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What is Water Jet Cutting?

Water jet cutting has gained popularity due to its precision and fast turnaround times. With so many advancements with this technology, water jet cutting is now being used in a variety of industries.

Using water as a cutting method is not a new concept, however. Back in the 1930s, water cutting was used for softer materials such as paper using low-pressure water.

Eventually, the ability to add abrasives to the water to cut through tougher materials was discovered and led to the water jet cutting process we use today.

But exactly what is water jet cutting and how does it work?

To help you understand this extremely revolutionized piece of equipment, here is a quick overview of water jet cutting, how it works, and its many amazing applications:

How Water Jet Cutting Works

A water jet cutting machine is an industrial piece of equipment that features two main parts. A high-pressure pump generates a pressurized stream of water that is then passed through an abrasive nozzle.

When the water passes through the nozzle, it is pushed through a narrow hole to form a precise jet and abrasive granules such as granite and sand are added to the stream.

The result is a stream of abrasive water that erodes through the material - so, water jet cutters really don’t cut at all!

Instead, two pumps are used to create a high pressure: an intensifier pump and a direct drive pump. The direct-drive pump works like a car engine to force water through the tubing using plungers attached to a crankshaft.

The intensifier pump creates pressure by using hydraulic oil that moves a piston which then forces water through the tiny hole. The water then travels along the tubing to the nozzle where it is focused into a thin beam by a jewel orifice.

This beam of water is ejected from the nozzle to cut through the material in a way that is precise and safe.

The Anatomy of a Water Jet Cutting Machine

Although you don’t need to know the intricacies of how a water jet cutting machine works to enjoy its advantages, here is a quick rundown of what this equipment entails:

The high-pressure cutting system contains the high-pressure pump, cutting head, and nozzle. These components work together to pressurize the water and send it through the nozzle where the abrasive is added.

The bulk of the machine includes:

  • The material catcher tank is where the water and abrasive are collected and recycled.

  • The traverse axes system allows for a variety of cuts.

  • The cutting board that holds the material to be cut.

There are also control systems and dashboards that allow you to manipulate and control the cut using specialized software.

Types of Water Jet Cuts

There are different types of cuts that can be performed by a water jet cutting machine:

  • One-Dimensional: These are stationary cuts that require only one pass of the material through the water jet cutting machine. One-dimensional cuts are primarily used for trimming.

  • Two-Dimension (XY): Using additional programming, two-dimensional cuts are used for rapid and fast cutting using a closed-loop feedback system to control the position and velocity of the cut.

  • Three-Dimensional (XYZ): Three-dimensional cutting involves using an X-axis to move left and right, a Y-axis to move front to back, and a Z-axis to move up and down. The material remains stationary while the cutting tool moves along these three planes.

  • Four-Dimensional (XYZA): In this type of cutting, an additional plan is added (A) that provides an additional rotary motion around the X-axis. This is the preferred method for cutting holes or other openings.

  • Five-Dimensional (XYZAB): This 5-axis system allows materials to be cut on five sides at the same time. The material moves along the XYZ axis with additional rotations around each one.

The Benefits of Water Jet Cutting

This method of cutting is highly beneficial to many industries since the cut is highly precise so dimensions can be easily controlled.

Water jet cutting avoids rough and burred edges as well as other imperfections. Therefore, there is no need for any secondary or additional treatments to the material.

And when it comes to materials, there are a limitless number of uses for water jet cutting since it can cut through virtually any material without weakening its integrity and structure.

This helps to increase efficiency since thin materials can be stacked and cut all at once.

Water jet cutting is also easy to do since the equipment lacks complexity even if you are cutting 2D or 3D objects.

Environmentally, water jet cutting is ideal because it does not require the use of chemicals and does not produce any hazardous waste or fumes. It also does not produce any heat, making it a safer choice when it comes to cutting materials.

Overall, water jet cutting is the most efficient cutting method that can increase productivity and reduce waste.

Water Jet Cutting Accuracy

Water jet cutting is highly accurate and can achieve a tolerance of +/- 0.001”. However, there are certain factors that can affect the accuracy of a cut.

For instance, the thicker the material, the harder it is to cut accurately. Any material thicker than an inch is going to drop the water jet cutter’s accuracy to 0.1” unless an initial hole is made in the material first.

While the initial hole may not be perfect, it will increase that accuracy rate throughout the cutting process.

Another factor that determines accuracy is the control system for the water jet cutting machine. More precise controllers will ensure more precise and regular cuts.

Overall, water jet cutting can provide more accuracy than other precision cutting methods such as laser cutting.

This is because water jet cutters do not produce any heat so there is no heat-affected zone that extends from the cut.

Water Jet Cutting Applications

Many industries have come to realize the benefits of using water jet cutting and have adopted this cutting technique in a variety of applications:

  • Fabrication: Sheet metal workers use water jet cutting to produce accurate profiles in a wide variety of materials types and thicknesses.

