Waterjet cutting is an erosion-based process that uses extremely high water pressures – 4137 bar (60,000 psi) or higher – to cut material. Used with or without an abrasive, waterjet systems excel at very precise cutting of a wide range of material, with no heat-affected zone.

Waterjet system components

Waterjet components

  • Waterjet pump – source of high-pressure water
  • Abrasive regulator
  • Nesting software
  • Controller
  • Cutting table
  • Cutting head – available in abrasive or water-only versions Abrasive cutting head vs water-only cutting head
  • Consumables
    • Orifices – diamonds or rubies
    • Nozzles
  • Replacement kits
  • Supporting equipment
  • Bulk abrasive storage – transfers the abrasive to the abrasive regulator
  • Closed loop cutting water recycling – for cutting hazardous material or water recycling
  • Abrasive recycling – can recover approximately 50-70% of abrasive for reuse
  • Reverse osmosis system – TDS < 250 parts per million (if higher, water must be purified to extend component life)
  • Abrasive removal system – system inside tank that transfers spent abrasive into a hopper

Waterjet software

Waterjet software is used to program the cutting machine. OEM software may come equipped with the machine, but in many cases fabricators and manufacturers upgrade to an aftermarket software commonly referred to as CAD/CAM nesting software which may offer additional features and has the added benefit of being able to program multiple different machine brands and models.

Some types of CAD/CAM nesting software for waterjet can control and automatically set up virtually every aspect of the waterjet cutting operation. For example, Hypertherm's ProNest® supports parameters such as abrasive flow and control, kerf commands, cut speeds, cut heights, pierce types (wiggle, dynamic, stationary, or circle), pierce heights, time, and pressure. All of this is intended to simplify the machine operator’s job and increase productivity.

Other features commonly found in waterjet software include:

  • Dynamic waterjet feedrate calculator
  • Collision avoidance
  • Common line cutting
  • Nest around material defects
  • 2D CAD color selection for waterjet quality
  • Waterjet color quality shown on the nest
  • Part tabbing
  • Ramping

Classes of waterjet

  • Abrasive
    • Hard rock (sharp edges) – used for hardest materials
    • Alluvial (rounded edges) – used for less hard materials
  • Non-abrasive
    • Water-only applications – used for softer materials

Waterjet applications

  • Where heat-affected zone is not acceptable
  • Where secondary process is undesirable
  • Situations where material type is highly variable (e.g. job shops)
  • Application requiring tight tolerances (+/- 0.005 in. or 0.013 cm)
  • For fine feature cutting
  • Cutting very thick materials (greater than 2” or 5.08 cm)

Industries and markets include:

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