A few days ago, some friends of mine from Microsoft stopped by with some junk Xbox circuit boards. So, we stuck them under a waterjet machine, and cut them to bits.
Circuit board under the waterjet, ready to be sliced to pieces
Notice the fixturing for the circuit board consists of weights along the side. The biggest force on a material of this type will be upwards from the water welling underneath the part.
Xbox logos waterjet cut from circuit boards
The circuit boards, and components on them cut quite nicely. I was surprised how clean the cut turned out to be.
The word “Xbox” only took maybe a minute to cut or so. Most of the time on these was spent trying to find a way to hold the circuit boards flat without moving around during cutting.
Xbox logo cut from an Xbox circuit board
A circuit board with letters cut in it. Notice how the pins on the connector were severed in half right down the middle.
After spending some time cutting up the circuit boards, we decided to cut the entire box. (Remember, this are non-working Xboxes!)
Waterjet cutting of a prototype Xbox
A prototype Xbox cut into an “X”
Close-up of Xbox cut by a waterjet
After cutting, the Xbox was filled up with gunk (mostly abrasive), so we had to hose it out with fresh water. In the above picture, notice how it’s a pretty clean cut near the top, but the air pockets disturbed the jet as it continued cutting, creating a more ragged cut as it continued through. If you were cutting a solid block of steel of this thickness, the results would actually be quite a bit better, because the sides of the steel would keep the jet coherent. One trick for making the jet more coherent for this part might have been to fill it with wax, do the cut, then melt the wax out later. That would help prevent the air from disturbing the jet.
The cutting took about 40 minutes or so. We cut it quite slowly to get a better quality cut, and also to make sure that it would completely cut through in areas of thick metal, such as the vertical fins of heat sinks, and such. We probably could have cut it faster, but we played it safe since this was the first time we’d cut something like this.
Xbox 360 with waterjet cut out
This Xbox 360 with the circle cut in it was done a bit faster, in about 20 minutes. The reason for cutting a circle, is because “360” is the number of degrees in a circle.
Desktop Xbox 360 emblems
The next thing my friend wanted to do was to create some desk emblems for the Xbox 360 team. One of the great things about having access to a waterjet is the ability to create new and different things quickly, and from a variety of materials. For this project, we decided we wanted to cut an “X” from a sphere—a task that would be difficult to do with most traditional machining tools.
Fixture for cutting an “X” out of a spherical bearing
A special fixture was cut, using the waterjet, to hold a stainless steel bearing still, so we could precisely locate its center, and cut an “X” logo right in the middle. The fixture was made by simply cutting a piece of ½” (1.2 cm) aluminum plate in the shape shown above. A slot was cut down the center so that the clamp can have something to squeeze to hold the bearing. This worked quite well, and was pretty easy to do. Since the fixture itself was cut on the machine, we knew exactly where the center of the hole was, so we could start our cutting of the “X” exactly in the center as well.
Xbox 360 logos
The bearings placed into aluminum plates (also cut out with the abrasivejet) to make cool desk toys for Microsoft folk.
These logos are trademarked, so they went to Microsoft people only, and done in a very small quantity. They are not available from this web site.
Some useful links
If you are interested in making your own parts that reflect your own hobbies, you can look into having a waterjet job shop cut pieces for you.
- waterjet job shops (places that can cut stuff for you)
- waterjet machine tool manufacturers (places that can sell you machines, or refer you to even more job shops)
Techniques for working with brittle materials, such as granite and marble.
When cutting laminated materials with a waterjet, you need to use some techniques to keep the water from getting between the layers and ruining the material.
A discussion about how to cut glass with a waterjet to minimize broken and chipped parts.
Parts made by waterjet
Four pages of various parts made by waterjets, plus some pictures of waterjets and screenshots of software.