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Water Jet Cutting

A guide for busy engineers

Includes: Technical Overview Key Benefits Fixed & Intensifier Pumps Explained Use of Abrasives Speed & Quality The Table

Global Rebar Services Ltd, 8 Leofric Square, Vicarage Farm Rd, Peterborough, PE1 5TU, England. Tel +44 (0) 1733 560300 Fax +44 (0) 1733 560385 Email Web

So what exactly is water jet cutting ? Water jet cutting is exactly what it says, it involves using an extremely fine jet of water travelling at high velocity, into which an abrasive material is mixed for cutting hard materials such as granite and titanium. This process makes a very fine cut into the material, known as a kerf. The key benefits All the equipment we sell is backed by our Service Guarantee "If we cannot solve the problem with you over the phone, then one of our service engineers will be on site at your machine, the next working day otherwise the visit is free. You can cut almost any material you desire from bread through to titanium, with virtually no limit on thickness. Giving you complete flexibility and increasing your productivity. The small kerf width of a water jet cut, allows for tight nesting and optimal material usage, minimizing the costs associated with material wastage. There is no heat input to the material being cut, meaning no work hardening of the cut edge when machining metals. Materials that cannot tolerate heat can be cut. Even if you already have a plasma, laser or gas cutting machine, water jet makes an ideal partner to these processes, increasing the range of materials you can cut, providing superior quality on high finish materials and extending the thickness range you can cut with conventional materials such as steel, improving the service you offer to your customers. Programming is simple. With the PACut system a dxf file can be converted to working cnc code literally within seconds and cutting commenced within minutes. Very high tolerances can be achieved, up to +0.1mm.

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Principles a technical overview A high pressure pump produces water at pressures up to 4100 bar. Some entry level water jet machines have a direct driven pump that produces water at 1500 -2000 bar, this is sufficient to cut metal up to 20mm and softer materials up to 50mm thick. However most water jet machines an intensifier pump that can deliver pressures up to 3800 bar, suitable for cutting metals and other materials up to 150mm thick. The high pressure water is delivered to a cutting head by a small bore stainless steel pipe. At this point it is passed through a very small orifice made from sapphire or diamond which produces an extremely thin, high velocity jet of water. A metered amount of abrasive particles, such as sand, is then mixed with this high velocity jet of water and focused in another nozzle called the focusing tube. The work piece to be cut rests on support grids over a tank of water. The water jet penetrates through the material and moves relative to the XY coordinates of the bridge supporting the cutting head. The excess water jet energy that exists after the jet has cut through the material, is absorbed by the tank of water. The cutting water and sludge can be filtered by an optional sludge removal system.

Pump types fixed or intensifier? Fixed displacement piston pump. This type of pump as used in some entry level machines, uses a set of high speed pistons driven directly by an electric motor to compress the water and generate the pressure. This type of pump develops a cutting pressure of 1500 2000 bar which is adequate for an entry level machine. It also has the advantage of being cheap to manufacture resulting in prices of 45,000 for an abrasive water jet cutter. Intensifier Pump. This type of pump uses hydraulic pressure developed by an electric motor driving a hydraulic pump, which in turn drives a single piston backwards and forwards in a long slow stroke, compressing the water and developing pressures up to 4100 bar. This is the most common type of pump found on water jet machines.

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Nozzle and focusing tube choice Nozzle choice depends on three factors:1. Whether you are cutting with water only i.e. soft materials like Foam, rubber, cardboard, foodstuffs, leather or textiles, or water and abrasive i.e. hard materials like metal alloys, glass, ceramics, stone, laminates or Granite. 2. Quality and speed of cut required. 3. Volume of cutting. In the case of a fixed displacement pump, there is only one choice of nozzle as the volume of water delivered is constant and the pressure delivery is influenced by the orifice diameter. Therefore the nozzle diameter and the focusing tube diameter must be chosen so that the pump delivers the required cutting pressure.

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With an intensifier pump the orifice diameter and the pressure of the water determine the volume of water being used. With pure water cutting the cutting head design is very simple as you can see in the diagram above. For abrasive water jet cutting the high velocity water jet creates a vacuum in the cutting head and if abrasive is required, the vacuum draws the abrasive material into the mixing chamber where it is accelerated by the water jet and then aligned with the water in the focusing tube. An abrasive water jet must be perfectly formed to provide the optimal cutting capacity. The shape of the nozzle must allow a perfect, thin jet of water to be formed. The cutting head must be designed to allow even mixing of the abrasive with the water jet and the focusing tube must be of sufficient length to accelerate and align the abrasive particles. Increasing the diameter of the orifice greatly increases the cutting power of a water jet, the maximum nozzle size being limited by the capacity of the pump. Typically for a 50hp intensifier pump, the optimum orifice size is 0.35mm, with a 1.1mm focusing tube, which gives optimum cutting power and cutting speed.

Abrasive how this works and how to choose the right type of abrasive

The abrasive used in water jet cutting is typically a Garnet type of 80 up to 120 microns in diameter. The quality of this abrasive has a great influence on the cutting power of the water jet. The abrasive must have a high cutting efficiency, but cause low wear on the focusing tube and mixing chamber, create very little dust and be environmentally friendly. The following factors must be considered in determining a suitable abrasive : The grain of the abrasive must be less than half the focusing tube diameter The hardness of the abrasive has a direct effect on the cutting power of the water jet The dust content of the abrasive must be low or it creates sludge in the waste water Quality and repeatability of the cutting results

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The differences between the abrasives available on the market are large, so care must be taken in choosing a suitable supplier. GRS has suppliers of high quality abrasive that can be recommended.

