Water Jet Cutting Devices Leave Satin-Smooth Edge
A display of cut pieces from the Systems Engineering Directorate's Water Jet cutters. The Fabrication Technology Area (FabTA) within the Systems Engineering Directorate currently maintains two Water Jet cutting machines. These machines have the ability to cut virtually any material while leaving a satin-smooth edge.

Image Right: Examples of the Water Jet's exact cutting skill.

The technology applies a pure water operation for low density materials and an abrasive water mode for cutting metal alloys and other materials such as inconel, stainless steel, titanium and ceramics as well as high strength light-weight composites, such as carbon fiber. Using standard parameters the Water Jet can cut materials with hardness up to and slightly beyond aluminum oxide ceramic.

A display of the work that the Systems Engineering Directorate's Water Jet cutting devices can perform. The Water Jet cuts with erosion, rather than shearing or heat, so it produces exceptional edge quality without inducing heat-affected zones or mechanical stresses allowing raw materials to maintain their structural integrity. The Cutting forces applied to the raw material are usually less than one pound. Operating temperature at the water stream is 170 to180 degrees F.

Image Left: More examples of the detailed cutting provided by the Water Jets.

Parts up to one inch thick can be cut under water to further reduce the heat-affection. The Water Jet cuts with a narrow kerf, and can provide better usage of raw materials since parts can be tightly nested. Virtually any shape can be cut in a single step with edge quality that usually requires no secondary finishing.

No noxious gases or liquids are used in Water Jet cutting; therefore, hazardous materials or vapors are not a by-product. The Water Jet is a Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machine that can cut materials up to 6 inches thick with a standard accuracy of +/- .005 inch. Greater accuracy can be achieved through detailed set ups and material experimentation. The work envelope is approximately 19 inches by 39 inches for the small machine and 4ft by 8ft on the large machine. The controller can import standard DXF, IGS, CADKEY, CDL, and HPL files.

Water Jet attributes include:
  • No heat affected zones
  • No mechanical stresses
  • Thin stream (0.020to 0.050 inch in diameter)
  • Extremely detailed geometry
  • Thin material cutting
  • Stack cutting
  • Little material loss due to cutting
  • Low cutting forces (under 1 lb. while cutting)
  • Little or no secondary finishing required
  • No hazardous materials used or created
For questions about the Water Jet, please email Robert L. Myers.

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