Waterjet Cutting FAQ’s

What is waterjet cutting?

Waterjet cutting is a process that utilizes a high-pressure stream of water to cut a wide range of materials.

How does waterjet cutting work?

Water is pressurized up to 90,000 pounds or more per square inch (psi) and forced through a tiny opening to cut a wide range of materials. There are two types of waterjets: pure waterjets, which are used to cut soft materials such as food, paper, rubber and foam; and abrasive waterjets, in which an abrasive – typically garnet – is added to the waterjet stream to cut harder materials including steel, titanium, stone, and more.

What are the basic components of a waterjet cutting system?

A waterjet cutting system has three basic components: a high-pressure water pump, a cutting head, and CNC table, which features a CNC controller to program the cutting head.

How do I remove used abrasives from the waterjet tank?

AKS offers an automatic garnet removal system (GRS). The GRS automatically pumps the water and abrasive out of the tank, separates the abrasive from the water and moves it into a waste bin or hopper. The system then repumps the separated water back to the table. Every few weeks, the operator can dispose of the abrasive, usually in a waste bin.

What are the abrasive options? Is abrasive hazardous?

The most commonly used abrasive for waterjet cutting is garnet, which is a non-toxic, non-hazardous naturally occurring rock that is mined all over the world.

How do I know what size waterjet pump to purchase?

The size of the pump depends on what types of applications you will be needing to fabricate.

How much maintenance does a waterjet cutting machine require?

In the industry, waterjet is considered high maintenance when compared to other metal cutting machines. The process of pressuring and pumping the water wears out the high-pressure pump and nozzle, requiring replacement of parts on a regular basis.

What is the capital investment for a waterjet cutter?

The initial capital investment to purchase a waterjet ranges from $100,000 – $400,000, depending on the size of cutting table and pump speed purchased.

What are the operating costs of a waterjet machine?

Waterjet machines require electricity, water, and consumable parts, with operating costs ranging from $20 – $30 per hour.

What part sizes can a waterjet cut and at what accuracies?

Waterjets are ideal for cutting highly intricate parts as small as .030 inches to .050 inches. Most common applications for the waterjet include cutting parts from .500 inch to 2 – 3 feet. In terms of accuracy, a waterjet can cut a small ½ inch part at 1 or 2 thousandths. Larger parts, such as 6 – 8 feet, can be cut with accuracies of +\- 100 thousandths.

What material thickness can an abrasive waterjet cut?

With a waterjet, material thickness is unlimited, though the cutting speed may vary, with thicker material taking longer.

What types of materials can a waterjet cut?

Waterjets are versatile enough to cut literally any material including metals of all types, glass, marble/stone/granite, plastic, paper or wood – even food such as lettuce, celery or carrots.

What applications are best suited to abrasive waterjet cutting?

Waterjets are ideal for nearly any application and can cut aluminum, brass, bronze, carbon fiber composite, ceramic, copper, fiberglass, glass, granite, Kevlar, marble, stainless steel, titanium, tungsten and more.

Can a waterjet be used for secondary operations on a pre-cut part?

Yes. Through the AKS laser alignment tool, an operator can load the table with an existing part located through the laser alignment tool and cut additional feature into the part.

Can waterjets etch material?

No. In waterjet cutting, etching is very difficult because you cannot control the depth of the waterjet stream. If you attempt to etch with an abrasive waterjet and hover over a part for a split second longer than the other area, the result will be inconsistent with depth.