There are two types of water jet cutting processes pure water cutting, in which the cutting is performed using only an ultra-high pressure jet of clean water, and abrasive water jet cuttingin which an abrasive (typically garnet) is introduced into the high pressure stream.

Pure water cutting can be employed to profile a huge variety of materials, these will typically be 'soft' materials such as gaskets, rubber, foam & plastics. Filtered tap water is fed into an intensifier pump where it is pressurised to (typically) 60,000psi. This ultra-high pressure water is forced through a tiny (0.15mm) orifice jewel which is normally manufactured from sapphire. This has the effect of focusing the beam of water into a fine, accurate stream travelling at speeds of up to 900m/sec, capable of accurate cutting of a wide range of soft materials.

In order to cut 'harder' materials or any material containing glass or metal, then abrasive water jet cutting would be employed. The principles of abrasive water jet cutting are similar to pure water jet cutting, but once the stream has passed through the orifice it enters a carbide nozzle. Within this nozzle is a mixing chamber within which a partial vacuum is created as the water passes through. Garnet is introduced under gravity into the nozzle and the partial vacuum within the mixing chamber has the effect of dragging the abrasive into the water stream to create a highly abrasive cutting jet. Abrasive cutting would typically be used on materials such as stainless steel, aluminium, stone, ceramics & composite materials.

In both processes the head is controlled by a CNC controller, this offering great accuracy and repeatability. The CNC controller is programmed by first drawing the part to be manufactured using proprietary software, and then converting this drawing into a G code format – CNC language.

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