by Yun-Han Lin
The most common cutting machine for Makers is perhaps a laser-cutter. It is lucky of us that our studio received an invitation to introduce a waterjet, and the following are a few notes that we have.
Traditional waterjets are for industrial processing. The machines are bulky, so they are often set up in factories or work stations. We visited UHO Hydrotech Precision Co., Ltd in Wugu district, where there are three types of waterjets with different specs in their factory that covers an area of hundreds of square meters. The largest one is the FLOW Mach 500, which costs tens of millions, and the working station is huge.
A waterjet uses water at pressures up to 55,000 ~ 87,000 psi that sprays out from a nozzle as small as 0.001~0.016 inches. This tool, adopting pure water, is capable of cutting a wide variety of materials including paper, fiber, and sponge. If you wish to cut harder substances, a mixture of water and abrasive such as hard sand will allow it to cut all materials.
The biggest difference between waterjets and laser-cutters is the temperature. Laser-cutting feature laser that burns the material, which often produces lots of exhaust gas, smell of burn, and toxic gas. On the burnt material will also be tar or carbon residuals. The heat even shrinks, softens, or hardens the processed material. In comparison, waterjet hardly results in deformation, due to the heat, residual stress, and hardened surface. There will also be no changes caused to the metal in its texture.
The disadvantage of using a waterjet is that it is hard to predict the price. Pricing for using traditional waterjet depends on the type of materials to be cut and the quantity. It is suggested that users ask for a quotation before getting started. In addition, the location is inconvenient for Makers looking for smaller projects, as most factories are located in industrial districts.
New small-sized waterjet
The product we are presenting this time is the WAZER Desktop Waterjet from the U.S. The size is 85 x 65 x 56 cm, and it is compatible to the 110v power in regular households. The water source is tap water, and the drainage can be done simply through regular household drain hole. It is easy to install as well. As for how it works, it is pretty much the same as traditional ones, but it only runs with a mixture of water and sand. The current price in Taiwan is about NT$ 400,000 to 500,000.
The working station is 30 x 46 cm, and the materials to be cut include metal, glass, stone, tile, carbon fiber board, and rubber board. It is a pity that it cannot cut wood boards, and the maximum cutting thickness is less than 2cm. Although this model trades certain functions for the small size, it is quite powerful already for most creators and Makers for their projects!
Yet, this model runs with a certain volume of noise, much the same with that of a laser-cutter. There are also other shortcomings. First, the nozzle and pipe are easily blocked by sand. Second, its upper cover is not designed with a seal for the sake of a better appearance, so there will be a nick where the cover is closed, resulting in constant water splashes during operation. The third is that the precision of cutting is no high. After our trials, I believe this model is suitable for schools, studios, or designers that need frequent design proof, and also for artists or creators who often need to process hard materials. Although there are still many restrictions, compared with the functions of models of a larger size, it is still quite convenient to have a model like this at home!