All About Waterjet Cutting: Cutting with Extreme Precision

At Metal Craft Spinning and Stamping, we have extensive experience in the manufacture of metal components. In addition to our metal spinning, stamping, and hydroforming capabilities, we offer precision waterjet cutting services to further meet the manufacturing needs of our customers.

Waterjet cutting is a fabrication method that employs the use of high-pressure streams (i.e., jets) of water—sometimes combined with abrasive media such as aluminum oxide or garnet—to cut materials into the desired part or product shape. It has several manufacturing benefits that make it suitable for use in operations across industry. Below we outline some of the key advantages of the process, the types of equipment employed, how we use the process in our operations, typical materials, and industrial applications.

Advantages of Waterjet Cutting

Compared to thermal or mechanical cutting method, the waterjet cutting process offers a number of significant benefits in terms of efficiency, versatility, and results. Some of the main advantages include:

  • Broader material suitability. The waterjet cutting accommodates a wide range of materials, ranging from steel and titanium to foam and wood. Additionally, it can handle materials that are challenging for other cutting methods, such as thick or multi-layer substrates, without the need for starting holes.
  • Greater material utilization-to-waste generation ratio. Waterjet cutting operations can achieve a smaller cutting kerf, which allows part designs to be placed closer together on the workpiece. It also enables higher utilization of the material with lower material waste generation.
  • Lower risk of thermal warping. As waterjet cutting is a cold cutting process, it generates less heat than other cutting methods, minimizing the risk of thermal distortion.
  • Higher precision and accuracy. The process consistently produces parts to net-shape or near-net-shape, which reduces the need for secondary processing operations.
  • Smaller fixturing requirements. Waterjet cutting operations require minimal fixturing for the workpiece, which reduces setup times and equipment costs.
  • Better operator safety. During the waterjet cutting process, the act of cutting into the workpiece does not produce dust or hazardous gas, both of which can negatively affect the health of the machine operator.
  • Faster cutting speeds. Compared to conventional cutting methods, the process offers faster cutting times, especially for thicker materials.

2D and 3D Waterjet Cutting Systems

2D vs 3D Waterjet CuttingEarly waterjet cutting systems were designed for use with very thin materials like paper. As such, their use in mainstream manufacturing applications was limited. Nowadays, they are employed by both small job shops and large manufacturing companies for the fabrication of a wide range of parts and products in various materials and thicknesses.

Two of the most significant developments in waterjet cutting technology are the introduction of multi-head functionality and the ability to cut three-dimensional parts. While three-axis and four-axis systems may accommodate many manufacturing needs, five-axis and six-axis models offer opportunities for the production of even more complex and intricate pieces.

The latter types eliminate the need for flat workpieces, allowing industry professionals to cut intricate, non-uniform, and asymmetrical materials.

Metal Craft’s Step-by-Step Waterjet Cutting Process

waterjet cuttingAt Metal Craft Spinning and Stamping, we follow all industry best practices when manufacturing any component using waterjet cutting. By working closely with the customer, we determine the necessary part and production specifications. With these in hand, we then move on to the waterjet cutting operation.

A waterjet cutter works by directing extremely high-pressure streams of water—with or without abrasive—at the material. Achieving this function requires significant pressure, which it generates through the use of a hydraulic intensifier pump. The pump pressurizes water pulled into the system through the low-pressure water input and inlet filter. Once pressurized, the water exits the pump and enters the accumulator, which reduces the pressure ripples.

If called for by the project, the abrasive metering system adds abrasive material to the water. The water then flows into the cutting head, which is controlled by a water off valve. A robotic system component controls the flow of water through the valve. As necessary, it starts and stops flow to cut the material at the appropriate times.

Typical Materials Used in Waterjet Cutting Operations

As indicated above, the waterjet cutting process accommodates a wide range of materials. By using both water-only and abrasive water streams, industry professionals can cut thin to thick materials. Typical materials used in waterjet cutting operations include:

  • Standard and exotic metals, such as aluminum, brass, copper, mild steel, stainless steel, and other alloys
  • Non-metals, such as ceramic, marble, porcelain, stone, and tile

Industrial Applications of Waterjet Cutting

waterjet cutting industrialWaterjet cutting finds application in many a diverse set of industries. For example:

  • In the aerospace industry, the process is used to cut aluminum, brass, titanium, and other exotic materials in the manufacturing operations of critical aircraft parts. It achieves high-precision cuts and high-quality edges for parts up to 200 millimeters in thickness.
  • In the architectural and construction industries, the process is used to cut stone and tile for use in inlays and logos in flooring and signs. It maintains low material waste generation levels and fast cutting speeds, both of which translate to lower production costs.

Waterjet Cutting Solutions by Metal Craft Spinning and Stamping

Established in 1964 and incorporated in 1969, Metal Craft Spinning and Stamping is now operated by fourth-generation family members. Our commitment to quality, on-time delivery, and personalized customer service has resulted in our customers coming back to us for their manufacturing needs time and again.

Whether you require metal spinning, stamping, hydroforming, or waterjet cutting services, we’ve got you covered. Equipped with decades of industry experience and state-of-the-art fabrication equipment, we have the knowledge and skills to deliver precise and accurate metal components that fully meet your needs.

For additional information about our waterjet cutting or other manufacturing capabilities, contact us or request a quote today. One of our experts will answer and address any questions or concerns you may have about the process or your project.

You also download our latest eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Waterjet Cutting.