Dr. Norman Franz discovered waterjet cutting in the 1950’s when he was seeking an alternative method to cut lumber. Since the inception of this cutting method, not only has it been used to help forestry engineers cut lumber from large trees but has helped in the metal industry.
Waterjets use a simple process of high pressure streamed water which allows for the materials to be cut or cleaned. The cutter itself can be connected to a water pump that ejects high-pressure water from a nozzle thus cutting the material with high-speed water. There may also be additives, such as abrasives, used to help with the cutting process.
While waterjet cutting can be used for a number of different materials, there are at least five benefits for cutting aluminum and stainless steel.
1. The Ability of Waterjets to cut through almost anything. At first glance, many do not expect water to be a powerful cutting tool but wateriest have the capacity to cut through eight-inch stainless steel plates and ten-inch aluminum plates.
2. Waterjets do not require heat Waterjet cutting is the preferred method for those materials that are sensitive to higher temperatures that are often created when using alternative methods. Most methods of cutting materials will damage or alter the surface but the no heat-affected zone (HAZ) prevents this from occurring when using a waterjet.
3. Waterjets exhibit the highest level of precision of cutting methods Waterjets are very precise cutting tools, as they are capable of attaining an accuracy of 0.005″ (0.13 mm), and repeatability of 0.001″ (0.03 mm). Waterjets provides a burr-free finish. The waterjets eliminate the need for a secondary surface finishing process and allows for expenses to be spared.
4. Waterjets allows for projects to be completed in a quick and efficient manner. There isn’t much labor needed to use the waterjet. The entire cutting process is significantly faster than other cutting methods. The waterjets are so precise that re-cutting is avoided.
5. The cutting process is environmentally sound The waterjet cutting process is considered to be one of the more environmentally friendly of all the methods. During the process of cutting materials with the waterjet, there are no byproducts produced. Considering the large pieces of recyclable scrap metal or material can be cut, the waterjets prevent waste that occurs when using other cutting methods.
6. There are a number of environmental benefits to using waterjets to cut stainless steel and aluminum. Not a lot of water is necessary to use the waterjet. Depending on the cutting head size, anywhere from one half gallon to one gallon of water will be utilized every minute. By using a closed-looped system, the water used can be reused. Waste water is often clean enough to filter and dispose of through a drain.
7. A safer work environment is created. Airborne dust, smoke, fumes, and contaminants are avoided through the use of waterjet cutting. This greatly improves the work environment and reduces problems arising from the machine operator’s exposure.