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All About Waterjets

Your Guide to All Things Waterjet

 

Waterjet is not only one of the most versatile technologies, it's also one of the most interesting. We may be a bit biased, but take a moment to think about this:

Water is pressurized up to 94,000 psi and forced through a tiny orifice (sometimes mixed with garnet abrasive), to create a stream smaller than the human hair (and a supersonic erosion process) that can be used to cut virtually any material.

It's mind boggling. Needless to say, we have a lot of cool things to share in addition to the technology itself.

We've curated our most popular blog posts and are sharing them with you here. Check back regularly for updated articles! 


 





 

Tough Applications Where Waterjet Shines

 

It is true that waterjets are used for common materials such as steel, aluminum, gasket, and foam. But many people feel the tougher applications are where waterjet really shines.
 
We're highlighting some of the sturdiest materials that best illustrate waterjet and abrasive waterjet capability. It may surprise you!
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How It All Began: The Origins of Waterjet

 

Most origin stories seem to be either extremely far-fetched or particularly ordinary. Waterjet’s genesis falls somewhere in the middle.
 
Here’s how waterjet got its start and became one of the most effective tools in the fabrication industry.
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Common Waterjet Questions

Part 5 of a 5 Part Series:

QUESTION #5: WHAT ARE SOME COOL THINGS WATERJET CAN CUT?

 

Waterjet can cut through stone, metal, and other formidable materials. But what else? As the final article in our 5-part series on the 5 Most Common Waterjet Questions, we address the question everyone has on their minds, what are some of the coolest things you’ve seen waterjet cut? Buckle up, we’re about to share some of our favorites. 
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Supply Chain Issues? Bring Your Work In-house with Waterjet

 

Supply chain issues – an unexpected consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic – have crippled businesses across the globe.  

From retail to construction, companies have struggled through price spikes, delayed deliveries, and uncertainty regarding the future of transportation and storage. High demand and short supply have raised costs and created headaches that affect suppliers and consumers alike. And the future is anything but clear, with analysts warning of supply chain precarities remaining in 2022 and beyond.  
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Growth Through Waterjets
Customer Feature: IRC Aluminum & Stainless Steel

 

Portland-based IRC Aluminum & Stainless has been distributing stainless steel and aluminum products since the 1980s. Through their investment with Flow Waterjets, they’ve expanded their business into one of the largest waterjet processors in the Pacific Northwest.  
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Waterjet + Laser = Yes, Please.

 

Often times waterjet and laser are pitted against each other as competitive technologies, vying for important space on the production floor of fabrication or machine shops. But what if these two state-of-the-art technologies didn’t compete for cut time, but complemented one another? 
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Waterjet and Wind Energy: Powering Sustainable Solutions

 

The aerospace, automotive, and manufacturing industries probably come to mind when thinking of waterjet. But the technology is also an integral part of the energy sector.  
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Common Waterjet Questions

Part 4 of a 5 Part Series:

QUESTION #4: ARE YOU LIMITED BY MATERIAL TYPE, THICKNESS, OR ANGLES WHEN CUTTING WITH WATERJET?

 

Waterjet is known for its versatility.

 
It can cut through anything from stone and steel to exotic metals and ballistic glass. Materials shaped by waterjet are used in numerous industries, including aerospace, transportation, agriculture, the energy sector, and beyond. This often leads customers to ask, “What can’t waterjet do?” The short answer: not much.
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Contract Cutting From a Different Angle

Customer Feature: Intelligent Cutting Solutions

 

Darius Kania and Ibrahim Ibrahim needed a solution for the obstacles they faced with outsourcing their waterjet work. Instead of simply bringing the waterjet in-house, they decided to turn it into an entirely new business model with waterjet at the forefront. 
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Common Waterjet Questions

Part 3 of a 5 Part Series:

QUESTION #3: WHAT PRESSURE IS BEST FOR MY BUSINESS AND APPLICATION? 
 

The cutting applications for waterjet are numerous – and how cool is it that water pressure alone can cut through materials like rubber and gasket? Combined with abrasive sand, pressurized water is capable of easily slicing through industrial materials and makes for an effective and efficient technique in metal fabrication.
 
Waterjet pump pressure is measured in Pounds per Square Inch (PSI). Let’s take a moment to really explore that concept. PSI tells you how much weight in pressure your waterjet is producing in lighting fast speed. 60,000 psi is a common pressure in the waterjet world – 60,000 psi means your waterjet pump is delivering water at the weight of roughly 30,000 cars.
 
