As young technology that it is, the evolution of abrasive waterjet machines reached a point where they can already offer a substantial benefit to manufacturing firms that are catering to the production of in-demand and most sought after surgical instruments and a wide array of other medical applications.
With their ability to hold positioning accuracy reaching to ±0.001″ and complemented by continuous technological breakthroughs in micronozzle production, a growing number of manufacturing firms in the medical instrument sphere now employ the use of waterjet machines to further strengthen their operations and productivity.
Contrary to public perception, it is not water that carries out the actual cutting work on industrial waterjet cutters. Rather, water acts as a delivery vehicle for the tiny abrasive particles such as garnet. They are being accelerated to supersonic speeds. This way they can deliver a highly productive cutting work by virtue of erosion, much in the same how a grinding process works.
Beneficial to Medical Manufacturers
Increased level of productivity is among the chief benefits a manufacturing firm is bound to enjoy if they will incorporate the use of abrasive waterjet machines in their operations. This is completely contrasting to other traditional metal-cutting methods we have. Water jet cutting substantially offers us a considerably higher rate of cutting speeds but requiring a lesser amount of time for setting things up.
The waterjet process is seamless and a straight-forward one. As for the waterjet operator, he may only need to upload a drawing of the part together with all the specifics and required tolerances. The onboard software will then take on the calculation of tool paths. After this, it will carry out the cutting data. The convenience of setup and the rate of cutting speed is giving us good reasons why this qualifies as an excellent alternative method to using for prototyping applications and large component production runs.
After some time that waterjet technology was first introduced to the world, there is no way that abrasive waterjet machines will be able to deliver tolerances, a requisite of many medical applications.
This is not true anymore for parts that need tolerances below 0.002”. Even for work that requires a high level of precision, this material cutting method can deliver substantial benefit and does so by cutting finished near-net parts with the use of an ancillary process. This also applies to part geometries that go beyond the flat dimensions produced by abrasive water jet cutting, even though the recent progress of bevel-cutting nozzle accessories broadened the breadth of geometries that this material cutting method can produce outright.
Compared to many other material cutting practices, an abrasive waterjet is a handful of key advantages. Laser discharge machining and laser technologies tend to produce heat-affected zones in and around the workpiece you are trying to cut.
HAZ (heat-affected zones) induces surface hardening and in a way alters the chemical attributes of the material. Abrasive waterjet is a qualified cold cutting process, and being such it offers users immunity from such effects. It is also an environmentally superior alternative as opposed to photo-chemical etching. Normally, this would be leaving behind a trail of hazardous or toxic waste materials.
Last, but not the least, abrasive waterjet machines would only apply a small amount of force on the material or the area you are trying to cut through. This allows for seamless and convenient cutting of delicate features that is otherwise very difficult, costly, or impossible to produce if you will only employ the use of traditional cutting methods.