How does waterjet cutting compare to other cutting methods?

Waterjet cutting compares favorably with other cutting methods, offering good accuracy, fast set-up time and fast cutting, while also cutting a wide range of materials with no Heat Affected Zone (HAZ) or change in material properties.

Waterjet cutting versus Wire EDM, Laser, Plasma, Milling and Punch Press
Cutting Methods
Waterjet
Wire EDM
Laser
Plasma
Milling
Punch Press
ACCURACY
Average of ±0.003"
(±0.08 mm) and up to
0.001” (±25 μ) 1
±0.0001" (±2.5 μ)
±0.001" (±25 μ) 2 2
±0.030 to ±0.060"
(±0.75 to ±1.55 mm)
±0.0003" (±8 μ)
Fair
THICKNESS
Up to 24" (61cm), virtually
any material
12" (30 cm)
Generally less than
0.25"(6.35mm)
Cuts less than 1.25"
Able to work on
3D parts
Works well with
thin sheets
CUTTING
SPEED
5-10 times faster
than EDM when
thickness is under 1"
5-10 times slower
than waterjet
Very fast cutting in
thin, non-reflective
materials
Fast with thin sheets
Fair
Fast batch production
when initial programming
and setup are done
EDGE
QUALITY
Good
Excellent
Excellent
Fair
Excellent
Fair
MATERIAL
DISTORTION
No Distortion 3
No
Possible
Possible
No
Some
HEAT AFFECTED
ZONE (HAZ)
None
Some
Yes
Yes
None
None
MATERIAL
LIMITATION
Works in virtually
all materials except
really hard ceramics
Only works in
conductive materials
Only non-reflective
metals 4
Generally works in
metals
Not ideal for very
large parts
Not good for brittle or
hardened materials
PROCESS
Cold supersonic
abrasive used to
cut material
Spark erosion used to
remove material from
electrically conductive
materials
Thermal process
Thermal process
Mechanical cutting tool
Shearing process
SETUP
Fast and easy
set-up
Relatively easy
set-up
Relatively easy set-up
but may have to tune
laser for different materials
Relatively easy
set-up
Time consuming
set-up and
programming
Time consuming
set-up and
programming

FOOTNOTES

  1. Better result can be achieved with advanced software
  2. Better result with thin material
  3. May have hazing near cut. No internal stress built up
  4. May need different gas for cutting different materials
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Complement Your Existing Manufacturing Process

Re-think Your Cutting Solution

Manufacturers from small job shops to large OEMs are finding that the OMAX abrasive waterjet cutting process is an ideal complement to their other manufacturing processes. In many cases the OMAX can quickly produce a complete final part, ready to go. However it can also produce a semi-finished or near-net-shape blank part suitable for secondary processing by conventional means. The abrasive waterjet process does not affect material properties, so the efficiency of conventional processes is not degraded. The close nesting capability of the OMAX maximizes material utilization. In addition, the OMAX is effective in many advanced and non-traditional materials where conventional processing may be a challenge.

Wire EDM

An OMAX system should not be viewed as a replacement for wire EDM, but rather as a complement. It is generally used by wire EDM shops to provide faster production where the ultra-high accuracy of wire EDM is not needed and to permit a shop to work with non-conductive materials such as composites and glass. It is also common to use an OMAX to produce a part to a general tolerance in the range of ±0.003" to 0.005” (±75μ to 125μ) and then use wire EDM to finish off areas where greater accuracy is required. The OMAX can also be used to quickly pierce starting holes for the wire EDM process.

Wire EDM

Laser

The key reason that laser shops and potential laser users buy an OMAX system is because it can work in a much wider variety of material and thicknesses. Advanced materials such as composites and laminates are easily cut on an OMAX, as are materials such as titanium or tool steel where the heat affected zone of a laser can be a problem. Thicker metals, such as aluminum, steel or stainless steel are also well-suited to the OMAX. It is common for laser specialty shops to purchase an OMAX simply to broaden their material capability. In addition an OMAX is typically one-third or less of the capital cost of a laser cutting system. This means that a shop that has been farming out work to a laser house can afford to buy an OMAX to bring the work in-house, thus saving money and improving scheduling and flexibility. It also means that a laser house can afford to purchase an OMAX to supplement their laser capability.

Laser

Plasma

As in the case of lasers, the key reason that plasma users buy an OMAX is because it can work in a much wider variety of materials and thicknesses. Plasma cutting generally results in a relatively large heat affected zone and is limited in the materials it can cut. The OMAX, on the other hand, can cut virtually any material over a wide range of thickness without any heat affected zone. Advanced materials such as composites and laminates are easily cut on an OMAX, as are heat-sensitive materials such as titanium or tool steel. It is becoming common to use a plasma for rapid cutting of large blanks and then to use an OMAX Waterjet for precision cutting of holes and features, as the waterjet is more accurate.

Laser

Milling

Shops often use OMAX systems as a complement to their traditional mills and vertical machining centers. The OMAX is ideal for making short-run two-dimensional parts on a quick-turnaround basis and does not required a skilled machinist or specialized programmer. In addition the OMAX can save material by quickly making closely-nested near-net-shape blanks in preparation for final machining. The fact that the OMAX abrasive waterjet process does not change material properties means that secondary machining can be carried out efficiently with conventional cutting tools.

Milling

Punch Press

Shops generally purchase an OMAX to complement their traditional punch press when they need to work in a wider variety of material and thicknesses or need to make intricate shapes or closely-nested parts. Because of its very fast programming and set-up time, the OMAX is great for creating prototype parts and for short-run production.

Punch Press

Related Questions

  • Why should I use waterjet cutting over other machine cutting methods?

    • No thickness limitations.
    • No problems with reflective materials such as brass and aluminum.
    • No heat input, so there is no burning or heat-affected zone (HAZ).
    • Waterjets can cut materials which are heat sensitive such as plastics, rubber or composites, and even such materials as glass, stone and very hard ceramics.
    • When you change materials, the only thing you change is the cut speed. There are no gases, optics, or anything else to change.
    • Multiple heads are easily added for increased production.
    • Maintenance on the other equipment is more specialized and more difficult to perform.
    • Stand off distance between nozzle and material is not nearly as critical.

  • Yes. The OMAX control software allows for up to 100 user-specified home locations, which provides multiple tooling locations on a single machine. The OMAX Precision Optical Locator (POL) accessory lets you zoom in on a part to locate a feature or edge and mark that as a reference point on the tool path. The software will automatically rotate the tool path to match the placement of the part on the table. The optional A-Jet articulated cutting head makes it possible to cut countersinks and bevels.

  • Regular maintenance will include pump oil changes, water filter changes, swivel seal replacements, and garnet removal.

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