Did you know that water can cut stone and steel?

Water jet machining is a precise, very powerful process which is able to machine almost any material provided that some amount of preparation takes place.

While most of us don’t have access to a water jet cutter, it’s still good to know about them if you’re interested in the process.

So, let’s hop right in and we’ll introduce you to the subject.

How Does Water Jet Machining Work?

Water jet machining uses high-pressure water in order to cut materials. The pump forces the water through the nozzle and releases an extremely thin amount of water which can reach pressures of 55,000 PSI.

Most often, an abrasive is also placed in the solution. Abrasive cutting with a water jet is able to cut through basically anything which is softer than the abrasive material used.

Pretty much everything has been tried over the years for water jet cutting but the current gold standard is almandine garnet. This form of garnet is a naturally occurring mineral, so sourcing it as a pure material with a relatively even particle size is very important.

The process is pretty simple: the water hits the surface and due to the high pressure and relative density of water, it removes material.

With an abrasive material involved a water jet can often cut through just about anything. Stone, concrete, and tile are also cut cleanly and relatively quickly through the water jet process, as well as hardened metals.

The Benefits of Hydro Cutting

Water jets are extremely precise when it comes down to it. The only process which will beat out the 1/100th of an inch kerf that’s achievable with water jet cutting is laser cutting.

Because it’s a cold cutting process it’s also important to note that a water jet cutter can’t overheat. They generally use room temperature water mixed with an abrasive in order to achieve their cuts, lowering the amount of energy required.

Cold cutting also prevents heat deformation which can occur with regular metal saws and plasma cutting.

This also means that if you’re using a mill or lathe to finish a workpiece after a water jet machines it you lack any sort of heat temper. With lasers and plasma cutting, you’ll be removing material which has already been heat-treated which can pose difficulties further down the line.

The biggest advantage of using a water jet is that it can cut nearly any material. The same machine can cut ceramics, metals, and soft materials like leather and wood.

Also, while they’re not quite as flexible as a 3D printer, high-end water jet machines can also cut 3D patterns through a CNC process.

There’s nothing quite like it in the machining world. Modern machines are extremely precise, result in little material loss from the stock, and the machines are extremely versatile.

Downsides to Water Jet Cutting

Of course, no machining process is perfect or everything else would be obsolete.

When it comes to cutting metal water jets actually don’t do all that well for thinner parts. The force of the water can cause deformation when a material is malleable and thin.

They’re also extremely messy to run when compared to other precision machining processes. A good sump system is required and if a high-end abrasive like garnet is used there also needs to be a way to filter it out of the water so it can be reclaimed.

Water jets have a tendency to eat through parts quite quickly as well. The nozzles and other pieces wear down more quickly than many comparable processes, which results in a higher running cost per piece cut.

This is especially true for abrasive hydro-cutting, where the materials used have to be harder than the material which is used for the abrasive. That generally means gems or extremely specialized metal alloys make up the parts.

The biggest disadvantage, however, is the speed at which a water jet runs compared to other machining processes. This is compounded when you consider that they’re also more expensive to run, per hour, than things like laser cutting.

While stone and ceramic materials cut with a waterjet will be faster than even the best lapidary saw when it comes to cutting metals and organic materials a waterjet doesn’t have any sort of speed advantage over less expensive processes.

Adding a Water Jet Cutter to Your Shop

If you’re interested in adding a water jet cutter to the capabilities of your fab shop, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that it’s remarkably easy to find modern water jet cutters. This company, for instance, produces top-of-the-line cutters that are easy to order online.

They also tend to be on the expensive side. Water jet machining wasn’t viable for precision pieces until the advent of the microprocessor, which means that not only will you have to have a machine which can handle the pressures involved… you’re also paying for the advanced electronics which control the cutting head.

If your fab shop is in the right place and has the right customers then it’s fairly easy to make your money back but the upfront costs for a modern water jet cutter can be pretty high.

Knowing When to Act

Water jets haven’t yet hit the consumer market for home use. That means those who want parts cut are almost always going to have to go through a fabrication company.

There’s a lot of money there for fabricators who are willing to invest the time and money required to put one in their shop, but you need to be aware of the above information before you make a final decision.

We hope that our beginner’s guide to the fabulous world of water jet machining has given you the information you need.

If you enjoyed this article, why not read some more in our technology section?

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3 IPOs to Watch in 2016

Whether you are curious about stock or any other form of financial trading or simply enjoy seeing a success of the startups – IPOs are a great to watch. Not only you get to learn how undervalued or overpriced a certain company was, but you also get to see a rapid development a company can achieve with the funds it raised.

We are entering the middle of 2016 and so far there has not been too many interesting IPOs. When looking at the financial industry, it is possible to highlight the listing of the largest Dutch bank – ABN Amro. Next to this, a few ECN currency brokers flipped an IPO this year.

X-Trade Brokers, just got listed roughly a month ago, which signified the largest initial public offering in Poland during the last 365 days. Also, a leading UK brokerage, CMC Markets, started listing its stocks in February this year. Nevertheless, this IPOs weren’t too exciting. There is much more to expect in the coming month from the tech sector.

The most promising

Airbnb, a company that lets everyone lend their house, flat or a room is expected to start issuing stocks this year and this is certainly the most interesting IPO to keep your eyes on. The reason for this is very simple – apart from nearly $25Bn valuation, Airbnb actually generates some significant revenues.

What also tells us that this IPO will be a successful one is the lack of legal issues behind the business processes. Even though some laws in Germany were prohibiting the usage of such peer-to-peer services, the whole legal framework behind Airbnb is rather favourable. In addition to this, there is quite a strong support for the shared economy nowadays and, hence, this company might be seen as the safe-haven investment.

The most interesting

Do you remember last time you used a landline for calling? Well, thanks to this company, quite soon you might not remember last time you ordered a taxi. Yes, you got it right, we are talking about Uber. Even though there is no certainty whether Uber will flip an IPO this year, it is quite probable.

What makes this IPO the most interesting one? The whole legal situation behind Uber. Clients love it for its pricing and simplicity. Taxi companies hate it. Without a doubt Uber is a successful company, yet its operations strongly depend on the legal decisions of the local authorities.

While strikes against Uber happen frequently, those are the local regulators that will have a final word in determining Uber’s success in terms of market coverage and, hence, revenues.

The most amusing

Without a doubt previous two companies are here to stay. Both of them offer quite an advanced technology that simplifies people’s lives and provide cost benefits. However, there is another company that looks for an IPO this year, and many investors are laughing about it.

We are talking about Snapchat, the company that allows millennials communicating with each other, sticking funny noses on their selfies, the company that struggles to produce hardly any revenues.

While some investors laugh about this IPO, others see it as a great opportunity. Snapchat may not look like a goldmine, but it certainly has some potential. The main question is whether investors will be patient enough to see Snapchat implementing powerful advertising solutions while sustaining the growth of its user base.

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