The numbers are fascinating. But waterjet buyers often wonder what amount of pressure is right for their unique application. Is there such a thing as too much pressure? What will work best on different materials or applications? 
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Common Waterjet Questions

Part 2 of a 5 Part Series:

QUESTION #2: HOW DOES WATERJET COMPARE TO LASER, PLASMA, or EDM?

 

There are numerous cutting techniques in metal fabrication. And if you’re reading this, you’ve probably asked yourself, ‘Which is right for me?’
 
Waterjet, laser, plasma, and Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) are all popular solutions for fabricators and machine shops. However, what’s right for you depends on the type of work you’re doing and your desired outcomes. We’re breaking down each technology to help inform your decision for which process is right for you.
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From Downtime to Diversifying 

Customer Feature: Seattle Metal Products 

 

When Gaven invested in his Flow, he never anticipated how much growth it would bring to Seattle Metal Products. The waterjet, originally purchased to meet the already-existing shop needs, has helped double their business while giving them the opportunity to explore new capabilities.
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Countertops and Beyond: Three Trends We’re Seeing in Engineered Stone

 

Engineered stone is a sought-after material.

Its durable and eye-catching design makes it popular for kitchen countertops, floors, and more. Engineered stone – like quartz and Dekton – is often less expensive than natural stone and, as the name suggests, “engineered” to the customer’s liking – meaning nonporous slabs that are consistent in shape and color.

And the market continues to evolve, with new trends popping up as others die out. Granite is no longer the stone du jour and consumers’ desire for customizable finishes is constantly changing.

Here are three trends we’re seeing in engineered stone – and how waterjet’s versatility can bring them to life.
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Common Waterjet Questions

Part 1 of a 5 Part Series:

QUESTION #1: ARE YOU REALLY CUTTING WITH WATER?

 

Waterjet is awe-inspiring technology. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been using it for 30 years or if you’re experiencing it for the first time – it’s fascinating to think every day tap water mixed with sand can cut 24” thick steel or how water alone can cut chicken nuggets – but waterjets reliably perform these feats day in and day out.

You see, we’re used to water being soft. We bathe in it, we drink it, along with a host of other everyday activities. And, while we are fully aware that water can be pressurized to high levels for cleaning or putting out fires, the idea that it can cut something feels next level. It’s no surprise that one of the most common questions we encounter as waterjet application specialists is, “Are you really cutting with water?”
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THE BASICS OF A WATERJET PUMP

 

There are two types of pumps used today in waterjet cutting: the linear intensifier pump and the rotary direct drive pump. Today, both intensifier and direct drive pumps are capable of reliably delivering ultrahigh-pressure water, and both are successfully used in industry. The two pumps have certain components in common. They both have a motor, water filters, control system, and sensors, among other similarities.

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ANYONE CAN PROGRAM A WATERJET

 

A waterjet is a beam type cutter, somewhat like a plasma, oxy acetylene, CO2 laser, or fiber laser. Programming a waterjet, and operating one for that matter, is actually simple. In fact, a waterjet is usually considered to be easier to program and operate than most other machine tools. I say this because a waterjet typically does not require a change in parameters when going from one material to another. The tool is non-contact, pierces material easily to start a cut, and cuts without heat so materials don’t change or warp from the cutting process. If you are newer to this blog, a previous article on what makes up a waterjet might be a good precursor to reading this post.

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HOW TO MAKE YOUR WATERJET WORK SURFACE LEVEL

 

Great machinists know the need for proper fixturing. And they also know the fixturing has to be true to the machine tool motion. The large bed of a typical waterjet machine is an XY plane, and that plane must match that of the machine. If the worktable is not flat to the machine motion it creates ongoing headaches and part accuracy and quality issues for the operator. Learn the right way to level your waterjet work surface.

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FIXTURE WELL, AND OFTEN

 

Everyone who cuts parts out of raw stock or a work-piece knows you can’t cut a good part if it isn’t sufficiently held in place. So, what do we have to consider when we’re talking about waterjet cutting? The good news is a waterjet cuts with low force. Where a milling machine might force a rigid cutting tool into a material at 10, 100, 300 pounds of force (4.5, 45, 136 kg), the waterjet head doesn’t touch the part — just the supersonic stream that exits the head touches the part.The machine can’t tell if the jet is cutting material or just shooting into nothingness. The part, however, does feel low forces during cutting.

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HOW ONE SMALL WATERJET CHANGE MADE IT WHAT IT IS TODAY

 

Today waterjet is one of the fastest growing machine tool processes in the world and has over 30,000 systems installed. But how did it begin? I’ve seen many different claims over the years as to the start of waterjet. There is only one thread – one sequence of events – that I subscribe to, and that is the specific sequence that leads to the commercialization of waterjet for the cutting of soft materials in the 70’s.

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