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Water Jet Cutting

Metal Stamping Dies
Water Jet Cutting by Tri-Made

PHOTO: Capable of cutting metals, plastic, composites, wood, and many other materials. Our Water Jet Cutting Services are capable of cutting complex flat parts out of most materials including: metal, plastic, glass, ceramics and composites - to a dynamic positioning accuracy within + 0.003" directly from a CAD drawing or DXF file.

Water Jet cutting uniquely comes without heat-affected zone (HAZ). No heat - means no HAZ or distortion and often eliminates deburring and grinding. Unlike other methods, secondary machining requirements are lower or not required.

We also can cut extremely hard, reflective and non-conducting materials - making this a cost effective alternative to lasers and saws.

Water Jet is ideal for short-run production (or parts made in batches of one to several hundred), JIT manufacturing, tooling and prototype part development. The smooth finish it leaves behind often eliminated the need for secondary machining.

Significant features of Water Jet:

  • Machines a wide range of materials and thicknesses 
  • Does not create heat-affected zones or mechanical stresses. Conventional process (laser or plasma) often cause a heat-affected zone that must be removed by other means. The Water Jet can eliminate this intermediate process, thereby saving both time and money. 
  • Elimination of heat distortion. With Water Jet, there is no heat to cause warpage or distortion. 
  • Leaves behind a satin smooth edge which reduces secondary operations; unlike lasers or plasma, the edges are smooth, eliminating further machining. 
  • Quality finish and quality cut 
  • Rapid setup - making prototype parts and short runs cost effective. 
  • Rapid turnaround 
  • Ability to pierce materials without requiring a mechanically drilled starter or pilot hole. 
  • Ability to closely nest parts - important for anyone working with expensive material, such as titanium

Who Uses Water Jet Cutting? OEM's using Water Jet cutting - enjoying both the speed and flexibility of Water Jet cutting and the competitive advantage to their industries/OEMs such as:

Aerospace - custom control panels, structural parts, seats etc. These shops work with materials that are affected by heat such as titanium and aluminum. Aluminum is particularly easy to machine with Water Jets because it is soft and easily and quickly cut. Architectural Products - trim and window systems, custom design, sign letters Automotive - flanges for custom exhaust systems, seat parts and other structural parts, specialty metal gaskets etc.

Electrical Equipment - custom and short run electrical enclosures, control panels. Elevator - architectural components and metal fittings

Film - cutting rigging components and props, equipment for camera travels Food Processing - components for food processing lines, guards, custom equipment.

Gasket - copper head gaskets for racing engines, metal and rubber gaskets. Glass - special shaped window panels, lens blanks, optical laser parts art deco

High Production Mfg. - cross bow limbs, punch die buttons, small aerospace specialty parts.

Industrial Processing - centrifuges, profile knife blades

Job Shops - short run production. Water Jet cutting compliments CNC milling machines and flame cutters.

Laser Shops - Water Jet can cut thicker materials than lasers as well as reflective materials.

Machine Tool - mfg. punch die buttons and strippers Medical - blanking out surgical instruments from special steel alloys Metal fabricators - appreciate the clean edge plate work offered by Water Jet cutting. Model. Prototype & R&D Shots - making architectural models to test fixtures, short runs. Water Jet supports DXF images which makes it easy to import files from other CAD programs (including AutoCAD). This allows for rapid creation of a toolpath, which leads to aw quick part creating. It's also easy to make changes to the part and create a new toolpath. Musical Instruments - bank out valve components, intricate designs and materials

Plastics Mfg. - polyurethane products for a variety of industries.

Recreational Equipment - cutting cross bow limbs for archery, custom triggers

Semiconductor - quartz cutting equipment, stainless steel parts for semiconductor mfg. Specialty - laminated lenses for adjusting color on HDTV systems

Wire EDM Shops - Water Jet cutting is faster than wire EDM (up to 10 times faster) and can cut both conductive and non-conductive materials. Woodstove - Used in lieu of plasma for product line requiring a better edge surface and on short-run production of occasional one-off unit.

Compare Water Jet to other Cutting Methods

Type of Process Part Cost Tolerances Speed Types of Materials Stress or Distortions
Water Jet Nominal .005" Depends Mat/Thick Most all None
Laser Higher than Water Jet Higher under 0.5" materials Faster than Water Jet Ferrous Metals Yes (heat)
Wire EDM Higher than Water Jet Higher than Water Jet Much slower Conductive Substrates Yes (heat)
Plasma Lower than Water Jet Lower than Water Jet Equal or Faster Many substrates will burn Yes
Flame cutting Lower than Water Jet Much lower than Water Jet Equal or Faster Many substrates will burn Yes

Frequently Asked Questions Index


About Water Jet Cutting


Q: How do Water Jets compare with Wire EDM? 

Wire EDM strengths: 

  • Extremely precise parts are possible (+0.0001" (+0.025 mm) 
  • Very thick parts -- over 12" (30 cm) can be made 
  • Intentional taper can be put into a part for a die clearance and other uses

Key Water Jet strengths versus Wire EDM: 

  • Water Jets are much faster -- Five to ten times faster in parts less than 1" (2/5 cm) 
  • No heat affected Zone (HAZ) therefore no need for secondary operation to remove HAZ or additional heat-treating to compensate for it.
  • Water Jets machine a wider variety of materials - and work well with non-conductive materials such as glass, stone and plastics as well as conductive materials 
  • Water Jets can pierce material directly without the need for a pre-drilled starter hole 
  • Can produce large arts at reasonable costs 
  • Simple and rapid programming and set-up with minimal fixturing.


