The Versatility of Waterjet Cutting
Abrasive waterjet cutting can be described as "supersonic erosion". A three-part system is used. A hydraulic pump pressurizes water to 55,000 psi. The high-pressure stream is delivered to a cutting head mounted to a CNC gantry style robot. The water is forced through an orifice with an opening from 0.005" to 0.16", creating a controllable cutting stream. As the high-pressure stream is directed toward the material to be cut, an abrasive metering and delivery system introduces a garnet abrasive into the cutting stream.
Waterjet cutting (without the abrasive) can be used to process many metallic and nonmetallic materials such as fiber reinforced plastics, foam rubber and a host of other materials. The abrasive waterjets are capable of processing virtually any metal or material of any thickness.
In the past, waterjet cutting services have been relatively expensive when compared to other conventional cutting processes. The advent of higher quality and lower cost consumables has permitted considerable increases in processing speeds and a corresponding reduction in processing costs. Examples include the use of two cutting heads in envelope sizes previously using only one head.
The versatility of waterjet cutting makes it a viable alternative to plasma, wire EDM and laser cutting. Waterjet cutting eliminates the heat generation and warpage of plasma cutting. This capability yields reduced costs that come from the elimination of secondary operations. Another advantage is that waterjet cutting uses a narrow width of cut and enables more accurate control. Part tolerances of +/-0.005" are made.
Waterjet cutting compared to EDM cutting is not as accurate but is not limited to electrically conductive materials. Unlike EDM, waterjets can be applied to plastics and composites. Predrilling entry holes is also unnecessary in waterjet cutting. Another favorable property of waterjet compared to EDM is cutting speed. On 1/2" stainless steel EDM moves from 0.125 to 4 ipm. The waterjet cutting rate is from 3 to 8 ipm.
When comparing laser cutting to waterjet cutting and the thickness of the material being cut, waterjet cutting has the edge on thicknesses over 25". Lasers alter the surface chemistry of the base material being cut and also are limited to the types of material being cut.
Waterjet cutting does not affect the surface chemistry nor is it limited to the types of materials. Another example of waterjet cutting speeds is on composites with a rate of 200 ipm. Basically, waterjet cutting accommodates virtually any material of any thickness.
Waterjet Cutting Features:
- Flexibility in Material Selection
- No Thermal Deformation
- Minimal Material Waste
- Versatile CNC Programmable Machine
- CAD/CAM Interface Capability
- Low Mechanical Stress
- Needs No Costly Tooling or Fixtures
- Ideal for Prototyping or Production
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