Waterjet cutting machines are the most advanced cutting tools on the market, beating out traditional methods of cutting in areas such as versatility, efficiency, environmental impact, and cost-effectiveness. Waterjets first gained popularity with coal miners and then manufacturers, but today they are used in many different industries such as aerospace, auto production, and even by colleges for engineering classes. They are used to cut through a variety of materials such as glass, wood, tile, stone, rubber, plastic, and metal.

Within waterjet cutting, there are two different approaches that are used for cutting different materials. Pure cutting is a form of waterjet cutting that employs a jet stream of water concentrated through a very small jeweled nozzle to cut through softer materials like rubber and plastic. Abrasive cutting employs a jet stream of water mixed with millions of tiny abrasive particles, usually garnet, concentrated through a very small jeweled nozzle to cut through tougher materials like metal and glass.

Waterjets have been used since the 1850’s, initially reaching around 800 psi and used as a tool for coal miners in hydraulic mining. When coal miners saw how effective the waterjet was in stripping away rock to reveal the gold underneath, the waterjet cutting machine began to gain popularity. Over the years technology advanced and the waterjet as we knew it changed tremendously, with researchers and scientists constantly working to improve it. With time, we began to see models that were increasingly cost-effective, versatile, commercialized, and smaller in size. With the most advanced waterjets now reaching up to 100,000 psi, it’s safe to say we’ve come a long way in waterjet cutting technology.

Why the Waterjet?

There are many reasons one might use a waterjet for their cutting needs, but the precision and versatility of the waterjet are what makes it stand out above other cutting methods. Precision is paramount in manufacturing for both product durability and customer satisfaction. Traditional cutting methods like plasma or laser cutting are unable to achieve the level of precision that waterjets are and the high heat input utilized in those methods leaves your piece with sloppy edges. This results in edges that need to be touched up or re-finished before the product can be considered complete.

The waterjet is also the industry standout due to its versatility because, unlike other cutting methods that typically work best with metals, the waterjet can create perfect cuts in nearly any material you can find. This versatility enables workers in all sorts of industries to utilize the waterjet cutting machine as an asset in their projects, whether they’re creating custom stepping stones for a backyard or engine parts for a military aircraft.

What are the common uses for waterjet cutting?

Glass.

Waterjets are used for a number of glass projects, including kitchen and bathroom splashbacks, stained glass for mosaics or lamp shades, frameless shower screens, laminated and bullet-proof glass, and inlays of floor, walls, and table tops. 

Metals.

One of the most common uses for waterjet cutting is cutting metals like steel, aluminum, titanium, brass, and nickel.

Stone.

Waterjets are used for cutting floor and wall inlays, custom stepping stones, custom border tiles, and bench tops for kitchens and vanities.

Soft Materials.

Waterjets are often used for cutting soft materials like dense foams, components for car interiors and bodies, rubber, plastics, and cork.

Automotive.

Waterjets are used in the automotive industry for truck bed liners, bumpers, fiberglass body components, interior trim, and foam.

Aerospace.

Waterjets are used in the aerospace industry for cutting engine parts, interior cabin panels, aluminum body parts, and titanium bodies for military aircrafts.

Food.

Waterjets are often used in the food industry for jobs such as slicing mass quantities of vegetables and processing meat like chicken nuggets and frozen fish.

Electronics.

Waterjets are used in the electronics industry for cable stripping and circuit boards.

Fiberglass.

Waterjets are used to cut fiberglass for home insulation, boat bodies, panel insulation, and personal watercraft bodies.

Textiles.

Because of their ability to cut multiple layers at once, waterjets are popular for cutting textiles like sports lettering, fabrics, healthcare products, feminine hygiene products, and diapers.

Munitions Demilitarization.

Waterjets are used in the arms industry for chemical weapons and high explosives.

Conclusion

Because of their incredible versatility, waterjets are able to function as an asset in a variety of industries. The cold cutting process used in waterjets is superior to traditional cutting methods because of the lack thermal damage and distortion. The precision and efficiency of the waterjet cutting machine further enable it to stand out above cutting methods like laser, plasma, and EDM.

The benefits of waterjets are being realized more and more every day and have quickly become the most popular cutting tool in the industry, far surpassing competing cutting tools. With the ability to cut through just about anything, it’s no wonder why so many industries are adapting to the waterjet way.

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