster and becomes smaller in diameter.  Less abrasive is then entrained into the stream, but each particle carries more momentum and cutting power.   Waterjet is commonly used to refer to both types of  jet  ( pure water  &  abrasivejet)

94,000 psi rated pumps vs. 60,000 psi rated pumps:

1. Cuts 30-50% faster

2. Uses 30-50% less abrasive

3. Delivers 20-30% lower part cost

Abrasive jet in  action  cutting  30mm thick  GRP

Waterjet vs. Plasma vs. Laser vs. EDM


 

 Waterjet

 Plasma 

 Laser 

 EDM 

 Process

Erosion
process:
high speed
 liquid
sandpaper

Burning / melting
process using high
temperature ionized
gas arc

Melting
process
using
concentrated
laser light beam 

Erosion
process using electrical
discharge

 Materials

 Any material.

Primarily steel,
stainless steel and
aluminum.

Primarily steel,
stainless and
aluminum.

Can also cut a
limited variety
of other materials.  

Conductive
materials only.  

 Thickness

Up to 24 inches,
virtually any
material.

Z constraint
is only
limit to thickness.

Up to 2-3 inches,
depending on
material.  

Generally 1 inch
or less,
depending
on
materials.

Generally 12
inch or less.

 Part
 Accuracy

 Up to .025mm

  Up to .25mm

  Up to .025mm

  Up to .00

 Capital
 Investment

£90k to over
£400k

£90k to
over £350k    

£250K to
over £1.4M

£150k to
over £500k

 Machine
 Setup

Same setup
for all
materials

Different
setup for
different jobs

Different gases
and parameters
for different jobs

Different
wire types for
different jobs




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