WaterJet Cutting

Waterjet Cutting That Is
Efficient & Precise

Waterjet Cutting is ideal for short-run part production, just-in-time manufacturing, tooling, prototype part development, and machine repair parts.

  • Delivers fast, clean, smooth cuts reducing secondary operations
  • Does not create heat that will adversely impact sensitive materials or cause mechanical stress
  • Eliminates the need for expensive tooling or complex fixture costs
  • Capable of cutting virtually any type of flat material; including metal, plastic, stone & wood
  • Can cut up to a 100″ x 55″ (2540 mm x 1397 mm) sheet of material, up to 9” thick
  • Tilt-A-Jet delivers virtually zero taper with most materials
  • Environmentally “green” system with quiet and clean operation

What is it and how does it work?

Water Jet cutting uses an ultra-high pressure stream of water to carry an abrasive grit. The abrasive—usually garnet or sand—then cuts through the chosen material, leaving a precise cut and a smooth surface. It is essentially an accelerated erosion process—the same power that sculpted the grand canyon concentrated and mechanized.

As highly pressurized water is fired through the nozzle into a mixing chamber, pressure creates a vacuum driving the abrasive into the stream to be fired. Despite the term “waterjet,” it is this abrasive that does the work, which is really erosion done at such a high power and speed that it is deemed “cutting.”

The process is extremely versatile, able to cut almost any material including steel, stainless steel, aluminum, stone, wood, plastic, glass, rubber, leather, cloth, paper, cardboard, insulation, foam, and more. It is also very precise, with a narrow kerf width that allows fine contours to be cut and highly detailed shapes and parts to be formed.

RWD’s state-of-the-art OMAX waterjet cutting technology features the Tilt-A-Jet head that can position the nozzle at an angle calculated by the software to exactly offset the natural taper from the abrasivejet. The head features a programmable tilt up to +/- 9 degrees for the maximum tilt angle, and can cut thick material while holding tight tolerances (0.005 tolerance from 0-1” and 0.1 tolerance from 1”-4”).

Waterjet Cutting
Speed, Savings and Efficiencies

Nesting Parts

with computer programming that will decrease wasted material and maximize your cost.

Minimal Tooling

Rapid Waterjet Design can cut a wide variety of parts with no tooling, thus decreasing time and increasing savings on tooling costs.

Material

Rapid Waterjet Design will nest and cut your parts with minimal waste. Also, the water jet minimizes material waste compared to CNC milling processes that require working to the critical dimensions.

Pros

Waterjet cutting can be used on almost any material, does not cause heat damage, is extremely accurate in cutting intricate and 3D shapes, and is more environmentally friendly than traditional cutters.

Cons

Water jets can do very simple cuts of thin material. This is an area where lasers are also strong.

When comparing quotes, there may be very little to choose between laser and water jet, so other factors might be a key differentiator, such as lead time and also whether environmental factors are of importance to you, as water jets have the advantage of being environmentally friendly.

For simple cuts of thin material or also small pieces with fine detail, there is a choice to be made and this choice might require getting quotes from different types of cutters and also getting a feel for which one can better deliver to your specifications.

As jobs become more complex, that is larger parts, deeper cuts and complex three-dimensional cutting, the dial shifts heavily in favor of water jet cutting.

Materials ideal for
Waterjet Cutting

Aluminum

Aluminum is a relatively soft metal and is easily machined using a waterjet. Generally speaking, it machines at about twice the speed as mild steel. Aluminum is difficult to machine on a laser in thicknesses over 1/4″.

Copper

Machining copper can be challenging, but abrasive water jet systems make cutting copper easy. Copper is impossible to cut on a laser due to reflection. It is also difficult to machine conventionally, because it tends to gum up conventional cutting tools. Abrasive waterjets are the clear choice for copper.

