Abrasive particles must be used in addition to high pressure water in order to cut such strong and resistant material. Unlike pure water jet cutting, abrasive cutting uses particles of diamond or garnet because water alone is not strong enough.
These, rather than the water pressure, erode the metal. The water jets are thirty times stronger than the pressure of a car wash nozzle to cut metals like titanium, steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass, iron and even hardened metals.
Water jet metal cutting produces little scrap or waste metal and is considered highly accurate. The aerospace, automotive, transportation, engineering and construction industries all use water jet cutting products made of metal. Cars, airplanes, trains, submarines and busses are all made of metal parts that got their shape from water jet cutting.
Factory machinery, tools and all sorts of irregularly shaped metal parts are also cut by water jets. This process can create nearly any shape or design out of two dimensional metal sheets as thick as four inches. A select few machines can cut multiple layers or a single sheet that is up to ten inches thick.
Modern water jet cutting machines are fully automated and use CNC (computer numerical controlled) software. A designer’s drawing is downloaded into software, which then follows it to cut the sheet metal to that shape. The sheet metal may be shaped into an intricate or unusual design or have holes rapidly drilled into it. This process generates no heat, which prevents the metal material’s properties like color, strength and chemical resistance from being altered; for this reason, water jet cutting is considered a cold working process.
It is safer since operators are not needed to the extent they are in other cutting processes, and no dust or particles that can be inhaled by workers are produced. Labor costs are therefore low. Water jet cutting is a fast process with a high rate of accuracy and repeatability; high volumes of products are made.
The finished product requires little or no secondary processing because the cut has no burrs or rough edges. Wire EDM and plasma cutting are alternatives to water jet metal cutting, but they lack the accuracy and speed offered by water jets. These other processes all generate heat and therefore have a HAZ (heat affected zone) that may be changed or altered.