How Waterjet Cutting Works
The waterjet systems utilized by Stockwell Elastomerics are pure water, non-abrasive cutting tools. Water is pressurized to approximately 40,000 lbs. and forced through a jewel with a 4mil (.004″) orifice. This fine stream of pressurized water is maneuvered by PC driven servo-motors with closed loop feedback. The closed loop system in essence provides constant navigational feedback to the “brains” of the machine; the “brains” ensure the cutting nozzle is where it should be at all times during the cutting process. Note: with all mechanical systems there is some play, but with the closed loop servo system, the amount of play is extremely small.
Waterjet Cutting for Fast-Turn Prototypes
As the need for rapid prototyping and quick turnaround production has become a common occurrence, Stockwell Elastomerics’ waterjet cutting systems have helped us lead the market in this area. These systems not only help to meet the needs of rapid prototyping, they also allow for more accuracy and more complex designs, than possible with steel rule cutting dies. A competitive advantage is the ability to provide cut to size samples for immediate testing rather than generic material swatches. In many cases when material is available and the designer provides transferable CAD files (dxf format is preferred), same or next day samples may be furnished.
Waterjet cutting provides a cleaner cut edge on thick rubber materials without the edge concavity that is characteristic of die cutting. Non-abrasive waterjet cutting machines can cut 2″ thick sponge rubber and solid rubber in excess of 1″ thick to tolerances within ±.010″. In many cases when steel rule die cutting or molding is planned for production, waterjet cut prototypes may be utilized for proof of design before tooling up.
Waterjet Cutting for Production
The more complex gasket designs become the greater the need for cutting equipment that can keep up with the demand of the market. Stockwell Elastomerics’ original waterjet unit was purchased to help with initial prototyping and sampling parts. Because of the increased demand for accurate, high quality production parts, two additional larger units have been acquired to meet production needs. The waterjet units pick up where conventional die cutting equipment leaves off where accuracy and ability is concerned. The waterjet units provide accuracy that die cutting just can’t meet. At Stockwell Elastomerics the waterjets are utilized daily to cut parts that would be grossly deformed by die cutting, for example, soft parts with adhesive on two sides or cutting very thick foam pads. The waterjet cutting process is more expensive but when accuracy and quality are critical, it is the logical choice. Many companies have utilized Stockwell Elastomerics’ waterjet cutting capabilities to meet their special needs when die cutting was not a viable option.
Stockwell Elastomerics currently has 4 waterjet cutting units used for production and prototype runs. Waterjet cutting provides a cleaner cut edge on thick rubber materials without the edge concavity that is characteristic of die cutting. Non-abrasive waterjet cutting machines can cut 2″ thick sponge rubber and solid rubber in excess of 1″ thick to tolerances within ±.010″. The newest waterjet cutting unit has a 5-axis cutting head, capable of cutting bevels of up to 30 degrees relative to the surface of the gasket and can cut bevels in both the top and bottom of the gasket in one cycle. This eliminates the need for flipping or moving the part. It also has the largest cutting bed; parts can now be cut up to 120″ long without bonding and assembling components. It also features advanced nesting software to maximize material utilization, which is especially important with high value materials.
When and Why to Utilize Waterjet Cutting
- When parts are in the prototyping phase and designs are being proven. Waterjet cutting allows for design modifications without incurring multiple tool purchases.
- When the material being used is expensive. Waterjet cutting offers tighter yields that can offset this more time intensive process.
- When the part has adhesive on 2 sides. The edge quality of a waterjet part well exceeds that of a die cut part with adhesive on 2 sides.
- When the part demands tight tolerances. Waterjet cutting in most cases, can hold tighter tolerances than die cutting.
- When the part is complex. Waterjet systems are capable of cutting abnormal curves or odd geometry where tooling up a steel rule cutting die may be difficult.
- When large gaskets are needed. Waterjet cutting large gaskets without having to commit to expensive tooling can be very beneficial, Stockwell Elastomerics’ capability is now up to 54″ x 120″. (See the Stockwell Elastomerics tolerance table for tolerance capabilities)
- When materials are thick, such as ¼” thick – die cutting may result in edge concavity. Waterjet cutting results in a clean edge without edge concavity.
Waterjet or Water Jet? Terminology Note
The one word version, waterjet, and the two word version, water jet, are used interchangeably.
Contact Stockwell Elastomerics for Waterjet Cut Gaskets
Contact Us for further assistance with water jet cutting for prototypes or production.