Water Jet Services

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) offers commercial and government clients access to advanced water jet facilities and more than ten years of experience in the innovative application of water jet technology to a wide range of cutting and cleaning problems.

An abrasive water jet tool cuts a 0.25-inch-thick stainless steel plate in a single pass.

Water Jet Technology

Water jet systems enjoy several noteworthy advantages over other cutting methods: speed, precision, minimal thermal and mechanical stress, limited material loss, and reduced environmental contamination by dust and fumes. Because water jet technology creates little localized heat, water jet cutting is particularly desirable for use with hazardous or heat-sensitive materials.

An abrasive suspension microjet can make cuts as narrow as 0.006 inch in width in materials as thin as this 0.02-inch-thick quartz plate.

Suspension Microjet Cutting

Standard water jet systems cut with a fine, high-pressure jet either of water alone (for soft materials, such as food, cloth, or cardboard) or of a water-abrasive mixture (for hard materials, such as rock, concrete, glass, metal, carbides, or others). SwRI has patented a novel variation on the abrasive water jet technique that suspends the abrasive material in a water-based gel, which is collimated into a high-velocity cutting stream. This patented abrasive-suspension microjet cutting system goes beyond conventional water and abrasive cutting techniques in providing a high-speed, high-precision cutting capability while significantly reducing system size and power requirements. The tightly focused, high-energy suspension microjet makes cuts as narrow as 0.006 inch and is ideally suited for micromachining applications.

An abrasive water jet tool cuts holes into a 105-mm artillery shell, allowing removal of hazardous materials.

Cleaning and Blasting

In addition to its usefulness and versatility as a cutting technique, high-pressure water jet technology offers an ideal means of removing paint and other deposits from a variety of surfaces. Operating at pressures as high as 35,000 psi, water jet cleaning tools strip paints, epoxies, sealants, rust scale, biogrowth, and many other deposits without damaging the base material and without introducing harsh solvents and chemicals into the environment.

SwRI's Water Jet Lab: An R&D and Service Facility

SwRI's water jet laboratory provides high-pressure pumping capabilities of up to 55,000 psi and is equipped with a two-axis, computer-controlled cutting table that can be programmed manually or with CAD/CAM. The laboratory is available both for research and development activities and as a service facility for clients with specialized cutting or cleaning needs.

Expert in all aspects of water jet technology, SwRI engineers and technicians assist in evaluating clients' cutting or cleaning requirements and in finding cost-effective, creative, and application-specific solutions to a variety of cutting or cleaning problems.

Food products and other soft materials maintain their integrity when cut with SwRI-developed water jet cutting methods.

Water Jet Cutting Systems

  • Cut a wide range of materials, including food products, cloth, cardboard, plastics, rubber, explosives, propellants, metals, ceramics, composites, glass, rock, and concrete

  • Produce almost no localized heating, permitting use with hazardous or heat-sensitive materials

  • Minimize material loss and damage

  • Eliminate burrs, prevent delamination, and reduce finishing requirements

  • Produce little dust or fumes

  • Permit high-speed, high-precision cutting (as fine as 0.006 inch in width)

  • Use less cutting force, eliminating the need for expensive fixtures

An Institute technician uses a high-pressure hand-held water jet tool to strip epoxy paint deposits from an antenna mast.

Water Jet Blasting and Cleaning Techniques

  • Remove deposits or coatings such as paints, epoxies, sealants, polymers, rust, scale, biogrowth, and laitance

  • Can be used to clean or strip a variety of surfaces

  • Cause little or no damage to the base material

  • Use no harsh solvents or chemicals
This brochure was published in November 1995. For more information about water jet services, contact William D. Perry, Department of Space Systems, Space Science and Engineering Division, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510, Phone (210) 522-2747, Fax (210) 647-4325.

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