What is a CNC waterjet?

May 10, 2017

While cutting material with water may seem far-fetched, it isn’t all that impossible with the help of CNC Waterjet machinery. Utilizing a highly pressurized jet-stream of water, a Waterjet is capable of cutting nearly any material. Combined with computer aided controls, a CNC Waterjet provides superior cuts with exceptional precision.

To give you an idea of how much pressure a Waterjet can generate, we’ll compare it to a kitchen sink. A kitchen sink disperses water around 60 pounds per square inch (PSI) while a Waterjet shoots water around 60,000 to 90,000+ PSI. While it may not be practical to wash dishes with a Waterjet, you can sure count on cutting your dinner plans short, if needed.

What types of waterjets are there?

There are two types of Waterjets that are typically used in the CNC industry. The first is referred to as “Pure” which solely cuts with a highly pressurized stream of water while the second is referred to as “Abrasive,” which combines a highly pressurized stream of water with abrasive particles, similar to sandpaper. The two are designed to cut different types of material which is listed below.

  • Pure: Ideal for cutting cement, food, foam, gaskets, plastics, paper, and insulation.
  • Abrasive: Capable of cutting materials like ceramics, composites, glass, stones, and metals.

While cutting with Waterjet is typically slower than with say for example a router, there are still plenty of substantial benefits to it. If you’re looking to cut thick material, you’re in luck! Depending on the type of Waterjets, some have proven to cut from as little as 0.5 inches to 10 inch thick material. Also, since the material is being cut by water, there is very little heat generated which prevents sensitive materials from thermal distortion. Waterjets can cut reflective materials (copper, aluminum, etc) and heat sensitive materials without the same damaging effects as heat generated cutting which gives the edge to Waterjet over Laser alternatives. Last but not least, Waterjets are one of the most environmentally friendly types of cutting since there is no use or emission of oils or hazardous gases.

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