Pure vs. Abrasive Waterjet Cutting- What’s the Difference?

Waterjet cutting is not only one of the easiest, most cost-effective options for machining today, it is also one of the most versatile. There are two forms of this process available to consumers – abrasive and pure. Abrasive waterjet cutting is the most popular and widely known. They both offer quick cutting speeds, precise cuts, no heat-affected zones, and minimal finishing adjustments. Despite having many similarities, the differences in these forms are critical when deciding which of the two is right for your projects.
Pure vs abrasive waterjet cutting

What is Pure Waterjet cutting?

Pure waterjet cutting is the original form of waterjet technology. It works by directing a stream of pressurized water onto a given material. This method, like abrasive waterjet cutting, is a cold one, so there is no thermal distortion or heat-affected zones left behind. In this form, the pressure of the water alone, when forced through a small orifice, is enough to cut through materials. Unlike abrasive, pure waterjet is more restrictive in terms of what it can be used on. The pure waterjet’s use is limited to soft or thin materials, such as cardboard, fabric, wood, foil, foam, and rubber. It was because of the pure waterjets limitations that abrasive waterjet cutting was introduced in 1935 by Elmo Smith. Elmo Smith’s ideas were later refined and used to generate the modern abrasive waterjets introduced by Dr. Mohamed Hashish

What is Abrasive Waterjet cutting?

This new form of waterjet cutting immensely expanded its possible applications. With the addition of this new technology, waterjets could now cut a wider range of material at varying thicknesses of up to 11 inches. This method is a result of adding abrasive particles to the highly pressurized water stream. When abrasive materials, like garnet, were introduced to the flow of the water, the machine’s capabilities skyrocketed. In this form, the primary tool is the abrasive particles, and the water is simply an accelerant. This technology allowed the waterjet machine to be used on harder materials like stone, ceramic, steel, aluminum, and titanium. The introduction of abrasive waterjet cutting has allowed the waterjet machine to become the preferred choice for manufacturers and fabricators. 

Why is it Important to know the Difference?

Abrasive and pure waterjet cutting share many of the same advantages, but knowing the differences between the two will help you choose the right tool for your next project. However, both forms of waterjet cutting are cost effective, produce precise cuts, and have quick cutting speeds. 

3 Examples of Pure Waterjet Cutting Applications

  • Food Products: Cutting frozen foods, produce, and meats for large scale production
  • Cloth: Cutting fabrics for fashion manufacturing & apparel production 
  • Foam Organizers: Cutting foam for custom tool shadow boards 

3 Examples of Abrasive Waterjet Cutting Applications

  1. Thick Steel: Cutting thick steel beams for structural applications
  2. Granite: Cutting stone & granite for interior applications (countertops, sinks, & backsplashes)
  3. Glass: Cutting non-tempered glass for interior application in aircrafts

Abrasive and pure waterjet cutting are some amazingly versatile tools to incorporate into your next project.  If you’d like to learn more about how our machines work or what industries these processes are usually used in head over to our website and blog!



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