Water Jet Cutting

Water Jet Cutting is an industrial manufacturing technique that uses a very highly pressurized stream of water to cut through just about it anything.

It can cut rubber, foam, plastics, leather, composites, stone, tile, metals, food, paper, aluminum, and more. The water stream is usually mixed with an abrasive powder, but pure water can be used when cutting softer materials. A water cutter does not generate any heat when cutting, as other methods do, and thus can be used with materials sensitive to heat.

Typically water cutters move forward/back, right/left, and up/down. Some newer models also allow multi-axis cutting with angles ranging from 50 to 60, and sometimes even 90 degrees.

Locally you can get things water cut at Z-Studios in Brooklyn. Zach is very friendly and helpful there. Z-Studios prefers CAD files in .bxf and .dwg formats, but can work from other sources (drawings even), though that will cost more. In your CAD file make sure there are no layers and that all the lines are snapped together. Square angles are fine, but acute and oblique angles need to be slightly rounded. Typically it costs about $175-$200/hour. Depending on the thickness and density of the material, a large amount can be cut in an hour. They have a simulator that calculates exactly how long it will take to cut your job based on your CAD file and the material being cut. The maximum size Z-Studios can work with is 6″ thick, and 6′ x 11′ sheets of material.

If you need to cut material thicker than that you can go to Par Systems, a company that fabricates for the aerospace and shipping industries. They can cut material ranging up to 3′ thick.

eMachine Shop is an online vendor that provides water cutting service.

Other Considerations With Water Cutting:

  • Edges are good but usually not as smooth as milling or punching.
  • Some spots along the edge, such as where the cut ends, may be less smooth.
  • The edges of the cut part generally have a dull finish.
  • Kerf width is typically ~.060″, hence inside corners will be rounded to ~.03″ radius.
  • There may be some hazing on the surface – especially near the edges.
  • Thin flimsy structures and shapes where a high proportion of material is removed may present difficulty in meeting dimensional and flatness tolerances.
  • Edges will be slightly sloped – the bottom side will have slightly more material at the edge than the dimensioned top side.

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