With the use of composite materials increasing every year, more and more customers are pursuing the best method for machining it for their specific application. In many cases an abrasive waterjet is the perfect tool for the job. The waterjet cuts composite materials with both speed and accuracy. An OMAX® abrasive waterjet running a 60,000 psi pump will cut through ¼” thick carbon fiber at up to 180 inches per minute while maintaining taper of less than 0.001” per side.
Other features of the abrasive waterjet that make it ideal for working with composites include its ability to nest parts as well as the easy set-up. Parts for waterjet cutting can be nested within 1/16” of each other, which means minimal waste and maximum profits. In many composite applications our customers are doing small runs with a variety of different parts. This is a very different situation than an application knocking out thousands of the same part over and over again. For a job with a whole series of part numbers you need software that will easily import and nest these parts together, and you need a machine that can quickly change from one set-up to another. An OMAX® waterjet can be loaded and ready to run in just minutes. If you need to go from carbon fiber – to G10 – to a different thickness of carbon fiber – it’s not a problem. It literally requires a few quick clicks in the software to make the change and you’re ready to start cutting.
Surface finish is another big concern for many of our customers. With the correct abrasive, composite materials can come off the waterjet with a surface finish of 0.0002” and no need for further processing. Parts cut on OMAX® machines have been extensively studied and looked at under a microscope to confirm that no abrasive was found impinged in the material. That means you can cut even consumer grade carbon fiber without fear of your material being damaged during the cutting process. Because the waterjet doesn’t alter the properties of the material being cut there’s no concern of heat damage or frosting.
In the past, the biggest hurdle for wide spread use of the abrasive waterjet for composite cutting has been piercing. During the piercing process it’s possible for delamination of the material to occur. OMAX® has released several accessories to help with this problem. By piercing at a lower pressure, selecting a specific pierce type in the software, and priming the line with abrasive, the risk of delamination can be dramatically reduced. However, if a material is found to be especially difficult to reliably pierce, OMAX® offers a pneumatic drill feature that can be mounted next to the waterjet cutting nozzle. This will guarantee 100% success when piercing your composite material. The drill will create the start hole, the waterjet nozzle will then automatically move into position over that hole, and the part will be cut from that point on using the waterjet.
With the many technological advances in the OMAX® abrasive waterjet over the years, cutting composites has become one of the many applications that are perfectly suited to waterjet cutting.