The aerospace and defense supply chain produces highly engineered and tightly manufactured parts to support civilian and military applications. Delivering complex aircraft, such as the F-35 advanced fighter or Orion space capsule, requires the transformation of raw materials into finished parts. Aerospace waterjet cutting is one capability that contributes to this value chain.
What is waterjet cutting?
Cutting materials by waterjet utilizes a high-pressure nozzle to direct water and abrasive against a material to be cut. The material sits in a ‘bath’ (also known as the waterjet table) where the sprayed water drains off into. A high-pressure pump feeds a nozzle, that’s controlled by a PC-based controller, to blast water and abrasive through material. Similar to a CNC mill or lathe, a programmer creates a repeatable, exact process on a computer and utilizes that program to make ultra-precise cuts with the cutting center.
How long has waterjet cutting been around?
Waterjet cutting was first invested in the 1930s, with low pressure systems capable of cutting paper. By the 1960s, early waterjet units were capable of 100,000 PSI and could cut aerospace metal parts / shapes. These processes were generally standardized by the 1970s for aerospace and defense part manufacturing. Boeing was one of the first companies to adopt abrasive waterjet cutting for harder materials and deeper cuts.
Why is waterjet cutting important to aerospace part production?
Waterjet cutting is an important part of the aerospace supply chain because it provides a method to cut / rough intricate parts out of large bars of raw material. This process significantly decreases the costly machining portion of part production, decreasing cost to both the manufacturer and customer. Additionally, waterjet technology allows metals with high thermal conductivity (such as aluminum and streel) to be cut with minimal heat transfer.
What can be cut with a water jet?
- Stainless steel
- Cast iron
What waterjet cutting equipment does Primus use?
Primus Aerospace uses an Omax 120X JetMachining Center for its waterjet cutting needs. This allows a cutting envelop of 20 feet long by 10 feet wide by 8 inches deep. Omax machines are known for their high precision and repeatability across a variety of materials. The Omax 120X is a 5-axis waterjet cutting center.
What advantages does waterjet cutting have over traditional machining?
- No heat transfer – modern waterjet systems utilize cold water and do not create the same heat transfer profile as laser or plasma cutters
- Capable of cutting from large bars / plates – waterjet systems can often handle large blocks of raw material to begin cutting roughed parts from. For example, Primus’s cutting center can handle blocks that are up to 200 sqf.
- Minimizes wear on machine tools – roughing unique geometry parts for larger parts allows machine shops to decrease the amount of wear and tear on expensive machine tools. This allows the machine shop to focus on finishing operations, especially then the part contains difficult GD&T.
- No tool wear – Waterjet systems use only high-pressure water and an abrasive additive to perform cutting, meaning there are no tools to wear out during the cutting process.
- Capable of cutting variety of materials – Water-jet systems can cut a large variety of material types (see above) with minimal changes to the cutting center.
- Precision cuts – the computer controlled cutting nozzle of modern cutting centers, such as those from CMS or Omax, enable accuracy down to ±0.0010″
- Maximize yield from large blocks of material – When a skilled operator plans out parts to be cut from the raw material billet, minimal scrap material can be achieved through the use of planning software. The decreases the amount of material that is sent to the scrap yard and increases the yield of good parts.
What materials does Primus generally cut?
As a contract parts manufacturer for the aerospace and defense industries, Primus Aerospace uses waterjet cutting to transform large blocks of raw material into roughed parts for further machining. As part of the company’s support to commercial and government space programs, Primus uses it’s abrasive waterjet center to rough large blocks of titanium.
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