Frequently Asked Questions About Waterjet Cutting Services

Waterjet cutting services have revolutionized the manufacturing industry with their precision and versatility, yet many people need to become more familiar with waterjet technology. At Rubber Resource, our waterjet cutting process involves a high-velocity water stream to cut materials with great precision.  We do not use abrasives in order to get the most precise cut. Waterjet cutting is a remarkable tool for many applications, including foam, fabric, plastic, rubber, and carbon fiber.

This article aims to demystify the waterjet cutting machine by addressing some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding this technique and how we use it in our Portland, Oregon location. We will delve into how it works, its benefits, application areas, and more. 

If you’re looking to adopt this technology for your business needs or you’re a curious mind looking into waterjet cutting solutions near Portland, this comprehensive guide will provide you with valuable insights into the world of the waterjet machine.

The following are frequently asked questions whose answers will give you enhanced insight into this highly accurate process:

How accurate are waterjet cutting machines?

Close-up of waterjet cutting machine cutting an aluminum plate.

Waterjet cutting machines are renowned for their exceptional precision and accuracy. They can cut an impressive range of materials accurately, often maintaining waterjet cutting tolerances as tight as +/- 0.0005″. This accuracy is made possible by the advanced control system and high-pressure pump technology that characterizes these machines. Moreover, the absence of heat-affected zones ensures the material’s dimensional stability, further enhancing the waterjet accuracy. With their consistency and precision, waterjet cutting machines are indispensable in industries where exact measurements are critical.

What is the thickest material waterjet cutters can handle?

Waterjet cutting technology, renowned for its versatility, can handle various materials with varying thicknesses. The capacity largely depends on the specific machine and pump pressure, but generally, the maximum thickness that our waterjet cutters can manage is approximately 8 inches (or 25.4 cm). 

This capacity includes materials such as rubber, foam, and plastics. The precision and power of waterjet cutters enable them to slice through these thick materials, maintaining a surprisingly high level of detail and accuracy. However, thicker materials typically mean a reduced cutting speed.

What are abrasive waterjet cutting machines?

Abrasive waterjet cutting machines use a high-pressure jet of water mixed with an abrasive material, such as garnet. The waterjet stream is powerful and capable of cutting materials from steel to granite, while the abrasive enhances the material removed when cutting harder materials.

Which materials cannot be cut using the waterjet cutting process?

Waterjet cutting machine using water under high pressure to pierce through a thick sheet of metal.

Although waterjet cutting is a versatile method that can slice through virtually any material and hold tight tolerances, it has limitations when cutting specific materials. Tempered glass is one material that tends to shatter when cut with a waterjet. 

Similarly, certain ceramics and diamonds are typically not cut with waterjets because of their extreme hardness and brittleness. Also, while cutting wood with a waterjet is technically possible, it’s not commonly done due to the potential for the wood to swell or warp when exposed to the volume of water used in the process.

What advantages do waterjet cutting services have over other cutting methods?

Waterjet cutting stands out for several reasons compared to other cutting methods like EDM cutting, laser cutting, or plasma cutting. First, it is a cold-cutting process, meaning it does not generate heat that could distort the cut material. This factor makes it ideal for materials that are sensitive to high temperatures. Second, waterjet cutting is versatile and can cut a range of materials – from metal and glass to stone and ceramics – while holding very tight tolerances. Finally, unlike some cutting methods that produce harmful fumes or dust, waterjet cutting is an environmentally friendly option that doesn’t have hazardous waste, and companies can recycle the water used in the process.

Which factor will affect waterjet cutting tolerance the most: material thickness or material hardness?

Both material thickness and hardness can impact waterjet tolerance, but in most cases, material hardness plays a more significant role. The harder the workpiece, the more resistant it is to the waterjet, resulting in slower cutting speeds and potentially less accurate cuts. 

However, it is essential to note that extreme thickness can also affect the accuracy of the cut, particularly at the bottom of the material. While both factors are important, material hardness often presents a greater challenge for waterjet cutting tolerances and creating high-quality parts.

Why is positional accuracy so important for waterjet accuracy?

Waterjet cutting machine cutting through metal.

Positioning accuracy in a waterjet cutting machine refers to the ability of the machine (and a skilled operator) to accurately set the waterjet nozzle at a specific point on the material according to the input design. High positioning accuracy ensures the waterjet cuts the material close to the design specifications, and it is critical in industries such as aerospace and automotive, where precision is vital. 

Improper positioning can result in higher part tolerances and lower part accuracy. Many factors determine positioning accuracy, including the machine’s mechanical precision, control system accuracy, and the stability of the waterjet stream.

What are the differences between pure waterjet and abrasive waterjet?

Waterjet cutting technology is typically categorized into two types: pure waterjet (the type we use here at Rubber Resource) and abrasive waterjet. As the name suggests, pure waterjet cutting uses a high-pressure stream of pure water to cut foam, paper, plastic, rubber, and thin material. It’s ideal for softer materials, ensuring a clean cut without causing structural damage.

On the other hand, abrasive waterjet cutting involves the addition of abrasive particles to the water stream. These added abrasives enhance the cutting power of the jet, enabling it to cut through more challenging materials such as metal, glass, stone, and ceramics. Although it’s more potent than pure waterjet cutting, abrasive waterjet can cause a rough finish on the part’s cut edge and a certain degree of wear and tear on the cutting equipment over time due to the harshness of the abrasive materials.

Wrapping Up

Rubber Resource uses waterjet cutting because it’s a versatile and efficient cutting technique for materials used in various industries. It provides unparalleled precision and preserves the integrity of the material, making it an optimal choice for many machine shops and industrial applications. 

Although there are many variables to consider, such as the material type and thickness, the quality of the abrasive, and the machine’s operational speed, the FAQs above should provide a starting point to understand the fundamentals of this process. Consult Rubber Resource, a professional waterjet service provider, for advice and recommendations.

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