What is a Water Jet Cutter?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A water jet cutter is a device which is designed to cut with the use of a jet of water. Water jet cutters can handle a wide variety of materials, and they have some distinct advantages when compared to other types of cutting tools. Several companies manufacture water jet cutters which can be purchased or rented, and a number of companies use these cutters in industrial settings, for tasks such as the fabrication of custom parts.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

The earliest versions of the water jet cutter were developed in the 1950s, and worked by generating a jet of high velocity water which was also highly pressurized. In the 1970s, innovators realized that the efficacy of a water jet cutter could be greatly increased by adding an abrasive material such as powdered garnet to the stream of water. Modern water jet cutters can handle very thick and very dense materials, such as brick.

Essentially, a water jet cutter is like erosion on steroids, with the ability to very precisely direct the direction of the erosion. These cutters can be used for a variety of precision cutting tasks which could be difficult with other devices. They are also more environmentally friendly, because they do not generate pollution, and many models are designed to recycle water, including water mixed with abrasives, which reduces waste and cuts down on operating costs.

For manufacturers, the water jet cutter is also useful because it does not create areas of weakness in the materials it cuts. Other types of cutters can generate areas around the cut which have been damaged by heat, generated from the friction created during the cutting process. A water jet cutter is cold and inert, preventing stress on the material being cut. It also does not generate dust, and it's a highly versatile cutting option which can be easily adjusted by interchanging the head of the cutter.

These cutters come in a range of sizes designed for various applications. Water jet cutters do require a source of pressurization, as water straight out of the tap is not pressured enough, so most are designed to connect to compressors. It is also important to observe safety precautions such as wearing safety glasses while using the cutter, not pointing the cutter at anyone even though the intensity of the jet declines rapidly the further one is from the source, and wearing protective gear such as boots and gloves when handling the water jet cutter.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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