Hardened Tool Steel

Particularly once it’s hardened, tool steel is difficult to conventionally machine, but is easy to machine on an abrasive water jet system. Laser and wire EDM will affect the heat treatment of the material or cause thermal distortion, but the abrasive waterjet process will not affect the heat treat or cause distortion in any way.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel machines easily with the OMAX® waterjet without heat or distortion. All grades of stainless steel machine easily on the OMAX, even those such as 304 that are difficult to machine with other processes. No Heat Affected Zone (HAZ). Specifically In the food industry, there cannot be any HAZ areas in stainless steel.

Steel

One advantage of the OMAX waterjet is that you can cut steel after it has been hardened with minimal slow-down of cutting (see Hardened Tool Steel). The lack of heat affected zone from the abrasive waterjet means that you don’t change the heat treatment of the steel as you cut it. The OMAX waterjet also produces a smooth cut on the edge without burn marks, cracking, excess burr, or other problems typically associated with heat-based cutting. RWD can currently cut up to 9” thick steel.

Glass

Glass is a unique substance that traditionally has been difficult to machine. Although it has a great deal of structural strength, even small scratches on the surface can lead to breaking and shearing. In fact, the traditional method of “cutting” glass involves making a small scratch on the surface with a diamond file and then applying pressure until it breaks along the scratch. Abrasive waterjet approaches this problem by treating glass as a brittle substance. The material is pierced at low pressure, and automatically switches to high-pressure mode to continue the tool path. The speed of the tool path is also adjusted to avoid problems that are associated with brittle materials.

Wood

Because wood is very soft compared to metals, the abrasive waterjet machines it very quickly.

Composites

Composites are similar to fiberglass and consist of layers of material. Abrasive waterjets can machine composites without leaving a burr or shredding the layers of material while maintaining a better edge quality.

  • Granite and Marble
  • Circuit Boards
  • Foam
Plastic

The ability to cut Acrylic, Acetal, Nylon, Teflon, Polycarbonate, PVC or UHMW at thickness from .015 to 6” give the abrasive waterjet a preferred choice for cutting various plastics.

Technological
Comparisons

EDM LASER CNC WATERJET
Materials Range
Only metallic
Mostly metallic (not reflective)
Any Material
Any Material
Material thickness
0 to10"
0 to 3/4"
0 to 10" with additional set-ups
0 to 10"
Accuracy (dependent on thickness)
0.00005
.003" - .006"
.0002
.005" - .010"
Cutting speed (based on 1"-8" thick steel)
Slow, very accurate
1" max. thick, fast on thin metals
Best for finishing to size
Excellent, tilt head option to maintain vertical edge cuts
Thermal Alteration
Yes
Yes
Possible
No
Edge Cutting quality
High
Low
Medium
Medium
Pre-processing
- Pre-drill each hole - Re-thread wire
No
Squaring Of Block
No

Waterjet
Quality Index

Abrasive waterjet cuts at various speed allowing us to control quality, speed and cost.  Below illistrates the 5 different settings we cut material at and the finish cutting edge it will leave.  The finish does change depending on material that is being cut.

 

Q1

Quality 1 is the fastest cutting speed for our abrasive waterjet. Q1 is used for rough cutting when edge finish, taper or tolerances are not important.

 

Q2

Quality 2 is the second fastest cutting speed for our abrasive waterjet. Q2 is used for cutting when finish is not important and secondary machining is used.

 

Q3

Quality 3 is the most commonly used setting. It offers good to very good cutting finish, depending on material being cut. Cutting speed is good and able to hold standard tolerances with taper control.

 

Q4

Quality 4 delivers a very good to excellent cutting finish. Secondary finishing is usually not necessary. Holds tight tolerances with taper control.

 

Q5

Quality 5 delivers the best cutting finish available with an abrasive waterjet. No secondary finishing is required and holds tight tolerances with taper control. Cutting is very slow and more expensive.

 

Applications

01

Automotive

02

Signage

03

Motorsport