An introduction to waterjet cutting

Cutting steel, concrete, glass and marble with water – sounds a bit far-fetched doesn’t it? Way back in the 1950s, a forestry engineer by the name of Norman Franz started fiddling around with a high-pressure water stream to cut lumber. His aim was to streamline the process and reduce the strain on traditional cutting equipment such as saw blades, which easily became blunt and needed replacing. From these humble beginnings an idea was born, and over the next couple of decades, water cutting became an unparalleled method for cutting materials of all types, shapes and sizes.

waterjet apw

waterjet apw

The end product?A waterjet cutter – a machine capable of slicing metal and other materials such as granite and marble with unbelievable accuracy. It does this by using a jet of water at high velocity and pressure, sometimes mixed with an abrasive substance, depending on the material that is being cut. Waterjet cutters are usually used to cut materials such as rubber, foam, plastics, leather, composites, stone, tiles, metals, food and paper. However, they can’t cut tempered glass, diamonds and certain ceramics.

Why is water cutting better than traditional cutting methods?

Perhaps the most important benefit of waterjetsare their ability to cut material without the heat caused by the friction associated with most other methods. This is especially important when cutting metals, where excessive heat can harm and change the intrinsic properties of the metal, rendering areas close to the cut useless.

Another main benefit of waterjets is their versatility. When used with specialised software and 3D machining heads, a waterjet cutter can produce complex 3D shapes in a wide variety of materials. In fact, waterjets can make cuts as small as 0.01 mm – approximately the width of a human hair! This preferred cutting method is also the most efficient and environmentally friendly available.

This is because it produces no hazardous waste, greatly reducing the costs associated with waste disposal. It also maximises material use, saving large amounts that would be lost if done by traditional cutting methods. It also eliminates airborne dust particles, smoke, fumes and contaminants.

How fast does the water shoot out and how much water is used?

One of the first questions anyone asks when they are told water can cut materials such as steel is “how fast is the water going?” Most cutters can produce a speed of around 1500 kilometres per hour, and more advanced machines are capable of producing streams of water that travel at more than 3000 kilometres per hour! Despite this, the machines use a relatively small amount of water because the jet is so concentrated. On top of this, the water that is used can be (and most often is) recycled through a closed-looped system.

We hope this brief introduction to waterjet machines has answered any questions you may have had about this unique and innovative cutting method. If you are seeking qualified professionals for waterjet cutting in the Brisbane area, we recommend Metfit Industries. They have extensive experience working with this technology, and enjoy a great reputation in the area for custom-made solutions.

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