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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. Choice of a fabricator’s abrasive should be based on an evaluation of the toughness of the material being cut along with the surface finish required. To do the job well, the abrasive product should be hard, tough, and dense enough, on top of having the right shape.

An abrasive may be natural or man-made, but it has to have the qualities below to suit your water cutting application:

Consider Hardness

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. 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. 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 fundamental cutting force of a waterjet is a product of mass and velocity. 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.

Abrasive Toughness

How well the abrasive for water jet cutting performs is directly dependent on its toughness. If it’s extremely friable, it’ll break in the focusing tube, resulting in an abrasive that’s too fine for effective cutting. Too much toughness causes a rounded abrasive during mixing, making it to blunt to cut well. As such, pick an abrasive that’s appropriately tough for the lowest breakdown rate possible, and to generate sharp 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. Spherical particles may be a fabricator’s number one choice, considering that a sphere is the perfect means of carrying mass that’s projected in an extremely forceful 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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