Flat or semi-flat materials like metal, glass, plastic, foam, marble, stone and wood are cut using either pure water or water mixed with abrasive particles like garnet or diamond for added strength. These are used on tougher materials like metal and stone.
Products cut using water jets have clean, smooth cuts without any burrs, and since no heat is used during processing, the material properties like temperature resistance and color are not altered. Depending on the strength of the material being cut and the desired rate of production, water jet cutter nozzles spray water at pressures between 30,000 and 90,000 pounds per square inch (PSI).
The automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, food processing, lumber, architectural, building construction and electronic industries all use or manufacture products that go through the water jet cutting process during fabrication. Machinery components like gears, tiles and mirrors as well as car, train and plane components and stone flooring are often shaped by the water jet cutting process.
Most modern water jet cutting machines are fully automated and use CNC (computer numerical controlled) software to determine and control the route of the jet; the labor cost of water jet cutting processes can be low for this reason. A drawing of the desired shape or design is downloaded into CAD/CAM software, and the water jets follow its path.
Close precision reduces waste and the need for secondary machining processes. It does not create any harmful dust or particles that workers could inhale, and it produces high volumes of products with minimal waste or scrap material. The water jet cutters are mostly made of stainless steel and contain a water reservoir, abrasive containers and a high pressure water pump with a nozzle attached.
Both the water and any abrasives used are recycled many times through the machine. They are combined in a mixing tube, shot through a nozzle at high pressure and then re-circulated back into their separate storage areas. Water jet cutters are very effective and can cut many materials; the exceptions are brittle materials like some ceramic varieties as well as strong materials like diamond, which are too strong to be cut by water.