The versatility of water jet machines make them ideal for cutting a wide range of materials, rubbers, plastics, stone, tiles, composites and even pre-hardened materials. Abrasive water jet cutting is a cost-effective shape cutting method for materials requiring no heat affected zone, no edge damage, no slag, no burnt edges, and no change to the material chemical or mechanical properties.
Thermal shape cutting methods such as torch, plasma, and laser as well as but to a lesser degree mechanical processes like shear, machining, and saw cutting can create substantial heat causing mechanical properties of material to change as a direct result. These localized heat generating processes create what is called a heat affected zone.
Abrasive waterjet cutting is well suited for metallurgical evaluation preparation and cross-section analysis. Mechanical properties of the material will not change and no stress will be introduced unlike the heat generating processes discussed previously.
The following cross-sectional metallurgical scenarios typify microscopic comparisons between UHP waterjet machining and other thermal and conventional machining processes.
Metallurgical mount of waterjet cut hardened tool steel reveals material structure and hardness was unaffected by abrasive water jet cutting.
Metallurgical mount of waterjet cut aluminum armor material reveals material structure was unaffected by abrasive waterjet cutting.
Metallurgical mount of stainless steel reveals material structure was affected by plasma process, however material structure was unaffected by abrasive water jet cutting.
Metallurgical mount of mild steel reveals material structure was affected by shearing process, however material structure was unaffected by abrasive waterjet cutting.
Graph illustrates heat affected zone created by shearing process in comparison to unaffected material hardness from abrasive water jet cutting.
Article prepared by Ron Fairchild of Cutting Edge Water Jet Service; South Beloit Illinois. Ron has nearly 15-years of experience in hands on waterjet applications. Cutting Edge Water Jet Service is a job shop provider of water jet services for all industries in the United States. They offer 60,000-psi, 90,000-psi, conventional and dynamic abrasive waterjet cutting using a variety of multi-head waterjet cutting systems.