Plastic and rubber have a wide range of applications in today's industrial, aerospace, and consumer goods fields. The advent of CAD-CAM technology allows manufacturers to control specialized cutting machines using computerized robots. Such machines include plasma, laser, and water-jet cutters.
Water-jet cutting involves the use of a pressurized stream of water in order to cut through materials. Unfortunately, this highly precise technique often gets overlooked in favor of more widely understood cutting processes. This article seeks to improve your awareness of today's cutting tools by discussing four clear advantages of water-jet cutting.
1. Wide Range of Applications
Cutting machines rank among the most complex and expensive pieces of equipment a shop can invest in. For that reason, companies have a vested interest in purchasing equipment that can serve many different purposes.
For instance, plasma cutters cannot cut non-conductive material like plastic or wood. Water-jet cutters, by contrast, can cut through virtually any material, from glass, to laminates, to composites, to plastics and acrylics. Water-jets can also handle rubber with no problem. When working with tougher materials, operators often add abrasives to the water stream to boost the cutting power.
2. No Heat Affected Zone
Water-jet cutting holds another clear advantage over other cutting methods when it comes to heat. Laser and plasma cutting both generate a lot of heat when moving through a material. Mechanical cutting tools such as saws and milling machines also produce heat from the friction between the saw blade and the base material.
Such heat leads to the formation of what manufacturers refer to as the heat affected zone. Here the material may exhibit a wide range of deformities caused by heat. For instance, the material may melt, harden, burn, or even warp. Naturally soft materials such as plastic and rubber have a much higher vulnerability to heat.
Water-jet cutting produces virtually no heat affected zone. The process itself does not involve the use of high temperatures to achieve cuts. On the contrary, water alone shears through the material. That water also instantly absorbs any heat that does occur as the result of friction caused by the cutting, ensuring that temperatures remain within acceptable limits.
3. Minimal Kerf
All cutting machines create kerf, the portion of the material lost during the machining process. To take the simplest example, imagine sawing a wooden board in half. As the blade moves through the wood, it creates kerf — in this case, sawdust.
Generally speaking, the less kerf a cutting technique creates, the better. Manufacturers consider kerf wasted material. Kerf also makes it harder for machined parts to fit together accurately. Water-jet cutting produces less kerf than every other process except for laser cutting.
Nonetheless, machine experts tend to consider water-jet cutting the more precise technique, since it avoids the heat affected zone associated with laser cutting.
4. Low Force
Another key difference between water-jet cutting and other cutting techniques has to do with the amount of force exerted on the base material. Plasma and laser cutting exert much greater amounts of force; mechanical cutting techniques exert even more. When working with relatively delicate materials like plastic and rubber, those forces can easily create permanent distortions.
All of that force means that operators must thoroughly secure the material before proceeding with the cut. Such fixturing increases the amount of time it takes to complete even relatively basic cuts. Water-jet cutting exerts very little force compared to other techniques, allowing manufacturers to avoid the need for excessive fixturing.
Water-jet cutting offers many advantages that make it one of the most versatile machining techniques used today. For more information about how water-jet cutting can meet your rubber and plastic needs, please contact the experts at DIXIE Rubber & Plastics.