8 Lessons Learned: Equipment

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How to Pick the Right Waterjet Machining Abrasive

The size and type of abrasive selected for your water jet cutting application is among critical attributes that impact performance efficiency and your bottom line. To choose your abrasive, first examine the material and relevant cutting requirements. How difficult it is to cut the material and the desired surface finish will play a role in determining what abrasive a fabricator should use. To do the job well, the abrasive product should be hard, tough, and dense enough, on top of having the right shape.

Whether the abrasive is natural or synthetic, here’s a closer look at the attributes that make it the best for water jet cuttings services.

Consider Hardness

When it comes to waterjet cutting, speed should not impact component wear negatively. You can use your nozzle for longer if the abrasive is soft, but the cutting speed declines. In case of a very hard abrasive, cutting speed is increased, but with rapid nozzle damage. In the end, cutting accuracy is compromised, downtime increased, and costs of frequent nozzle replacement become an issue. To be able to balance between cutting speed and a reasonable life for you tool, choose an abrasive that’s within the 7-8 range on the Mohs scale.

Good Density

Mass multiplied by velocity is the function defining the key cutting power of a waterjet. Thus, an abrasive is great if it carries the most dense particle, which the water jet accelerates to optimal velocity. The end result is optimization of the cutting force. A compromise is important here as a too light abrasive is not forceful enough, while one that’s too heavy won’t achieve maximum velocity, draining the water stream of its full force. An abrasive of 4.0 specific gravity would work for good cutting power and optimal velocity.


How well the abrasive for water jet cutting performs is directly dependent on its toughness. If the material’s not tough enough, it comes apart in the focusing tube, unable to cut effectively for being too soft. Too much toughness causes a rounded abrasive during mixing, making it to blunt to cut well. An abrasive that’s tough enough for a measured breakdown rate is preferred to yield sharp cuts.

Partical Structure

Abrasives come in a broad spectrum of particle shapes, including steel shot beads and razor-sharp crystals in silicon carbide, a man-made abrasive suitable for high-tech projects. A fabricator may prioritize spherical particles in recognition of the fact that a sphere is ideal for delivering mass that’s transmitted via a high-powered jet of water. Yet, when it comes to water jet machining, selecting the perfect particle shape for an abrasive must take into account the need for acceleration, durability, and cutting effectiveness.

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