Choosing Your Waterjet Abrasive

Waterjet cutting systems offer a number of advantages that many fabricators and manufacturers are drawn to. One of the most significant advantages is that there is no heat affected zone because the materials are being cut in a cold atmosphere. Also, because of this a waterjet system can cut almost any material – something that cannot be achieved with other cutting mediums. It is also a more environmentally friendly way to fabricate materials. Waterjet cutting uses an abrasive to cut materials but there are different types of abrasive available. So, each fabricator must decide what type of abrasive is best for their workshop or industrial setting.

Different types of abrasive offer different advantages and drawbacks depending on the type of material that you are cutting. The different types of abrasive offer various grit sizes. It is not the water that cuts the material but the abrasive. If cutting speed is a factor, the larger the grit size the faster the cutting process will be. But, larger grit sizes can lead to clogging in the waterjet. One of the most popular abrasives to use is almandine garnet. Almandine garnet is more expensive than other abrasives but is stronger and can cut more quickly so your choice will heavily depend on the type of material you are fabricating. If you primarily fabricate aluminum, which is softer, you do not need as strong of an abrasive. The sharper the abrasive is the better because it will cut more quickly than rounded abrasive. Abrasive sharpness is typically determined by where it was sourced. For instance, if your abrasive was mined than it will be more sharp than if it was sourced from a beach where it has been rounded out over time.

There are four primary factors that most fabricators consider when choosing an abrasive material: hardness, density, toughness, and particle shape. Many fabricators will look for the best balance between all 4 factors so that they can maximize cut speed, quality, and the lifespan of the plasma torch nozzle. Often, your waterjet manufacturer will recommend certain types of abrasive. This will help guide your choice but the type of material that you cut, and how fast you need to cut will impact your ultimate abrasive choice. For questions about what abrasive is best for your waterjet system, consult the manufacturer or contact Machitech Automation and we will be happy to guide you in your choice.