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High Precision Sheet Metal Laser Cutting & Waterjetting
Waterjet Cutting FAQ's
Since we introduced the Bystronic ByJet Classic 4022 waterjet cutting system to Unicorn Sheet Metal Works, we have fielded numerous questions about the technology. In fact, some people don't believe it is possible to cut anything with water. Well, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and is over a mile deep in places. It was created through the erosion of limestone and sandstone by the Colorado River and its tributaries over a period of around 11 million years.
With enough time and enough water, water can cut through almost anything.
There must be some things waterjet cutting can't be used for?
True. Waterjet can't be used for cutting diamonds, tempered glass and some ceramics. There are probably a few other precious gems that waterjets can't cut but it has to be remembered that diamonds really are very hard. Tempered glass is designed to shatter on impact, which is why it is used for car windshields. Modern ceramics that have been designed specifically for their strength are often moulded into shape – or are cut using diamonds.
So, apart from metal, what else can waterjets cut?
The reasons why waterjet cutting is associated mostly with metals is that this is what most manufacturers want for their products. Metal for fabrication often comes in sheets, making it amenable to cutting by a variety of means, including waterjet cutting, laser cutting and guillotining.
Waterjet cutting can be used to cut and etch glass. It is commonly used to cut and shape stone, and it can be used for cutting wood. In fact, some musical instrument manufacturers use waterjets to accurately cut precision parts for violins, cellos and double basses.
Waterjets are regularly used for cutting rubber, plastics and food.
Can waterjets be used to cut laminates?
Many modern materials are composites or laminates, where several layers of often different substances are added one on top of the other for extra strength or rigidity. With some waterjet cutting machines, the sprayhead can separate the layers of the laminate, injecting pressurised water between the sheets. The Bystronic Byjet has been designed to allow for a range of techniques to successfully cut most laminate materials. If you have a more specific question in mind, please contact us directly.
What is the difference between waterjet cutting and abrasivejet cutting?
Technically, waterjet cutting uses a high pressure fine spray of pure water to cut through a material. With abrasivejet cutting, fine particles of sand, garnet or some other abrasive are injected into the water spray at a constant rate to give a harder cutting edge. Generally speaking, most waterjet machines – including the Bystronic Byjet Classic used by Unicorn – use an abrasive mix as it speeds up the cutting process and gives a clearer, more defined edge to the product being fabricated.
Or to put it another way, abrasivejet and pure waterjet are cutting techniques, while waterjet is another name for the machine that does both.
What thickness of metals can waterjets cut?
This is where we are tempted to refer you back to the Grand Canyon. Give enough time a waterjet can be used for cutting any thickness, BUT ...
But there is a question of cost effectiveness. Beyond a certain thickness, it can be too costly and too time consuming to use waterjet cutting. This thickness depends upon the type and quality of the metal. As a rough guide, waterjet cutting is effective on steel plate up to about 8cm thick. Beyond that, although it can be cut, it may be more cost effective to use a different method. If you have a specific application in mind, contact us directly to discuss your project.
How does waterjet cutting work?
The principle is really easy. Take ordinary tap water and force it through a fine nozzle at pressures up to 3,600bar (54,000psi). To increase the cutting power, inject a constant flow of abrasive particles. It is the engineering that is really complicated.
Can waterjet only be use for cutting straight lines?
No, waterjet cutting can be used to fashion intricate designs. It can be use to make the teeth on a cogwheel or cut a silhouette into glass.
What are the advantages of waterjet cutting?
Waterjet cutting can be faster, cheaper and more precise than other cutting techniques, including laser cutting, for a wide variety of materials. Waterjet cutting can be used on shiny / reflective metals where laser cutting will not work. Because materials being cut by waterjet are simultaneously cooled by the water tank surround the cutting bed, materials are not distorted by the heat generated by other cutting methods.
How much does it cost?
The answer depends on how much of what you want cutting and by when. At Unicorn Sheet Metal Works Ltd we set great store by offering an excellent service at a highly competitive price. We are always happy to discuss manufacturing projects – including costs and options – with new or existing customers.
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