When we talk about industrial projects, steel is one of the most commonly used materials. Workshops bring steel sheets and blocks and take them through various cutting and shaping processes.
Talking about the cutting processes, there are many options such as laser cutting, EDM cutting, plasma cutting, and more.
However, one cutting method has gained more popularity than the others when it comes to metal cutting. This method, called waterjet cutting, has become one of the most widely used metal cutting processes out there.
In this article, we will discuss all about waterjet cutting steel, its applications, benefits, and other important information.
Can Water Cut Through Steel?
Ordinarily, the idea of water cutting through steel can seem impossible to even imagine. After all, it is water, we are talking about hard materials like steel, not softer materials like paper or foam.
However, the dynamics of water change completely when the speed and high pressure of water are increased sufficiently. In this case, water gains a destructive force that can not only cut through steel, but can do so better than mechanical cutting tools.
In fact, you might be surprised knowing the limits to which waterjet can cut through steel. We are going to visit these limits in the sections to come.
For now, let us go through how a waterjet cuts through steel:
How Does a Water Jet Cut Steel?
Have you noticed how water in a car wash bursts at such high pressure that your car seems sparkling new within minutes? The pressure that we are talking about here is 1,000 psi. Seems like a very high pressure, doesn’t it?
Now when we are talking about waterjet cutting, we are talking about water pressure of 50,000 to 60,000 psi. Imagine what this large pressure can do! For one thing, it can cut through steel very easily.
This large pressure is accomplished by a high-pressure pump, along with a narrow cutting head and nozzle that decrease the width of the water stream.
At What Pressure Does Water Cut Steel?
Water pressure required to cut steel can vary, based on factors such as the type of abrasive you use, the thickness of abrasives, and the type of steel.
Typically, the range of water pressure to cut steel can be between 20,000 psi to 55,000 psi. Thinner, harder, and uniform abrasives require a low water pressure.
How Many Inches of Steel Can Waterjet Cut?
Theoretically, there is no thickness limit of steel that can be cut by a waterjet. However, when cutting an exceptionally large thickness of steel, the time taken increases significantly making the process unfeasible.
Therefore, for practical purposes, waterjet cutting machines commonly cut up to 6 inches of steel. It is possible for commercially available machines to go up to 9 inches as well.
For special applications, water jets are modified to even cut 18 inches thick blocks of steel. However, steel this thick isn’t commonly used for many applications.
What are the Benefits of Cutting Steel With a Waterjet Cutter?
Now that you know cutting steel is possible with abrasive water jets, the question arises- Is there any benefit to the process?
Waterjet cutting has actually a lot of important benefits that make the method not only useful but also preferable to other alternatives. Here are some of these benefits:
No Heat Affected Zone (HAZ):
Waterjet cutting is a cold cutting process, so there is no formation of a heat-affected zone. Heat-affected zones can ruin the integrity of the material, even weakening it near the area that is cut. Since these zones are eliminated in waterjet cutting, it preserves steel integrity.
Since there are heat affected zone at the cut area, there is no discoloration. This creates a high-quality cut finishing and eliminates the need for any secondary finishing required.
The water goes uniformly through the entire cut area in a straight line. Therefore, the cut quality in waterjet cutting is very high. In fact, if you run your hand through the area that you cut, you will notice a very smooth edge.
Waterjet cutting has a lot of different adjustment options and you can control it with a CNC. You are not limited to straight lines, so you can create a lot of different cut shapes and cut designs. Even complex components can be crafted with waterjet cutting.
You can stack multiple layers of steel on top of each other and cut them through a waterjet cutter together. This increases the efficiency of the whole process manifold.
Tolerances are the deviation from the intended cut, so it is inversely proportional to the accuracy. Waterjet cutting has one of the lowest tolerances of any cutting methods, leading to accurately created cuts.
What are the Typical Applications of Waterjet Cut Steel?
As you have noticed in the previous section, waterjet cutting has a lot of benefits over other cutting methods. This makes waterjet cut steel very useful in a lot of different applications. Here are a few of these applications:
Due to waterjet cutting being a multi-axis cutting process, 5 or 6-axis waterjet cutters are used to craft intricate shapes such as complex engine components. Many of the small components you see in the modern-day automotive industry are created using abrasive waterjet cutting.
Raw Material Processing:
Steel is a raw material for many industries. To make steel useful for transportation and storage, steel blocks are processed and cut into smaller sheets and blocks. This is done through water jet cutting.
Art and Architecture:
Waterjets are used to create various artwork designs by cutting steel workpieces and punching holes in them. These designs are used for interior decoration purposes or to create architectural structures.
Water jet cutting is a precise cutting method that doesn’t require physical contact of cutting head with the workpiece. This makes it ideal for cutting steel surgical equipment and medical tools.
Best Waterjet Cutters for Steel
Water jet cutting, for sure, has a lot of benefits to offer when it comes to steel. However, to make use of all the benefits we mentioned, you need a high-quality water jet cutting machine.
There are a lot of water jet cutter manufacturers out there. However, while most of these machines will do the job, not all will provide the cut quality or performance you are looking for.
If you want performance and quality, you need to adopt a tried and trusted brand. Techniwaterjet is one such water jet cutter manufacturer that is trusted in every manufacturing and processing sector.
Techniwaterjet provides you with a wide range of products, and each of these products delivers on what it promises.
The best part is that these water jet cutters come with a complimentary software loaded with common cut shapes. You can create these shapes on your steel workpiece just by the click of a button.
Cutting steel through water stream is one of the best ways of accomplishing the cutting process. There is no worry of workpiece getting ruined and no danger of steel particles flying around in the air.
The end result that you get is smooth and clean cuts that require no additional processes for finishing. You can use the steel pieces as it is after the cutting process.
If you are considering cutting options for steel, water jet cutting is going to be the best fit. Not to forget, even if you buy your waterjet to cut steel, you can also use it to cut other materials like wood, stone, glass, and any other material that requires cutting.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here we will answer some common doubts that people have regarding water jet cutting of steel:
Can waterjet cut hardened steel?
Yes, waterjet can cut hardened steel or tool steel very easily.
Can you waterjet stainless steel?
Yes, you can waterjet up to 9 inches of stainless steel. Even more thickness is possible by some advanced water jet machines.