Waterjet Cutting Myths Debunked

waterjet cutting

Waterjet cutting has increasingly become the ideal solution for many companies dealing with machine tool cutting procedures. Over and above the countless benefits of waterjet cutting machines, they can notably cut through nearly any material. This ranges from glass and metal to composites and stones which other cutters would typically struggle with, especially in terms of precision and superior results.

However, as good as waterjet cutting machines are, there are several misconceptions and PRV decided to set the record straight. Fact is, hydro-abrasive waterjet cutting has evolved remarkably and is one of the most effective machining methods today. This article aims at busting 8 common myths and shed some light on the services available at PRV Engineering.

1. Only Big Companies Can Use Waterjet Cutting Services

Historically, this myth used to be true as most waterjet cutting services only catered for large companies pre-ordering parts in bulk. Since then, there have been impressive advances in machines, technology and software which has changed this concept drastically.

Nobody should be punished financially for being a small company that only needs a few parts. The same applies to people machining as a hobby or a side business as buying in bulk is not always an option or necessary.

At PRV, you don’t have to be a large organisation to enjoy the benefits of 5-axis waterjet cutting services. We cater for all types of projects from the very small to the much larger jobs. In fact, most of our biggest customers today started with smaller orders and today, they’re hugely successful in several sectors including aerospace, defence, rail and construction.

2. Waterjets Are Only For Prototypes And Not Finished Components

The problem with this myth is that not understanding the accuracy of waterjet technology can push many in the wrong direction. This technology is ideal whether you need a basic part for a machine or a detailed and more intricate component for a research prototype.

Waterjet cutters are capable of extremely tight tolerances and can cut a thickness of 1mm to 150mm in various sizes. This includes the most intricate projects all the way up to a 4m x 2m profile. Today, CAD software can specify precise details on your parts and the machine will cut directly from the design.

Furthermore, parts also don’t have to be flat as waterjet machines can also produce complex 3D parts and components. Some examples include gears, electronics, enclosures or even special artwork.

3. Waterjet Cutters Are Too Loud And Messy

It’s easy for those who have not seen a waterjet cutting machine before to imagine it being loud and messy. When cutting above the water, mist, spray and some noise pollution may occur but it all depends on the machine’s design.

On the other hand, cutting beneath the water surface will reduce or almost eliminate most of these concerns. Even if a project requires cutting above the water line, noise levels can be compared to that of a household vacuum cleaner. This means it’s not distracting or disturbing anyone in the facility.

4. The Cutting Profile Of Waterjet Machines Are Limited

While all cutting processes have their limitations, waterjet cutting machines are more versatile than many may realise. It may not cut every single material known to man but they can do a lot more than most other machining methods.

Most waterjet cutting services include abrasive waterjet machines to manage harder materials. This includes cutting the following:

  • Aluminium
  • Steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Hardened tool steel
  • Copper, brass and bronze
  • Nickel and silver
  • Titanium and Hastelloy

Other materials that waterjet cutters can handle include plastics, foam and carbon fibre. There are some materials that prove even a challenge for waterjet cutters and these are glass, certain metals and composites.

If your project requires a specific material but aren’t sure if it’s ideal for waterjet cutting, get in touch with our team of experts who will gladly assist you.

5. Waterjet Cutting Is Extremely Expensive

The price you pay for waterjet cutting also depends on the type and thickness of the material used, the machine’s speed and complexity of the part. While waterjet cutting could be the more expensive option in some situations, it’s not always the case.

For example, waterjet cutting is often the better option financially when working with a thicker material. Compared to laser cutting, other materials that usually cost less with a waterjet include aluminium, copper and a few other highly reflective materials.

Remember, waterjet cutting has no HAZ (heat affected zone) as with laser cutting that generates heat which can easily affect the end product. This often results in spending additional time and money on secondary heat treatment to return the component to its original heat-treated strength.

6. You Cannot Cut Carbon Fibre With A Waterjet

As mentioned before, waterjet machines can cut a wide range of materials including carbon fibre. In fact, abrasive waterjet cutting machines are used to cut many of the Carbon Fibre Composites (CFRP) which are used in the wings of the latest commercial aircraft. These composites are increasingly being used in many other applications due to the excellent strength to weight ratio, fatigue life and the gradual reduction in cost to produce it.

7. There’s No Need To Cover The Drive Mechanism

This myth has come up often recently and seems rife with people familiar with the massive plasma cutting machines. Every abrasive waterjet cutting machine has tracks and a drive mechanism which must be covered at all time. These machines cannot operate for any length of time if covered with water, dust, dirt and sand particles. Well-designed protective covers will greatly extend the life of the machine and is a small investment compared to the big repair bill or replacement cost.

8. The Pump On A Waterjet Machine Can Blow Up

While nothing is impossible, if you buy your pump from an accredited manufacturer, this is no concern at all. With water being much less compressible than air, the amount of energy stored in a waterjet pump is even less than a scuba tank.

There are strict design criteria for ultrahigh-pressure pumps that must adhere to the industry standards. Part of this criteria is to ensure that all ultrahigh-pressure vessels are designed to “leak before break.” For those unfamiliar with this concept, it simply means that pressure cannot build up in areas where a catastrophic failure could occur. So instead of breaking or ‘blowing up’, they leak to release pressure.

The PRV Engineering Quality Guarantee

At PRV, all products and services are provided in accordance with the Quality Standards BS EN ISO 9001:2008 and BS EN 1090 – EXC3. This covers the following activities:

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