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Precision machining with waterjets

Microabrasive waterjet technology, developed with NSF support, has advanced waterjet technology, enabling its use as a versatile tool for precision machining. Applications include manufacturing of components and devices for biomedicine, aerospace, energy, transportation and electronics.

This emerging waterjet technology is most suitable as both an education and research tool for high schools, universities and research institutions. Invented in the U.S., the technology could potentially serve as one of the key components to revitalize U.S. manufacturing and play an important role in bringing manufacturing jobs back onshore.

Material and size independent, this advanced technology is capable of machining most materials including metals, nonmetals, composites, laminates, glass and ceramics, and nanomaterials. Waterjets are especially cost effective, with fast turnaround for research and development and rapid prototyping production. The technology is capable of machining 8-inch-thick (20-centimeters) stainless steel with taper free edges, as well as microscopic features 0.004 inches (100 millimeters) and smaller. It cuts hardened steel as easily as annealed steel. In particular, difficult materials such as titanium can be cut 34 percent faster than stainless steel. Additionally, because it is a cold cutting process, waterjets preserve the structural/chemical integrity of parts.

Microabrasive waterjets can perform multimode machining, including but not limited to, cutting, routing, drilling, turning, milling and facing. These activities occur with a single tool and no part transfer. Conventional cutting approaches often require several follow-up processes and part transfers, resulting in reduced part precision, high probability of machining errors, increased costs and slow turnaround.

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  • microchined samples cut with waterjets
Micromachined samples cut with waterjets.
Peter Liu, OMAX Corporation

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