Plastic has become one of the most commonly used materials for the design of every kind of product, including electronics, furniture, the casing of tools, appliances, packaging, and any other thing you can imagine.
With hundreds of different plastics with varying physical properties, manufacturers require a cutting method that works effectively on any plastic. Waterjet cutting plastic has emerged as the clear winner in this regard.
This article will have an in-depth discussion of waterjet cutting plastic, its benefits, applications, and some tips that can improve the cutting process for you.
Can You Cut Plastic With a Water Jet Cutter?
Yes, cutting plastic with a water jet cutting machine is quite possible. In fact, water jet technology is one of the best methods for cutting plastics in any shape.
What are the Plastics That a Waterjet Can Cut?
Water jet cutting is applicable for cutting a lot of different plastics, such as:
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
- Polycarbonate (PC)
- Polypropylene (PP)
- Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
- High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
- Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMW)
- Polyoxymethylene (POM or Acetal)
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
- Polyamides (Nylon)
- Polystyrene (PS or Styrofoam)
- Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
- Carbon Fiber (CF)
- Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE or Teflon)
- Plexiglass (PMMA)
- Polysiloxane (Silicone)
- Garolite (G10-FR4)
- Poly Paraphenylene Terephthalamide (Kevlar)
What are the Benefits of Using a Water Jet to Cut Plastics?
There are many advantages that make waterjet cutting the best method for cutting plastic. Here are some of these advantages:
No Heating Effects
Water jet cutting is a cold-cutting process, so there are no heat-related effects. Using traditional cutting methods on plastics leads to overheating of the plastic and can result in melting. It can also cause the emission of toxic fumes that are dangerous to the workplace.
High Cutting Thickness
With water jet cutting, it is possible to cut plastics up to 8 inches thick with ease. Even if your project uses thinner plastics, you can stack multiple layers of softer materials like plastic on top of each other and cut them simultaneously with a water jet. This process is called stacking.
Since most manufacturers cut multiple plastic sheets with a water jet, the productivity of the whole process increases exponentially. This makes waterjet cutting plastic one of the most efficient methods out there. Not only that, but the high efficiency also leads to waterjet cutting plastic being the most cost-effective method.
Waterjet cutting plastic uses a thin stream of water with a highly controllable cutting head. This leads to precise cuts on the exact location intended. Water jets also minimize kerf width, leading to very high accuracy of the whole process.
Minimum Material Wastage
The high accuracy in waterjet cutting means that there is no raw material wastage due to defects and rejections. Additionally, there is minimal removal of material and no wastage due to adverse heat affected zone. This makes the process very favorable for manufacturers who want to utilize their raw materials in the best way.
Cutting plastic using blades or any other conventional process leads to unwanted, serrated edges. However, when plastic is cut using abrasive waterjet cutting, the edges are quite smooth and there are no heat marks on any surface whatsoever.
Applications of Waterjet Technology for Plastic Cutting
There are many areas and use cases where waterjet cutting plastic is applied. Some of these applications are:
- Toys: Toys today are extensively made from various kinds of plastics. Cutting of these raw materials is done with a waterjet cutter, reducing the costs of the final product while ensuring quality.
- Bottles: Waterjet cutting is also used for cutting high stacks of plastic raw materials for making water and oil bottles. Since waterjet cutting does not involve physical touching of the tool with the plastic, the resulting bottles are very hygienic. Even caps for these bottles are made using a water jet.
- Packaging Trays: Packaging trays for food items are common nowadays. Just like in the case of bottles, a waterjet cutter provides a hygienic way to make these bottles.
- Signage: With waterjet cutting plastic, aesthetically appealing 3D signs and logos can be made for commercial shops and businesses.
- Computer Hardware Casings: The casing of computers such as the cabinet and peripheral bodies require a high-quality cutting process like a waterjet for giving it a smooth finish and 3D cut shapes.
- Furniture: The making of plastic furniture like tables and chairs has requirements for a machine that can handle the large size of the furniture. Waterjet cutting is a completely scalable solution in this regard.
- Miscellaneous: Besides these industries, many other sectors rely on waterjet cutting plastic. Some of the other products made using this method are soap containers, pipes, first-aid blankets, containers, and protective shells.
Tips for Cutting Plastic With a Waterjet
There are certain steps that you can take to improve the quality and efficiency of cutting plastic with a waterjet.
- Waterjet cutting can be a green process since the water used in the process can be recycled back into the system. For this purpose, a mesh is provided in the system that collects the removed plastic particles while passing the clear water through. Make sure to clean this mesh regularly for optimal cleaning.
- Use stacking to increase the efficiency and productivity of cutting plastic. However, keep in mind that stacking works well only when the pieces have consistent cutting requirements with the same dimensions.
- Waterjet cutters easily cut through 8 to 12 inches of plastic material. Even more cutting thickness is possible, but it will increase the time taken by the cutter. While stacking multiple layers of plastic, refer to the manufacturers’ guidelines about the maximum thickness for the particular machine.
- Soft materials like plastic don’t require abrasive waterjet cutting. Pure waterjet works well for cutting plastic, with a water pressure of about 50,000 psi. Additionally, using the pure waterjet cutting ends up saving a lot of cost by eliminating expenditure on abrasives.
- Like other processes, cutting plastic with a water jet can generate significant noise. However, waterjet cutting has certain unique advantages, such as eliminating the noise by cutting underwater.
How to Choose a Water Jet Plastic Cutter?
When choosing a water jet cutter to cut plastics, here are some of the considerations you should make:
Waterjet cutters can be very cheap or very expensive. The price depends on a number of factors, such as the number of cutting axes, build quality, and features. Outline the budget that you can spend on the waterjet cutter before evaluating your options.
Good quality waterjet cutters will come with a warranty for the machine and its parts. It is always a good idea to go with a product with a warranty since you are making a significant investment.
Choosing the pump size can be a task in itself. If your requirement is solely to cut plastics, a medium-sized pump of around 50,000 psi will do the job for you. For cutting hard materials like metals and alloys, it is better to go with high-pressure pumps.
Underwater cutting is a feature that you must seek in your waterjet cutter, even if it costs a bit extra. Underwater cutting not only eliminates noise, but it also eliminates any dust or debris in the workspace.
Recommended Waterjet Machine
Based on the considerations mentioned above and many more, Techni Waterjet Intec-G2 CNC cutters are the best option in any price range.
Our machines come with industry-leading build quality, innovative design, and an extended warranty to reflect their high design standard.
Besides feature-loaded cutting options and flexible tooling, you get a complimentary software that can control the machine with the click of a button. The software is preloaded with common cut shapes that make the cutting process simpler. For monotonous applications, you can load your own cut shapes into the machine and save them for future use.
Is a Waterjet the Best Solution For Cutting Plastic?
Yes, a waterjet cutting plastics is absolutely the best among all alternatives. While there are many plastic cutting options available in the market (such as laser cutting), all these other methods create heat that causes distortion and many other negative effects of heat-affected zone.
However, in waterjet cutting, the water itself fixes the downsides that other processes involve, without compromising on the accuracy or quality. Therefore, this cutting process has become the go-to choice for professionals.
You encounter things every day that are made using plastic waterjet cutting. This process has taken over all other plastic cutting alternatives due to the high benefits, without any downsides.
If you are considering using the waterjet technology for your workspace, you can go ahead and adopt it without any second thoughts. It works just as well for complex shapes as it does for simple ones. For more information and product quotes, browse through Techni Waterjet’s catalog or get in touch to talk with an expert.