Waterjet cutting. What does it involve?

Waterjet cutting

There are many methods in the field of industrial material cutting, but one of the more effective and widely used is waterjet cutting technology, also known as waterjet cutting.

This advanced technology uses a high-pressure water jet combined with an abrasive material to accurately and efficiently cut through a variety of materials. For this reason, it has gained considerable popularity in various industrial sectors.

waterjet cutting consist of

What does waterjet cutting consist of?

Commonly known as waterjet cutting, it is a process that uses a high-pressure water jet and a mixture of water and suitable abrasive material to cut through flat materials and cut out various shapes in them with extremely high pressure.

In actual fact, we are talking about abrasive cutting, in which water, air and an abrasive material are combined in a mixing chamber. The resulting water jet is capable of transferring very high energy levels and thus enables various materials - both soft (e.g. plastics) and hard (e.g. steel or ceramics) - to be cut. The popularity of abrasive cutting is due to its high precision, versatility and lack of thermal deformation - making it widely used in industry.

Waterjet cutting is carried out in an automated manner - during the cutting process, the head and cutting nozzle are positioned perpendicular to the surface to be cut, and the diameter of the water jet does not exceed 0.1 mm. As a result, metal parts up to 150 mm thick can be cut with this technology.

Waterjet cutting is classified as a cold cutting process and is an environmentally friendly and modern technique that can effectively compete with other methods such as laser or plasma cutting. It all depends on the parameters and thickness of the materials being cut with this technology. It works especially well in applications where the material to be cut, for various reasons, cannot be subjected to high temperatures (this applies, for example, to parts after heat treatment).

Which materials can be cut with water?

Waterjet cutting, known as abrasive cutting, is an extremely versatile method that works well with a variety of materials - ceramics, stone, plastics and, of course, metal. Waterjet even allows precise cutting in glass (except tempered glass). Metals can also be cut using this technology.

Electris offers waterjet cutting of non-ferrous metals, including copper and aluminium sheets up to 150 mm thick.

Advantages of waterjet cutting

Advantages of waterjet cutting

The great popularity of waterjet cutting is due to its numerous advantages. The most important of these is the very high degree of precision, as it provides the ability to cut with an accuracy of up to 0.1 mm. Also of great importance is the relatively high cutting speed while at the same time maintaining good edge quality.

However, that is not all. Other advantages of waterjet cutting include:

  • high productivity and efficiency of the cutting process on thicker material;
  • high quality of cut edges;
  • possibility to cut any shape;
  • no risk of the formation of hot zones within the material, as well as deformation or metallurgical changes due to thermal reasons;
  • possibility to cut workpieces of various sizes and thicknesses;
  • no harmful compounds are released during machining;
  • versatility of application.

All of this makes water jet cutting used in a variety of industries - including electrical power, automotive, aerospace, construction, masonry and woodworking.

However, waterjet cutting of metals, such as copper or aluminium, does not always work. It all depends on the properties that the component must have.  Therefore, in some cases, such as the cutting of small parts, it is more cost-effective to look for alternative techniques, such as laser cutting.

Waterjet cutting - what pressure can be achieved?

As we mentioned earlier, waterjet sheet metal cutting takes place at extremely high pressure. Its average range is between 2,000 and even 6,000 bars. The pressure mainly affects the speed and efficiency of cutting - for thicker or harder materials, the pressure needs to be increased. Furthermore, high pressure allows less abrasive to be used, which can reduce process costs.

Waterjet cutting machines

Waterjet cutting machines

The process of cutting metal with water uses modern and technologically advanced CNC waterjet cutting machines, which consist of:

  • a high-pressure pump, responsible for generating a jet of water at the appropriate pressure;
  • pipes and valves, which supply water to the heads;
  • cutting heads, thanks to which it is possible to determine the diameter of the jet and to direct the water appropriately onto the material to be cut.

It is very important that modern waterjet machines are equipped with special heads that compensate for the effect of cone formation. In addition, they may have, as optional equipment, a fourth and fifth axis control, which significantly expands production possibilities and makes it possible to cut very complex shapes.

What is the difference between abrasive cutting and water jet cutting alone?

By adding an abrasive material to the waterjet, it is possible to cut through harder and thicker materials, such as metals. It would not be possible to process these materials with high-pressure water alone - this is only suitable for very soft materials such as paper.

Waterjet cutting versus other methods

Waterjet cutting is a method that can provide an alternative to other techniques, such as plasma cutting. What is the reason for this?

Plasma cutting is often used to cut steel but will not work well with metals such as copper or aluminium. It is also less precise, can cause a greater deviation from the intended shape, and can lead to thermal deformation of materials, especially thin or sensitive ones.

Waterjet cutting does not cause significant thermal deformation of materials and allows for greater precision, which is why it is so beneficial in many applications.

How much does waterjet cutting cost?

The cost of waterjet sheet metal cutting depends on, among other things, the type and thickness of the material to be processed, as well as the complexity of the project. At Electris, we price each order for a specific detail on a fully individual basis, depending on the products, requirements and characteristics of the products the customer orders.

FAQ - Waterjet cutting. What does it involve?

What is waterjet cutting?
What materials can be cut with water?
What are the advantages of waterjet cutting?
Waterjet cutting - what pressure can be achieved?
What is the difference between abrasive cutting and waterjet cutting alone?
How much does waterjet cutting cost?
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