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A Guide to Selecting an Abrasive for Waterjet Machining

The profitability and performance of your Water jet cutting equipment is dependent on several important factors, and one of them is abrasive type and size. To choose your abrasive, first examine the material and relevant cutting requirements. Choice of a fabricator’s abrasive should be based on an evaluation of the toughness of the material being cut along with the surface finish required. To do the job well, the abrasive product should be hard, tough, and dense enough, on top of having the right shape.

An abrasive may be natural or man-made, but it has to have the qualities below to suit your water cutting application:

How Hard is It?

When it comes to waterjet cutting, speed should not impact component wear negatively. You can use your nozzle for longer if the abrasive is soft, but the cutting speed declines. If the abrasive in question is extremely hard, work progresses rapidly but nozzle tear accelerates. Finally, your equipment’s cutting accuracy and uptime are lowered, with frequent nozzle replacement introducing more maintenance costs. To achieve a long cutting tool life and still be quick on the job, find an abrasive graded between 7 and 8 on the Mohs scale.

Excellent Density

The intensity of a water jet’s cutting force is an attribute of mass multiplied by velocity. Therefore, an ideal abrasive has the most dense particle that a stream of water accelerates to highest velocity possible. The highest cutting force is produced, ultimately. Some middle ground is necessary in this case considering an abrasive that’s too low in density is less powerful, and one that’s extremely dense never harness the full velocity potential as it saps the water jet of its momentum. An abrasive of 4.0 specific gravity would work for good cutting power and optimal velocity.


How friable or tough the water jet cutting abrasive is will certainly impact its effectiveness. Material that lacks toughness may break down within the focusing tube, losing cutting efficiency for excessive softness. Excessive toughness leads to rounding over the mixing process with the abrasive becoming too dull to cut effectively. So, choose a product with the right toughness for a reasonable breakdown rate and to create angular cutting edges.

Particle Form

Abrasives exist in a range of particle shapes, for example beards like steel shot and needle-like crystals typical of silicon carbide–an inorganic tool produced for state-of-the-art exploitation. Spherical particles may be a fabricator’s number one choice, considering that a sphere is the perfect means of carrying mass that’s projected in an extremely forceful water stream. However, some balancing must be achieved for acceleration, wear, and cutting efficiency when choosing the right particle shape for an abrasive, with any water jet cutting project.

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