  • Electronics: Water jet cutting can be used to cut circuit boards as well as strip wires without damage.

  • Aerospace and Aviation: In the aerospace and aviation industries, precious in manufacturing is crucial to ensure safety and reliability. Water jet cutters are used to produce engines, build aircraft, and more.

  • Medical: The technological advancements in water jet cutting have made it possible to use this technique in the medical industry. Medical manufacturers use water jet cutting to prevent altered chemical properties of the material they are working with.

  • Automotive: The automotive industry uses water jets to provide precision cuts to both interior and exterior components of the vehicles they are manufacturing.

  • Architecture: Because of the machine’s capability to cut thicker material in irregular shapes, water jet cutting is often used by architects to create custom interior and exterior designs.

  • Military: Water jet cutting is used to demilitarize chemical weapons and high explosives.

  • Oil and Gas: Because water jet cutting does not create a heat-affected zone, it is a safer cutting technique and can be used for cutting, cleaning, de-coating, and rust removal.

Apart from the different industries in which water jet cutting can be used, this cutting technique is also employed to design and create guitars, gears, cams, chains, and nameplates.

What Materials Can a Water Jet Cut?

It’s no surprise that water jet cutting has gained popularity due to its quality and performance. It has become the preferred method of cutting for many industries and can be used on the following materials:

Stone & Tile

Water jet cutting is becoming a popular solution for kitchen manufacturers. This method of cutting can be used for a range of products such as marble, granite, porcelain, and reconstituted engineered stone.


When it comes to cutting glass, water jet cutting is fast and reliable. It allows for internal cut-outs and shaping without causing cracks or microcracks.


Water jet cutting is being used as a regular part of cutting operations for metal fabricators because a full range of metal materials (such as aluminum, copper, stainless steel, and hardened steel) can be cut using only one tool.


Because composites are created to provide more strength than natural materials, traditional cutting techniques are inefficient since parts wear out more quickly and require replacement. Water jet cutting is often used because it will not compromise the durability of composite materials such as carbon fiber, fiberglass, and kevlar.

Plastics & Rubbers

Water jet cutting is the ideal method of cutting for plastic and rubber since it requires no heat and eliminates the risk of material distortions and melting. Water jet cutting can be used on foam, acrylic, linoleum tile, plexiglass, polycarbonate, and rubber.


Water jet cutting is used in the food industry because it prevents cross-contamination between foods. It is often used to portion products such as meat, poultry, fruits, vegetables, cakes, and desserts.

Water Jet Cutting in the Oil Field

Over the years, oilfield technology has evolved to include water in new and environmentally-friendly processes such as water jet cutting.

Site Decommissioning and Abandonment

Water jet cutting has become an important step in cutting pipes during the decommissioning of oil and gas facilities. It creates minimal environmental disturbances and saves companies both time and money.

There are significant safety risks when it comes to decommissioning facilties and cutting through pipes due to the presence of flammable materials.

Because no ignition source is required when it comes to water jet cutting, this technique ensures that the metal is unchanged and unharmed and eliminates the risk of explosions and burns.

Pile Cutting

Water jet cutting is also used for pile cutting due to its precision and safety. When it comes to cutting through deep foundations of concrete and steel, this technique ensures that the ends of the piles that exist above the ground are neatly cut.

Not only is this safer than other cutting techniques but it also saves time and money because of its accuracy and ability to eliminate the need for additional edge treatments.

Water jet cutting for pile cutting keeps crews safe and minimizes the impact of pile cropping on the environment.

Cutting a Variety of Materials

Water jet cutting can efficiently cut almost any material used in the oil and gas industry, including aluminum, plastics, neoprene, rubber, and foam.

Because of its needle-sharp precision, a water jet cutting machine can handle any shape and thickness of the material.

The Environmentally Friendly Solution

Water jet cutting is environmentally friendly and can help many industries reduce their carbon footprint.

Due to the lack of heat used to perform precision cuts, water jet cutting minimizes the hazardous waste released into the atmosphere. The majority of particles created during the cutting process are carried away by water and disposed of safely.

The abrasive used in water jet cutting is non-toxic and the water used is recycled through a closed-loop system.

Also, because water jet cutting is capable of performing precision cuts, it results in fewer pieces of scrap and reduces wasted material.

Serving North America

Nuwave Industries is more than just a cap-and-cut company. We offer water jet technology to accommodate any cut, whether it’s mining, industrial, energy, or any type of abandonments and decommissioning.

Throughout North America, NuWave is committed to environmental and job-site safety by offering water jet technology that only uses natural abrasives and water.

Our jet cutting tools are the most efficient tools in the industry and as a pioneer water jet company, we are proud to offer clients the benefits of years of research and development in perfecting our craft!

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