Precision waterjet cutting appears to be one of the newest fascinations in town, but many people don’t realize it has been around for quite some time. When this technology appeared on the scene in the 1850s, it was used to excavate coal. At that time, few people would have believed it would grow to cut through almost any material.
The last 40 years have seen many improvements in modern waterjet cutting technology, making it more efficient, versatile, and precise. One of the latest improvements is the development of an abrasive waterjet nozzle suitable for commercial use because it can cut through tougher materials compared to pure waterjet cutting.
Elemet Manufacturing excels at precision waterjet cutting and takes full advantage of all the benefits it has to offer. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between pure and abrasive waterjet cutting methods, and then contact us for all your metal fabrication needs.
Pure Waterjet Cutting
Pure waterjet cutting is a water-only process that doesn’t require any abrasive particles, hence no need for a mixing chamber. Pure water streams through the cutting head directly after going through the orifice. The result is a thin, focused stream of water producing an extremely fine and precise cut. Since it produces a cleaner cut compared to other cutting methods, pure waterjet is suitable for softer materials.
Suitable Materials for Pure Waterjet Cutting
Since pure waterjet cutting does not contain abrasives, its cutting process does not interfere with the edges of the materials being cut. That quality makes it more suitable for these softer materials:
- Foam: Since it generates little or no heat, it does not distort foam.
- Felt: Pure waterjet cutters produce clean cuts in felt, enabling the production of different sizes and shapes.
- Rubber: Pure waterjet cutting doesn’t interfere with rubber quality and produces clean cuts for various applications.
- Paper: A contaminant-sensitive material that works best with pure water.
- Thin plastics: Another heat-sensitive material requiring cutting methods that produce minimal or no heat to protect them from possible damage.
Benefits of Pure Waterjet Cutting
Here are some essential benefits of pure waterjet cutting:
- Produces minimal or no heat at all, keeping materials intact.
- Makes high-precision cuts, including creating 3-D shapes.
- Leaves behind minimal damage.
- Suitable for light materials.
- Works on cavities inaccessible by other cutting methods.
Abrasive Waterjet Cutting
When it comes to abrasive cutting, an abrasive material, often garnet, is introduced to the water stream via a mixing chamber in the cutting head. A special pump pressurizes the mixture up to 94,000 psi, creating a supersonic stream of water capable of cutting through considerably thicker materials than pure waterjet cutting.
Industrial Applications of Abrasive Waterjet Cutting
Abrasive waterjet cutting has found many industrial applications because of its ability to cut through hard materials, including stone, ceramics, glass, and steel. Some industries using abrasive waterjet cutting include:
- Automotive: Cutting composite and non-metal materials such as exterior body panels, gas boxes, and door frames.
- Aerospace: Cutting novel materials, including carbon fiber composite and plastic glass. It also cuts alloy materials for making external body panels of airplanes and other parts.
- Military: Used to cut combustible and explosive materials, destroy weaponry, and cut through bullet-proof glass.
- Manufacturing: For cutting various materials needed to manufacture machines and tools. Such materials include metals, brittle plastics, marble, concrete, ceramics, and other difficult materials.
Benefits of Abrasive Waterjet Cutting
- Can cut through almost any material; suitable for a wide range of industrial applications
- Considered a green technology as it does not leave behind hazardous materials
- Generates little or no heat
- Makes high-precision cuts
- Creates 3-D shapes
- Leaves minimal damage
- Allows for recycling of scrap metal
- Works on cavities inaccessible to other cutting methods
- Drills holes through almost any material, forming intricate shapes
Which One Is Right for You?
Both processes use the same principle – employing an extremely fine stream of water to cut through materials. They also share many of the same benefits, including low heat generation, being eco-friendly, and running high and accurate cutting speeds.
Material type is a true differentiator between these two cutting methods. Pure waterjet cutting works well with softer materials. Thicker, harder materials will most likely require the addition of an abrasive.
We have the equipment and experience to handle all of your metal fabrication needs, including precision waterjet cutting. Contact Elemet Manufacturing to learn which of our industry leading services is right for you.