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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. Firstly, look at the material and the cutting configurations before selecting the abrasive. How difficult it is to cut the material and the desired surface finish will play a role in determining what abrasive a fabricator should use. An abrasive part with the desired shape, rigidity, toughness, and density delivers superior results.

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

Is it Hard Enough?

There’s the need for waterjet cutters to have a fair compromise between speed and part wear. You can use your nozzle for longer if the abrasive is soft, but the cutting speed declines. A harder abrasive does the job pretty fast but it accelerates nozzle’s wear. Ultimately, cutting precision decreases, tool availability declines, and the extra expense for often nozzle replacement comes up. To be able to balance between cutting speed and a reasonable life for you tool, choose an abrasive that’s within the 7-8 range on the Mohs scale.

Good Density

The intensity of a water jet’s cutting force is an attribute of mass multiplied by velocity. Therefore, an ideal abrasive has the most dense particle that a stream of water accelerates to highest velocity possible. The end result is optimization of the cutting force. Some middle ground is necessary in this case considering an abrasive that’s too low in density is less powerful, and one that’s extremely dense never harness the full velocity potential as it saps the water jet of its momentum. A product with a specific gravity of 4.0 is perfect for balanced cutting force and acceleration.


How friable or tough the water jet cutting abrasive is will certainly impact its effectiveness. Material that lacks toughness may break down within the focusing tube, losing cutting efficiency for excessive softness. Excessive toughness leads to rounding over the mixing process with the abrasive becoming too dull to cut effectively. As such, pick an abrasive that’s appropriately tough for the lowest breakdown rate possible, and to generate sharp cutting edges.

Partical Structure

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. But it’s important to reach a fair compromise for acceleration, breakdown, and cutting performance when selecting the ideal particle shape for your abrasive, as far as water jet cutting is concerned.

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