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Do: Begin your design with waterjet in mind.

It’s best to take into consideration the flexibility and limitations of the waterjet right from the start. That way you don’t have to start over and potentially re-design an entire assembly to work with custom waterjet cut parts.

 

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Don’t: Place cutting lines too close together, especially on thin material stock.

Placing cutting lines too close together can cause vibration in the thin section, leading to the cutting stream breaking through across the face of the part. 1/16 inch (0.063” or about 1.5 mm) is a safe distance between features for even thin stock material.

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Do: Create a DXF file of the final outline.

Waterjets work best with 2D vector files showing exactly the outline of the part, scaled 1:1. DXF is the file format most used with waterjet cutting machines. Nearly all CAD software supports export to DXF.

Don’t: Put secondary operations or instructions in the final DXF file.

The DXF file for manufacturing with waterjet cutting should contain only the outline of the part to be waterjet cut, scaled 1:1. If you do need a CAD file with more operations or instructions, save that in a separate file.

 

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Do: Select a waterjet appropriate material.

While waterjet cutting can work with a huge variety of metals, plastics, woods, and composites, make sure your material won’t shatter or delaminate when being cut. Any material that can’t stand some exposure to water, like cardboard, won’t work with waterjet. On the other hand, most metals, including stainless steel and heat treated aluminum, are ideal for waterjet cutting.

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Don’t: Leave open or crossed lines in your CAD file.

When drawing your part in a 2D CAD program, make sure that all of the endpoints of your lines, arcs, and splines meet around the perimeter of the part. Without these entities making a closed loop, the waterjet cutting machine can’t determine the outline of the part.

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Do: Verify your dimensions

When working with DXF drawings, it’s easy to make a mistake with the scale and accidentally make a drawing that’s 2:1 or 4:1, or a drawing that’s in millimeters instead of inches (or vice-versa). That’s why it’s important to check the overall size of the part using Big Blue Saw’s online quoting system before ordering.

Don’t: Use raster (bitmap/PNG/GIF/JPEG) files for designs that need high precision.

Raster files can be very convenient if you’re used to editing in a program like Windows Paint or Photoshop. This works great for decorative pieces, signs, and artwork. However, when designing with a bitmap editor, you’re limited by the resolution of the pixels. When designing parts of a machine or mechanical assembly, it’s best to stick with a vector based editor or CAD program for maximum accuracy.

 

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Do: Design for waterjet kerf and cutting accuracy.

Keep in mind that the kerf (cutting diameter) of the waterjet is about 0.04 inches or 1 mm. This means that the waterjet can’t make holes or slots smaller than that size. Additionally, your design should take into consideration the cutting accuracy of the waterjet and the waterjet taper (and use low-taper waterjet cutting if appropriate).

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Don’t: Forget to add a finishing operation to make the parts look and perform their best.

If your parts need to be touched by an operator or will be visible in the final assembly, make sure that you choose a finishing option like GlassBlast or PadPrep finish to make sure your parts look their best and are free of burrs.

Wrapping Up

With these tips in mind, you're ready to place your first order for custom waterjet cut parts from Big Blue Saw. Just upload your design to our online quoting and ordering system to get started. More questions? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions list. Still need help? Contact us.