Composites such as fiberglass are nothing short of miracle materials. While visually fiberglass appears similar to ordinary glass, the physical strength of the composite is just on another level. This high strength is the reason that fiberglass has found so many applications, replacing the ordinary glass.
However, this high strength also poses a challenge for manufacturers and fabricators. Professionals in the industry often wonder about what is the best method to cut composites such as fiberglass. The physical characteristics (such as strength and hardness) of composites render ordinary cutting methods unfeasible.
Waterjet cutting has turned out to be the most sought-after option for fiberglass cutting and cutting other composites. In this article, we will investigate waterjet cutting fiberglass in detail.
Can You Cut Carbon Fiber and Fiberglass With a Waterjet Cutter?
Yes, you can easily cut carbon fiber and fiberglass with abrasive water jet cutter. In fact, waterjet cutting can be used to cut any type of composite, from the softest to the hardest materials. The wide range of composites that are cut by waterjet cutting include:
- Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP)
- Glass Fiber Reinforced Plastic (GRP or GFRP)
- Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP or CRP)
- Carbon Fiber Reinforced Carbon (C/C)
- Composite Foams
- Composite Papers
- Metal Matrix Composites
- Ceramic Matrix Composites
- Any types of carbon fiber
It is important to note that these composites are only a few examples of what waterjet cutting is capable of. If you have any other composite material that requires cutting, a waterjet cutter can process it without a doubt.
What are the Benefits of Using Water Jet to Cut Composites Like Fiberglass and Carbon Fiber?
There are many factors that make water jet cutting the best way to cut composites like fiberglass and tough carbon fibers. Some of these factors are:
Waterjet cutting has a very high accuracy leading to high-quality parts. The precision machining by water jet cutter also allows parts to be used as is in the application. Additionally, there is no requirement for any secondary finishing processes as there is a smoother finish with water jet.
Other cutting alternatives can often cause delamination of carbon fiber as well as rough surface edges, which does not happen in waterjet cutting.
No Heat Affected Zones
When cutting hard materials like composites, most cutting tools generate a lot of heat that can ruin the material near the cut location. These zones not only deteriorate material integrity but also its visual appearance.
However, high-pressure water jet cutting is a cold-cutting process. Therefore, no heat is developed leading to the elimination of any heat-affected zones. The jet of water is itself heat dissipating in nature.
Dust Free Cutting
Cutting composites with blade cutters or other cutting tools generate carbon dust in the environment. This dust is harmful to health and also hinders operation. However, in waterjet cutting, all the dust generated gets dissolved and washed away as the jet of water cuts leading to complete dust containment. Therefore, the environment is entirely dust-free.
Most composite cutting tools bring safety concerns such as injury to the workforce. However, waterjet cutting ensures complete workforce safety. Additionally, the cutter itself is controlled by the CNC mechanism and the operator doesn’t have to physically handle the cutting head at all. This means that there is not even the slightest possibility of injury.
Pressurized water jet cutting is a green process. There is no emission of toxic fumes or harmful waste substances. Even the carbon fiber dust generated as a waste material can be strained and used as an abrasive for abrasive waterjet cutting. Additionally, the water itself can be recycled back into the system.
Versatile Shapes and Thickness
Waterjet cutting can create a wide range of cut shapes, from simple two-dimensional cuts to intricate and complex 3D cuts. There are multi-axis water jet cutting machines available for this purpose. Additionally, it supports any thickness of composite material sheets.
Water jet cutting process has very fast production rates. When cutting consistent shapes, multiple sheets of composite materials can be stacked on top of each other and cut simultaneously. This process is called stacking and it scales up the production speed exponentially.
Water jet cutting process is one of the most cost-saving composites and fiberglass cutting methods out there. This is because of multiple factors such as low tooling cost (water itself is recycled), high production rate, and no material wastage due to the elimination of heat-affected zones. Additionally, stacking multiple carbon fiber layers provides another major advantage in saving costs further.
Waterjet cutting has minimal kerfs, which means that negligible material is removed due to the cutting process. Additionally, since there are no heat-related effects and accuracy is high, there are no pieces rejected due to defects. This makes waterjet cutting the best material-saving option out there.
Applications of Waterjet Cutting of Composites
There are many application of water jet stream cutting of composites uch as:
- Insulators: Composite materials are used to make insulators for power generation and distribution. These composites are cut using a waterjet cutting machine.
- Communication Enclosures: Waterjet cut composite sheets are turned into communication enclosures to provide a single contact point for all communication terminals and protect them from harsh natural elements.
- Aerospace: The aerospace industry requires a variety of composite materials for parts such as thermal heat insulation. These have extreme hardness and are cut using a waterjet cutter for ultra-high precision.
- Signage: Water jet cutting is applied on PVC acrylic composites to create various forms of signage.
- Heat Sink: Heat sinks for electronics and industrial equipment are designed using a waterjet cutter.
- Heat Transfer: Heat transfer solutions made of silicone and neoprene laminates are processed with a waterjet cutting solution.
- Automobile: Fiberglass is an integral part of automobile body kits and components. It is present in multiple locations in each and every car.
- Sports Gear: Waterjet cut Carbon panels are used to make a variety of sports gear such as tennis racquets, archery bows, and golf clubs.
How to Choose a Water Jet Cutter for Composites?
When deciding on a water jet cutting machine for composites, it is important to evaluate the decision based on the following factors:
- Pump Pressure: The water pressure of the water tank will play a major role in the cost of the water jet cutting machine. Hard materials like strong carbon fibers require a high water pressure, so choose the particular machine based on the type of composites you want to cut and their material thickness.
- Build Quality: The build quality of the equipment is very important to consider because waterjet cutting machines are a big investment. It is better to spend a bit more on build quality than to compromise in this regard. Even a minor breakdown of parts like a vacuum assist valve can cause significant downtimes, so focus on getting high-quality machines.
- Features: There is a wide range of features that you can get with a waterjet cutter, such as underwater cutting and software control. Many of these features are indispensable and end up saving costs in the long run, in addition to a better cutting experience and higher cut quality.
Best Waterjet Cutting Machine For Composites
Based on all the factors that matter, Techni Waterjet CNC cutting machines are the best tools for cutting composites or any other materials. These machines are designed keeping build quality in mind, with readily available spares whenever required.
All these machines come with a complete warranty and complimentary software. The software itself has many cutting shapes preloaded, so the operator can use them with the click of a button. There is also the option to add as many customized cut shapes as required. There are also many other features, such as underwater cutting for minimal noise in the workspace.
Composites are the supreme materials of this age, replacing older materials including plastics and glass. The strength of these materials is even at par with metals in certain cases. The high hardness and thickness are few of the reasons why waterjet cutting has become to go-to choice for processing composite materials.
The lack of thermal damage along with many other benefits makes waterjet cutting unbeatable and preferable over other cutting alternatives. Therefore, if you were wondering whether or not to incorporate waterjet cutting into your manufacturing facility or workshop, there shouldn’t be any more confusion.
To learn more about waterjet cutting and find out which particular machine will suit your needs the best, get in touch with Techni Waterjet today!