In recent decades, waterjet cutting machines have found an integral use in automotive assembly lines. Waterjet cutting for automotive is becoming popular due to the vast advantages that this technology has to offer in one of the fastest-growing industries of the modern world. This article will have a detailed analysis of waterjet cutting for automotive industry, along with its benefits and applications.
Overview of Waterjet Cutting Technology
Waterjet technology is one of the best solutions for industrial cutting applications. It relies on the high force of pressurized water to create cuts on virtually any material. The pressure is generated by a pressure pump and usually lies between 40,000 psi to 90,000 psi.
Even higher pressure is possible and used for faster cutting of harder materials. Besides the automobile industry, waterjet technology is used in the electronics industries, medical industry, aerospace sector, defense, agriculture, and many other applications.
What are the Automotive Sector Materials That a Waterjet Can Cut?
Waterjet technology can cut any raw material regardless of its physical properties. In automotive applications, the range of materials includes:
The automotive industry is replacing metal exterior panels with carbon fibre to reduce weight, improve aesthetics, lower the costs of the vehicles, and for several other reasons. However, carbon fibre components still have very high toughness. Waterjet cutting turns out to be a great way to cut carbon composite materials with ease, regardless of their thickness.
Aluminium is the go-to material for the frame and body of the automobile, along with some engine components. Waterjet cutters can create each of these components with extreme precision. Even intricate aluminium engine components can be crafted with a waterjet cutter. This technology can cut all types of automobile aluminium, including 5083, 5754, and 5052.
Steel is used in the automobile industry wherever high strength is required, such as the vehicle body structure, door closures, panels, drive train, and many other places. It includes many types of steel such as stainless steel, high carbon steel, low carbon steel, high strength steel, etc. Waterjet cutters can work on all these different types of steel to create the desired shape.
A wide variety of textiles are used for vehicle interiors in places such as carpets, roof, seat covers, and door liners. Textile cutting requires a process that does not create any blemishes on the surface since the primary purpose is aesthetics. Waterjet technology fulfills the criteria quite well. Common automotive textile materials are yarn, nylon fibres, filament, and leather.
The automotive industry uses many different types of glass and glass laminated materials in areas such as windshields, windows, and instrument clusters. Waterjet cutting can cut all different types of glass except for tempered glass. This is because tempered glass is designed to shatter whenever it is punctured due to an impact.
The use of rubber is present in parts such as seals, gaskets, tires, and to hold components in place. The two main kinds of rubber used for these applications are butadiene rubber and styrene butadiene rubber. Waterjet cutters can cut every type of rubber with ease.
There are many different types of plastics used in the interior components of the vehicle, such as the dashboard, filter casing, vents, pipes, and many other areas. This includes plastics such as ABS, PP, SMA, PPE, PC, and more. Waterjet technology can cut all these plastics even without using abrasive materials.
Automotive Applications of Water Jet Technology
As evident above, waterjet technology has a high versatility when it comes to the number of materials it can cut. Due to its high versatility, this technology has a very wide range of applications in both exterior and interior of the vehicle. Some of these applications are:
When cutting the interiors of the vehicle, the primary concern is to preserve the aesthetics and ensure the material surface does not get tainted. Cutting processes like laser cutting or using physical cutting tools generate a lot of heat which can damage the component. Being a cold-cutting process, waterjet preserves material integrity quite well in these applications and adds a smooth edge quality. Usually, pure waterjet cutting is enough for these applications. Some of the parts created are:
- Floor Carpets
- Floor mats
- Vent grilles
- Instrument cluster glass
Vehicle exterior parts require not only good aesthetics but also high-strength materials for crashworthiness. Usually, the size of parts is quite large compared to other vehicle components. Abrasive waterjet, being a scalable solution, can cut out every exterior part of the vehicle. Some of the parts created are:
- Door panels
- Body panels
- Car hood
- Boot cover
Vehicle interior components require a cutting process that can create complex cuts with utmost precision. 3D waterjet technology is the most precise cutting method second only to laser cutting, without any of the adverse heat effects of the latter. This is why it is widely applied for interior parts like:
- Chain guard
- Brake rotors
- Throttle pedal mounts
- Structural inserts for wings
- Frame mounting tabs
- Cutting headliners
- Brake pedal mounting arms
Benefits of Using Waterjet Technology in the Automotive Sector
Waterjet technology has been one of the consistent key players in the automotive sector due to the benefits it has to offer, such as:
- Precision: The waterjet cutting process is accurate on the micro-scale with tolerances in the range of =/- 0.001 of an inch. High accuracy is indispensable in the automotive sector since even a minor inaccuracy in the part can cause vehicle malfunction during operation. For intricate engine components, breakdowns require the opening up of entire assemblies.
- Cutting Speed: Automotive sector requires repeated parts of consistent shapes. Waterjet technology offers the unique feature of cutting multiple parts together by stacking multiple sheets of material on top of each other. This leads to a very high-speed cutting operation.
- Cold Cutting Operation: Conventional cutting processes heat the workpiece material, creating a heat-affected zone and thermal distortion that alters the physical properties of the material along with burn stains. However, since waterjet cutting is a cold-cutting process, there are no such adverse effects while using it.
- Cost Effective: Robotic waterjet cutting automatically controls the cutting head with CNC programs without the need for manual movement. This, along with the high-speed operation of the machine, makes waterjet cutting a very cost-effective solution.
- Optimal Material Usage: Waterjet cutting has a very low kerf width. This results in minimal material waste. Additionally, all the material removed during the cutting process gets dissolved in the water and can be recycled later. This results in optimal material usage, saving resources and costs.
- Consistency: Consistency is another required criterion of the automobile industry. Waterjet cutting stations can make out multiple copies of a part without any inconsistencies. At the same time, they can handle custom requirements too by adjusting the control program.
Where to Find a CNC Waterjet Cutting Machine?
Techni Waterjet is the go-to place if you are in the market for a premium waterjet cutting machine. It is the leading waterjet provider in North America, with machines in different models and price points. The build quality is highly rugged to handle the heavy-duty requirement of the automobile industry.
In fact, many key players in the automotive sector are already using Techni Waterjet machines on their assembly lines. Techni Waterjet also fulfills the demand for waterjet cutting in many other sectors of the industry.
Waterjet technology has become the bedrock of modern industrial cutting processes. The automotive sector is no exception to it and uses these cutting machines in the manufacturing of every type of part. The benefits of the process are plenty and the disadvantages are next to none. Therefore, if you are wondering whether to incorporate waterjet cutting in your industry, it most definitely will help you in getting ahead of the competitive landscape.