Starting to Cut Before any cutting process can start, the water jet must pierce the material. Therefore the water pressure, the amount of abrasive, the motion of the cutting head and the time that the nozzle is focused piercing all determine the penetration of the material. The pressure build up in the work piece must not be so high as to destroy the material at that point. This is particularly important when cutting glass and laminated material. All our machines have the ability to change the piercing pressure easily, via the software. Speed and Quality How water pressure, abrasive quantity and cutting speed all influence the cutting process As the water pressure increases, the cutting depth achievable increases proportionally. The quality of the cut surface also increases, however, so does the wear and tear of the seals in the pump. Pressure changes also result in wear and tear on the seals, so if the material needs to be pierced at a lower pressure e.g. glass and laminates, then all the piercing operations should be carried out prior to increasing the pressure for cutting operations. Abrasive quantity must be optimum for the material to be cut. If the abrasive flow is not high enough then the cutting power of the water jet will not be sufficient. If the abrasive flow is too high, then the water jet becomes sluggish and reduces the cutting power. The cutting depth attainable decreases with increasing cutting speed. The quality of the cut surface also decreases with an increase in cutting speed. The pressure and abrasive quantity are set for a particular material to ensure optimum piercing and cutting power. The cutting speed i.e. the speed in m/min at which the cutting head is driven, is varied depending on the thickness of material being cut and the quality of cut required. Below is a guide to the influence of pressure, abrasive quantity and cutting speed on the quality of cut.
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Speed of Cut (m/min)

Quality of Cut

Pressure (bar) and quantity of abrasive (g/min) As you can see the characteristic of the surface cut by a water jet is that the cutting stream at the bottom lags behind the point of entry to the material at the top, causing the characteristic curve. This effect worsens with an increase in speed and improves with an increase in pressure or abrasive flow, up to an optimum setting. Taper of the cut is also a problem which gets worse with speed and can be virtually parallel at the optimum feed rate. See illustration below :-

The cut edge quality and parallelism, at a fixed pressure and abrasive flow rate for a particular material, are dependent on the cutting speed. It is not always necessary to produce a very high quality cut, so there are generally three types of cut that are commonly used the separation cut in which the parameters are selected to provide the fastest possible cut, the quality cut in which the parameters are selected to give good edge and corner quality and reasonable parallelism and the high quality or precision cut in which the parameters are optimized to give a very smooth, square cut with perfect corner definition.
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The table below shows typical results for different materials and cutting speeds with a 50hp intensifier pump delivering 3800 bar through a 0.38mm/ 1.1mm focusing tube combination, with 380g/min of abrasive flow.


Thickness Separation Medium High Cut Quality Cut Quality Cut 12.7 mm 475 132 58 330 91 41 1021 284 127 366 102 46 511 142 64 912 254 114 292 81 36 193 43 18 132 30 13 414 97 38 147 33 13 208 48 20 371 86 36 119 28 10 122 25 10 84 18 8 259 58 23 94 20 8 130 28 13 231 51 20 74 15 8 38.1 mm 76.2 mm 12.7 mm


304 SS

38.1 mm 76.2 mm 12.7 mm


38.1 mm 76.2 mm 12.7 mm

Mild Steel

38.1 mm 76.2 mm 12.7 mm


38.1 mm 76.2 mm 12.7 mm


38.1 mm 76.2 mm

Inconel 718

12.7 mm 38.1 mm 76.2 mm

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The table how the material is supported as its being cut Commonly known as the table, this is the part of the machine that is generally a large tank of water, over which the work piece is supported. A gantry driven in the x and y axes (and in some cases the z axis) moves the cutting head in relation to the work piece to cut the programmed shape. There are generally two types of system, the cantilever, where the cutting head is supported and driven from one side of the table and a gantry type where the cutting head is driven along the longest dimension by a rack and pinion guide on both sides of the table. The most important function of any cutting table is to guide the cutting head rapidly and smoothly and isolate any vibration from the cutting process. In the cantilever machines, a solid block of granite is sometimes used to ensure optimum stability and vibration free movement and for the gantry type machines, the solid box section construction of the machine frame is totally isolated from the tank, which is a separate stand alone construction.

Conclusion why you don't want your competitors to get a water jet cutter before you do. Theres no doubt that the materials cutting technology for traditional machine tools is getting more advanced almost by the week. However water jet cutting technology is the biggest leap forward because its more accurate, its miles more economically friendly, and because you can cut any material, with no heat affected zone it will clearly increase profitability for any engineering workshop, by eliminating costly secondary machining. The KAAST range of water jet cutting machines offer you the ultimate in quality/value for money ratio. They are tried and tested in over 40 countries worldwide, thats more countries than you can buy a coffee from Starbucks or a Dyson vacuum cleaner, so you have total piece of mind in your purchase decision. They are also backed up in the UK by GRS Service Guarantee "If we cannot solve the problem with you over the phone, then one of our service engineers will be on site at your machine, the next working day otherwise the visit is free.

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What should I do next? The best way to understand what this can do for your business is to come and see a free, no-obligation demonstration. Youll get practical experience where youll see a typical piece of your own work cut. You can also get a free evaluation of whether there is a clear economic case for you to invest in this technology. Call Paul Smith on 01733 560300, well answer your questions, well make sure you qualify for a free demonstration, and well arrange for you to see this profit-enhancing technology in action.

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The KAAST Range 3D Machine Eco Cut

WS3020 all machines available in other sizes.

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