Superior Die Set has installed a ‘waterjet cutting’ machine to expand our cutting capabilities. We have always offered this service to our customers but chose to work with third party sources to handle our cutting needs. This was especially true when cutting slug holes in our Fortal aluminum die sets. Now with this machine under our roof, we can easily expand our range of use to many more options such as stripper plate openings in our new 4140 AR plate, or much smaller inside corner radiuses down to .020” on internal shapes.
So exactly how does water cut through steel? A pump generates a flow of pressurized water for the cutting process that can reach up to 60,000 psi. Inside the nozzle the pressurized water passes through a small-diameter orifice and forms a jet of water. The jet then passes through a venturi section where a metered amount of granular abrasive, typically garnet, is drawn into the water stream. The mixture of water and abrasive particles passes through a special ceramic mixing tube and the resulting abrasive/water slurry exits the nozzle as a coherent cutting stream of abrasive particles travelling at very high speed.
Through this process, clean definition, intricate geometry, and high tolerances are achieved and unrivaled by other cutting systems such as plasma and oxy-torch. Although more expensive, waterjet cutting has a unique feature, no use of heat, which broadens the horizon of use in such materials as glass, paper, aluminum, stainless steel, ceramic, and even wood.
The limits on waterjet cutting capabilities are directly proportionate to the quality and tolerance required for the job. When customers request waterjet cutting, it’s almost assumed that other means of cutting is not satisfactory to hold the tolerances. For that very reason, Superior has set limits to its range of use so a high level of quality can be maintained. For example, the maximum thickness in steel plate for waterjet cutting is 3.5”, with aluminum a bit more.
So to what tolerance can we waterjet cut to? This depends on so many factors such as the length of cut, thickness of cut, material type, and quality of definition. Although we can cut a piece 6’ x 12’, something this size would affect the overall tolerance is comparison to something very small. We have achieved tolerances down to +/-.005”, and can easily hold +/-.030”, but many dynamics need to be considered so each circumstance will dictate the offered tolerance.