Fabricators, job shops, and metal service centers that provide cutting services are fighting a common battle to boost productivity and control costs. While such variables as unplanned machine maintenance and material prices, are out of the control of many – there are areas where expenses can be reduced. If your shop employs a waterjet, your choice of abrasives is one such area.
The single biggest component of operating an abrasive water jet is the abrasive itself. It’s little wonder that many jump on this as a cost-cutting opportunity. However, basing abrasive selection on price alone can be a costly mistake. Processing metal with a water jet has its advantages. Unlike laser and plasma machines, water jets do not subject material to high temperatures. This help to minimize the risk of damaging the edges of the part. Because of this, water jets are ideal for processing complex parts such as those with intricate detail, acute angles, and tight radii.
Types of Garnet
An abrasive water jet uses a stream of high-pressure water to shoot abrasive particles through a nozzle. The speed at which the nozzle is moved around the shape is determined by several factors including the type and volume of abrasive being used. As the most common abrasive, garnet is non-toxic and strong enough to cut a wide variety material. At the same time, garnet is not so hard as to wear out the water jet’s nozzle components too quickly. For waterjet cutting garnet comes in two forms, crushed and alluvial.
Sometimes referred to as “hard rock”, crushed garnet is mined from mountain range deposits. The process involves extracting and pulverizing large rocks. At this point the garnet particles are isolated from the other minerals. These particles are broken along natural fissures creating very sharp edges that cut the material being processed. Because the process to mine and produce this abrasive is extensive, garnet is an expensive alternative.
Alluvial is a sedimentary garnet, often called “beach garnet”. In contrast to crushed garnet, alluvial particles have been naturally “tumbled” over time, causing their edges to be more rounded, and lass sharp. Because the mining and processing of this garnet is relatively easy, alluvial garnet comes at a lower cost and is more widely used.
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