Waterjet cutting is one of the most versatile and efficient cutting methods available. It hasn’t, always, however, been as effective as it is today. The method was first used way back in the 1950s by Dr Norman Franz, a forestry engineer looking for an easier way to cut lumber from large trees. It was only 20 years later, though, that Dr Mohamed Hashish found a way to add abrasives to the jet of water. This revolutionised the technique, making it possible to cut through almost any material. Waterjet cutting is now used all over the world in over 50 different industries.
What Exactly IS Waterjet cutting?
Essentially, waterjet cutting uses an ultra-high pressure jet of water to carry an abrasive, grit-like substance. This abrasive works like a mechanical saw, but the end result is far smoother and more precise. The process allows for extremely exact cutting. It has a narrow kerf width, which allows for the cutting of very fine contours. It is ideal for producing high tolerance parts.
How Does It Work?
The operator places the piece of material to be cut flat on a cutting table. A cutting head, guided by a computer programme, then moves across the material. An abrasive medium is drawn into a high-pressure water stream and sent through a tiny hole at 60 000 psi. This is how waterjet cutting works! It is essentially a process that weaponises water, turning it into a laser that will cut through most materials. The notable exceptions are brittle materials, such as tempered glass and ceramic.
One of the key advantages of this type of cutting is the minimal material wastage. This is thanks to the extremely small size of the water stream (usually about half a millimetre in diameter). Waterjet cutting is also very cost-effective when compared to other cutting methods, and can be used to cut parts that fall beyond the scope of a laser cutter.
Probably the most significant advantage is that, unlike plasma or laser cutting, waterjet cutting doesn’t generate heat. This means the cut areas aren’t at risk of burning, melting or being chemically altered due to heat. This makes the process idea for applications where the material cannot show any signs of discolouration or burning, or in cases where burning may cause toxic fumes to be released.
Steelmor is the leading supplier and manufacturer of stainless steel in South Africa. Waterjet cutting is one of the methods we use to cut stainless steel to the size and shape you require. When size matters, give us a call to find out how we can help you with your stainless steel cutting requirements.