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Unlike traditional machining, abrasive waterjet requires little or no tooling, fixturing and essentially no setup, and it can be performed on any material. Other advantages include stress-free machining, the safeness of the process, environmental friendliness, and a reduction in handling costs.
As described on waterjets.org, waterjets are fast, flexible, reasonably precise, and in the last few years have become more user friendly. High-pressure water is forced through a small hole (typically called the “orifice” or “jewel”) to concentrate an extreme amount of energy in a small area. The restriction of the tiny orifice creates high pressure and a high-velocity jet.
An abrasive jet starts out the same as a pure waterjet. As the thin stream of water leaves the jewel, however, abrasive is added to the stream and mixed. The jet of water accelerates abrasive particles to speeds fast enough to cut through much harder materials.
Currently, R&D efforts are focused on making waterjet practical in the 150-200 micron range for micromachining. To read more about these developments, visit “The Promise of Waterjet Technology for Micromachining.”
For a waterjet machining success story, read “Waterjet is Key to Quick Response.”
To read more about the method’s benefits and to see a video of waterjet machining in action, visit “The Case for Abrasive Waterjet.”