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A Guide to Selecting an Abrasive for Waterjet Machining

One of the most fundamental considerations when selecting your water jet cutting abrasive for optimal profits and operation of include size and type. To choose your abrasive, first examine the material and relevant cutting requirements. A fabricator will consider the difficulty associated with cutting the material as well as the intended surface finish when deciding on a proper abrasive for the job. For optimal performance, the abrasive tool must possess the correct hardness, structure, toughness, density, and form.

You could select a naturally-occurring or artificial abrasive for your water jet cutting equipment, but it has to have the attributes below:

Is it Hard Enough?

A water jet cutter has to strike a reasonable balance between component damage and speed. The use of a softer abrasive leads to a longer nozzle life but a slower cutting rate. If the abrasive in question is extremely hard, work progresses rapidly but nozzle tear accelerates. Ultimately, cutting precision decreases, tool availability declines, and the extra expense for often nozzle replacement comes up. An abrasive that lies from 7 to 8 on the Mohs scale is ideal for a long lasting cutting tool and excellent working speeds.

Good Density

The intensity of a water jet’s cutting force is an attribute of mass multiplied by velocity. As such, the perfect abrasive constitutes the heaviest particle that the water stream can propel to maximum velocity. The end result is optimization of the cutting force. A balance is required here since an abrasive a very-low density abrasive won’t pack a punch, whereas an extremely heavy abrasive will not accelerate to optimal velocity, failing to harness the full power of the water jet. A product with a specific gravity of 4.0 is perfect for balanced cutting force and acceleration.

Friability

How well the abrasive for water jet cutting performs is directly dependent on its toughness. Material that lacks toughness may break down within the focusing tube, losing cutting efficiency for excessive softness. An extremely tough abrasive will round through mixing, and it’ll get excessively blunt for efficient cuts. So, choose a product with the right toughness for a reasonable breakdown rate and to create angular cutting edges.

Particle Form

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. It’s easy for a fabricator to pick spherical particles if they view a sphere as the best form to deliver mass that’s projected through a very powerful water stream. 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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