Can we use water jet cutters in different materials (such as copper, metal, rubber, and ceramic)?
Yes, by abrasive waterjet machine, you can cut any metal and nonmetals too. Only toughened glass cannot be cut although regular glass can be cut.Waterjet can cut a lot of materials.
Materials you can cut with water.
It may be easier to list the materials that cannot be cut with a water jet system, but in general, you use water instead of heat to cut your materials. With this in mind, we will review a range of materials that are routinely processed using waterjet cutting solutions to show the versatility that these tools bring to the workshop.
Metals and special alloys
The early development of water jet cutting systems involved processing commonly used metals such as aluminium, steel and stainless steel. These materials can be dense and thick and require intense heat, which can distort the properties of the material, or require secondary operations to grind the surface to a higher quality finish. Today, modern abrasive waterjet cutting solutions are used when the heat-affected zone distorts the properties of the metal, especially when cutting aluminium blocks, thick stainless steel materials, special titanium alloys and Inconel. For more information on metal cutting, please visit our cutting titanium, stainless steel and other special alloys technology page or read our blog on the subject.
Cutting glass with a water jet system perfectly demonstrates the capabilities of these tools. As a "cold cutting technique", water jet systems cut cleanly without creating a heat-affected zone (HAZ) or leaving rough edges that require additional machining steps. With the right combination of pressure and abrasive, water jets can cut standard, laminated and thick bullet-proof glass. The resulting cut is as smooth as glass (pun intended) and can be straight, curved or bevelled. We invite you to learn more about the unique requirements of cutting glass and how these can be solved with a water jet system.
Carbon fibre and laminated materials
More and more of our customers are asking us to cut carbon fibre and other laminated materials. And because of the benefits of these materials to manufacturers, the opportunity to take the business into another area is tempting.
However, these materials present their own unique challenges. Multi-directional fibres cut with common tools can leave behind whiskers and damage to the cut area, including delamination. Removing whiskers requires an auxiliary step, increasing the time and cost of part production. Cutting zone damage can lead to increased scrap loss, another cost that can be avoided by using a water jet system. We have more on composites here.
Yes, water jet systems can cut a variety of foam types. By their very nature, foams are sensitive to heat and the edge damage that can be caused by heat-based cutting tools. With the correct pressure, grit and CAD drawings and CAM instructions, even complex shapes are possible. A good example of our system for cutting foam is the solution we developed for Merryweather Foam, a foam packaging company serving the medical device industry. You can read that case study here.
Cutting fabrics and textiles with water jet systems has a long history and was one of the first materials to be processed with these tools. Today, water jets are used to cut a variety of different textiles in industries such as automotive and aerospace. The cutting head is usually mounted on a robotic arm for trimming or fixed to a surface with a conveyor belt underneath for slitting. These water jets can cut headliners, seat foams, interior fabrics and carpets in a single cut to create a finished edge without the need for expensive press dies or expendable blades. To learn more about the use of water jets in the automotive sector, read our Alliance Automation case studies.
Plastics, rubber, acoustic foam, food and many more items
Pure water cutting is used for a variety of materials, including plastics, rubber, acoustic foam, food and more. When heat was an issue in the cutting process, many turned to waterjets. Once again, cooling cuts with water jet systems provide exceptional single-cut edge treatment, minimising material loss due to thermal deformation.
What are we missing?
Did we mention stone, pipe, and cement …… Although this is a short list of materials, it illustrates the versatility of waterjet cutting systems. Everything from soft foams to plastics to exotic alloys and metals can be cut by a combination of pressure, water and abrasives.
Water jet cutting solutions are the only tools with such a wide range of applications and versatility in material handling. But the question is, why are these solutions so adaptable and capable? Many developments have come together to make waterjets the premier cutting tool. Advances in nozzle design and durability, the development of reliable ultra-high pressure pumps, a wealth of grit sizes and CAD/CAM-driven controls combine today to give you the best cutting tool available.