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What is a Water jet Cutter
A water jet cutter, also known as a water jet or waterjet, is an industrial tool capable of cutting a wide variety of materials using a very high-pressure jet of water, or a mixture of water and an abrasive substance. The term abrasivejet refers specifically to the use of a mixture of water and abrasive to cut hard materials such as metal or granite, while the terms pure waterjet and water-only cutting refer to waterjet cutting without the use of added abrasives, often used for softer materials such as wood or rubber.
Waterjet cutting is often used during fabrication of machine parts. It is the preferred method when the materials being cut are sensitive to the high temperatures generated by other methods. Waterjet cutting is used in various industries, including mining and aerospace, for cutting, shaping, and reaming.
Because the nature of the cutting stream can be easily modified the water jet can be used in nearly every industry; there are many different materials that the water jet can cut. Some of them have unique characteristics that require special attention when cutting.
Materials commonly cut with a water jet include textiles, rubber, foam, plastics, leather, composites, stone, tile, metals, food, paper and much more. Examples of materials that cannot be cut with a water jet are tempered glass, diamonds and certain ceramics. Water is capable of cutting materials over eighteen inches (45 cm) thick.
There are six main process characteristics to water jet cutting:
- Uses a high velocity stream of abrasive particles suspended in a stream of Ultra High Pressure Water (30,000–90,000 psi) which is produced by a water jet intensifier pump.
- Is used for machining a large array of materials, including heat-sensitive, delicate or very hard materials.
- Produces no heat damage to workpiece surface or edges.
- Nozzles are typically made of sintered boride.
- Produces a taper of less than 1 degree on most cuts, which can be reduced or eliminated entirely by slowing down the cut process.
- Distance of nozzle from workpiece affects the size of the kerf and the removal rate of material. Typical distance is .125″ (3.175 mm).
Temperature is not as much of a factor.
An important benefit of the water jet is the ability to cut material without interfering with its inherent structure, as there is no “heat-affected zone” (HAZ). Minimizing the effects of heat allows metals to be cut without harming or changing intrinsic properties.
Water jet cutters are also capable of producing intricate cuts in material. With specialized software and 3-D machining heads, complex shapes can be produced.
The kerf, or width, of the cut can be adjusted by swapping parts in the nozzle, as well as changing the type and size of abrasive. Typical abrasive cuts have a kerf in the range of 0.04″ to 0.05″ (1.016 to 1.27 mm), but can be as narrow as 0.02″ (0.508 mm). Non-abrasive cuts are normally 0.007″ to 0.013″ (0.178 to 0.33 mm), but can be as small as 0.003″ (0.076 mm), which is approximately that of a human hair. These small jets can permit small details in a wide range of applications.
Water jets are capable of attaining accuracies down to 0.005″ (0.13 mm) and repeatabilities down to 0.001″ (0.025 mm).
Due to its relatively narrow kerf, water jet cutting can reduce the amount of scrap material produced, by allowing uncut parts to be nested more closely together than traditional cutting methods. Water jets use approximately one half to one gallon (2 to 4 liters) per minute (depending on the cutting head’s orifice size), and the water can be recycled using a closed-loop system. Waste water usually is clean enough to filter and dispose of down a drain. The garnet abrasive is a non-toxic material that can be recycled for repeated use; otherwise, it can usually be disposed in a landfill. Water jets also produce fewer airborne dust particles, smoke, fumes, and contaminants, reducing operator exposure to hazardous materials.