Q: How do Water Jets compare with lasers? 

Laser strengths: 

  • Very fast production in thin non-reflective materials such as sheet steel. 
  • Accuracy to +0.001" (+0.025 mm) or better in thin material.

Key Water Jet strengths versus Lasers: 

  • Water Jets can machine thicker materials -- produce parts up to 5" (5.1 cm) thick in virtually any material while holding tolerances on the order of +0.003" to +0.005" (+0.08 to +0.1 mm). 
  • Water Jets are capable of similar tolerances on thin parts, and better on parts thicker than .5" 
  • Can machine reflective, conductive and thicker materials such as stainless steel and aluminum, copper and brass. Lasers cannot machine reflective materials. 
  • Cuts without melting, providing a smooth uniform surface with very little burr or dross. 
  • No heat-affected zone (HAZ) which may eliminate the need for a secondary operation to remove HAZ. There is not thermal distortion or hardness of the material. Also makes a conventional secondary operation, such as reaming or tapping easier to perform. 
  • Environmentally friendly -- No noxious gas or vapors produced during cutting 
  • Quick set-up and rapid programming for short run parts. 
  • Water Jet machines can obtain about the same or higher tolerances than lasers (especially as thickness increases). 
  • Laser needs a good "chillier" for cooling and has a higher power consumption 


Q: How do Water Jets compare with conventional milling? 

Milling strengths 

  • A well-understood and familiar technology. 
  • Able to make three-dimensional parts. 
  • Rapid production, if set-up and programmed for long-run parts.

Key Water Jet strengths versus Milling: 

  • Very rapid programming and set-up 
  • Very low cutting loads means fixturing is easier and that intricate and delicate parts can be machined. 
  • No tool changes as one cutting tool performs all machining functions in all materials. 
  • Minimal burr compared to conventional machining. 
  • Environmentally friendly


Q: How do Water Jets compare with punch presses? 

Punch Press strengths: 

  • A well-understood and familiar technology 
  • Rapid production in thin material once the machine is properly programmed and set-up

Key Water Jet strengths: 

  • Very rapid programming and set-up for short production runs 
  • No distortion of closely spaced parts. 
  • Minimal burr 
  • Ability to work in a wide range of materials. 
  • No special tooling required for unusual shapes or profiles.


Q: How do Water Jets compare with high-definition plasma? 

Strengths of high-definition plasma: 

  • Very rapid production rates in thin sheet metal, once properly set-up and programmed

Water Jet strengths versus high-definition plasma: 

  • No melting or heat affected zone, therefore no heat distortion or crusted area to impair secondary machining processes such as tapping holes. 
  • Wider range of material capabilities 
  • Wider range of thickness capabilities 
  • Better precision in intricate parts


Frequently Asked Questions of Water Jet cutting

Q: What is the thickness material that the Water Jet can cut?

A: There is a practical limit and a physical limit. The practical limit for most materials and conditions is about five inches thick. Thicker than that, and tolerances drop while machining times increase.

Some special projects, however, it is practical to machine material five or more inches thick. Cutting titanium is one such application where the Tri-Made Water Jet is a more advantageous cutting method for these high thicknesses.

The physical limit is the maximum Z-axis travel, which is typically around 8 inches (20 cm). The actual Z-axis travel will vary depending on options installed. Note that is possible to cut parts that are thicker or taller than the maximum Z-axis travel by removing the slats and submerging the part in the catcher tank.

Q: What is the smallest kerf width that can be cut?

A: The kerf width is 0.020" (0.5mm) wide. We can make very small parts - but exceptional small parts may require special fixturing.

Q: What are the most common materials and thicknesses cut with the Water Jet?

A: The most profitable precision applications involve widely used metals such as aluminum, tool steel, stainless steel, mild steel and titanium in thicknesses up to about 1" (2.5 cm) - as a good surface finish is easily attained.

Q: What shapes can be achieved with the Water Jet?

A: The Water Jet can make almost any two-dimensional shape imaginable, quickly and accurately - in materials less than 1" (25 mm) thick.

Intricate parts with lots of shape inside corners that can be made quickly and accurately in ½" (12 mm) thick material.

Q: What is the Jet kerf versus feed rate?

A: In general, the slower a jet nozzle moves across the material being cut, the wide the cut it makes. This effect is negligible in harder, thinner material (for example ½" (12 mm) stainless steel, but it can be up to 0.005" (0.1 mm) or more in thick material or soft material.

Q: Applications where a Water Jet is not recommended

A: Cutting of wood for special intricate shapes is recommended for the Water Jet. However, other wood cutting is best left to saws. Round tube cutting and low cost applications where accuracy really has no value.


Tri-Made Products, Inc.
39 N. Torrence St.
Dayton, Ohio 45403
Toll-Free: 1-888-874-6233
Local: (937) 258-1004
Fax: (937) 258-1006
E-mail: [email protected]

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