Cutting rubber sheets is quite challenging due to the physical properties of rubber and the high quantity and thickness of rubber sheets processed in industrial settings. The challenges in cutting rubber and the drawbacks of blade cutters led manufacturers to search for an alternative rubber-cutting process.
Pure water jet cutting (PWJ) is one of the best alternatives to conventional cutting processes. It has found applications in rubber cutting for more than half a century. In fact, this is the technology of choice for all rubber processing companies, from small-scale manufacturers to large-scale plants.
In this article, we will discuss the water jet cutting process for rubber, its benefits, applications, and other vital information.
Can You Cut Rubber With a Water Jet Cutter?
Yes, it is possible (and very easy) to cut rubber with a water jet cutter. In fact, the capabilities of a rubber waterjet cutter outperform any other method, like die cutting using metal tools, whether in terms of rubber sheet thickness or cutting accuracy. Waterjet cutting is not limited to pure rubber but also applies to rubber-backed metals and other substrate materials.
Some of the rubber materials that you can cut with a water jet cutter are:
- Natural rubber (NR)
- AFLAS rubber (TFE/P)
- SCE-42 Sponge
- Pressure Sensitive Adhesive (PSA)
- Butyl rubber (IIR)
- Polyurethane (AU)
- Chloroprene rubber (Neoprene)
- Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM)
- Cloth-inserted rubber
- Fabric reinforced rubber
- Epichlorohydrin rubber (ECO)
- Fluoroelastomers (fluorocarbon-based synthetic rubbers)
- Fluorosilicone rubber
- Hydrogenated nitrile rubber (HNBR)
- Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR)
- Vulcanized rubber
- Chlorosulphonated polyethylene (CSM)
- Kalrez rubber
- Polyacrylic rubber (ACM)
- Rubber backed Metals
- FDA-certified rubber material
What are the Benefits of Using a Water Jet to Cut Rubber?
There are many advantages that waterjet cutting provides over other cutting technologies, such as using a die-cut machine. Some of these advantages are:
No Heat Affected Zone
Cutting rubber parts using other cutting technologies, such as a laser cutting process or blade cutting, creates a heat-affected zone (HAZ). The HAZ can result in changing rubber profiles in the affected areas and spoiling large sheets of rubber, which is costly. However, waterjet cutting is a cold-cutting action, so there are no heat-affected zones and no melting.
No Toxic Fumes
When rubber is subjected to high temperatures, it releases toxic fumes that are unhealthy for the human workforce. However, since waterjet cutting does not lead to any temperature rise in the raw material, there is no emission of toxic fumes.
Cutting Thicker Materials and Stacking
With waterjet cutting, there is no maximum limit to the thickness of rubber sheets that you can cut in production runs. In fact, to speed up the production rate, you can stack multiple sheets of rubber material on top of each other (up to 8 inches) and cut parts simultaneously with waterjet cutting. This process is called stacking. It will significantly save production time for manufacturers.
Water jet cutting of soft materials like rubber does not require any abrasive. The water used in the process can be strained and recycled back into the system. This makes the water jet cutting process a very environment-friendly technology. Not to forget, there are no heating effects or toxic fumes either.
Cost-Effective and Efficient
Several factors make waterjet cutting a cost-saving method. Firstly, the cutting tool is water which is cheap and recycled into the system. Secondly, the waterjet cutting process is automated, so no human workforce is required other than to load the CNC file for each job. Thirdly, by stacking you can produce parts up to ten times faster, leading to higher production rates. Finally, waterjet cutting eliminates the need for expensive tooling charges for different scheduled jobs.
Despite low operating costs and quick turnarounds, waterjet cutting does not compromise precision and accuracy. Waterjet cutting has one of the lowest tolerances among any cutting processes, leading to the high accuracy of even narrow cuts. Furthermore, it allows the manufacturing of the most intricate designs.
Waterjet cutting has no limitations when it comes to handling complex designs and cutting shapes. If a shape is imaginable, it can be cut using a water jet cutting machine. High-quality waterjet cutting equipment like Techni Waterjet cutters come with preloaded software for common cut shapes. To make any shape, the operator only has to select the option in the software. A water jet can easily produce small parts like rubber gaskets.
Minimal Material Wastage
Waterjet cutting has a low kerf and removes minimal material during the cutting process, unlike other cutting technologies. This leads to minimal material wastage and helps avoid uneven cuts. In other cutting methods like die cutting, the material wastage is astonishingly high.
Flawless Edge Quality
Due to the ultra-high pressure water, the cut edge is very smooth. The superior edge quality eliminates the need for any secondary finishing processes on the rubber part. This saves time as well as costs in manufacturing.
The water jet cutting process is one of the safest cutting technologies because the operator does not have to physically control the cutting tool. Additionally, there are no toxic fumes. This is why water jet cutting is the go-to choice for professionals focused on safety.
Applications of Water Jet Cutting of Rubber
The water jet cutting of rubber finds applications in several use cases. Waterjet cutting is utilized for production scale, rapid prototyping requiring a quick turnaround time, and custom-made solutions (for instance, water jet cut gaskets).
Applications and uses
Some of the common parts manufactured using water jet cutting are:
- Rubber balls
- Ductile materials
- Nozzle stream sprayers
- Waterjet cut gaskets
- Custom sealing solutions
- Office products
How to Choose a Water Jet Rubber Cutter?
Once you are set on using a water jet cutting machine for your workshops, many options are available. When cutting soft materials like rubber, the choice should depend on the following factors:
- Budget: Water jet cutting equipment is a significant investment. Therefore, the first step should be to outline how much money you can spend on the cutter. These machines have a wide price range, so having a budget will help reduce the number of suitable options to consider.
- Pump Pressure: Waterjet cutting relies on a stream of pressurized water created by a high-pressure water pump. While harder and thicker materials like metal alloys require ultra-high pressure water and abrasive, there are no such requirements for soft materials like rubber. Choosing a moderate water pressure pump will suffice for rubber materials and save costs significantly.
- Build Quality: Build quality is a crucial characteristic of heavy-duty equipment like a waterjet cutting machine. Compromising build quality can pile up costs later in terms of maintenance and downtime.
- Software Compatibility: The best thing about waterjet cutting is that it is a CNC cutting process run by automated software control. Therefore, the machine you choose should come with software that is easy to use and has preloaded cut shapes.
Best Water Jet Cutting Equipment for Rubber Materials
Techni CNC Waterjet cutting machines are often considered the best by industry experts. These machines are used by numerous small to large-scale manufacturers globally.
Techni Waterjet cutters have a high build quality and spare parts available whenever required. This means that your manufacturing facility will not suffer any downtime whatsoever. Additional tooling costs are minimal, and complimentary software support for machines is provided along with many preloaded shapes.
Water jet cutting rubber is the best cutting method today, offering many advantages and is environment-friendly. This holds true for thin materials, thick materials, soft materials, and hard materials (virtually any material). When cutting materials like rubber, water jet cutting is not only precise but also very cheap due to the lack of abrasives.
Waterjet cutting can be a great add-on to your workshop. Many manufacturers have already replaced die-cutting machines with waterjet cutters.
Do you cut rubber as part of your regular business operations? Then you should use a Techni Waterjet cutter – you won’t regret it!