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Waterjet Cutter: How it Works.

A waterjet cutting machine cutting metal parts
A waterjet cutting machine cutting metal parts.
Image © Steve Brown Photography CC-BY-SA-3.0

A waterjet cutter is a tool capable of slicing into metal or other materials using a jet of water at high velocity and pressure, or a mixture of water and an abrasive substance. The process is essentially the same as water erosion found in nature but accelerated and concentrated by orders of magnitude. It is often used during fabrication or manufacture of parts for machinery and other devices. It has found applications in a diverse number of industries from mining to aerospace where it is used for operations such as cutting, shaping, carving, and reaming.

At Big Blue Saw, we use waterjet cutting to turn your ideas into real parts from your designs. Our online waterjet cutting services are customized for you, whether you need one simple part or a thousand complex parts. With the capability to cut from many different types of materials including metal, aluminum, steel, plastic and wood, you can convert your designs into real usable parts and products.


Waterjet Cutting In Action

If you're curious about what the process looks like, take a peek at this video of waterjet cutting in slow motion.

Waterjet Advantages

Big Blue Saw's Waterjet Cutting System
Big Blue Saw's Waterjet Cutting System.

Waterjet cutting offers several advantages over other machining technologies:

Lower cost. Waterjet parts are typically cut from sheet or plate material and require no special clamps, fixtures or tool changes. This translates to quicker production and lower cost.

Wide variety of materials supported. Waterjet cutting can be used on most metals, many plastics, wood and stone. It can be used to cut many materials that would be difficult to machine using other methods, such as heat-treated alloy steel.

No heat-affected zone. Machining methods like laser cutting and EDM heat the material and the parts will need to be heat treated again after machining. Waterjet cut parts retain their heat treatment when cut. This means that you can start with pre-heat treated material and keep your costs down.

See examples of waterjet cut parts and prices.

Waterjet Operation

A technician operating a waterjet cutter.

waterjet cutter diagram
A diagram of a waterjet cutter

The cutter is commonly connected to a high-pressure water pump (a local water main does not supply sufficient pressure) where the water is then ejected out of the nozzle, cutting through the material by bombarding it with the stream of high-speed water. Additives in the form of suspended grit or other abrasives, such as garnet and aluminum oxide, assist in this process. Because the nature of the cutting stream can be easily modified, waterjets can be used to cut materials as diverse as polyethylene plastic and titanium. There are few materials that can't be effectively cut with a waterjet cutter; one of these is tempered glass which shatters when cut, regardless of the cutting technology used. Our customers use waterjet cutting to make robots, electronic parts and enclosures, scientific equipment, and much more.

The most important benefit of the waterjet cutter is its ability to cut material without interfering with the material's inherent structure as there is no "heat affected zone" or HAZ. This allows metals to be cut without harming or changing their intrinsic properties.


Waterjet History

Photo of a waterjet cutting a tool from steel
Photo of a waterjet cutting a tool from steel

In the 1950s, forestry engineer Dr. Norman Franz experimented with an early form of water jet cutter to cut lumber. However, the technology didn't advance notably until the 1970s. Today the water jet is unparallelled in many aspects of cutting and has changed the way many products are manufactured. Many types of water jets exist today, including plain water jets, abrasive water jets, percussive water jets, cavitation jets and hybrid jets.

To order your custom waterjet cut parts online, upload your design for instant quotes and ordering. For more information on our custom waterjet cutting service, contact us.


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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Water jet cutter"