Parts made by waterjet (Page 3)

This page contains information from before 2010. It is left here for archival reasons only.  Although in most cases, the information here should still be relevant and useful, please be aware that the information contained on this page may be out of date.  For the most up to date information please navigate back to the home page.

part cut from 3 inch mild steel by waterjet Several parts cut from three inch mild steel

A part made from 3″ (7.6 cm) thick mild steel

The above left part is made from very thick steel on a waterjet and took about one and a half hours to make. Typically, a part like this will take between one and a half and four hours to machine, depending on the particular machine setup used. The tolerance is quite good for the first two inches, but the bottom inch has some visible loss of tolerance. 

On the right you can see the block from which that part (and several others) has been cut. Note how closely together the parts can be placed, making maximum use of the material without compromising part integrity.

Dual waterjet nozzles

Multiple cutting heads can increase productivity on long production runs (Photo courtesy of OMAX Corporation)

To run multiple heads you need either double the pump output by using a really big pump, use two or more pumps, or run smaller nozzles. Each strategy has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost, reliability and cutting speed. Multiple nozzles is one way to compete with high-production work on thin materials that might otherwise be done with a laser.

waterjet gears cut from aluminum Waterjets make great and weird gears

Gears, racks, and sprockets machined from various materials with a waterjet

For many gear applications, the tolerances are adequate, but for ultra-high precision gears you can still use the waterjet to cut the majority of the job, then finish on a gear making machine. This saves time and tool wear on the gear making machine

Quartz glass dragon dragon cut from quartz glass by waterjet

Quartz glass dragon demonstrating the extreme level of detail that can be done for glass work (

Glass spring!

This spring was cut from 1/4″ (6mm) plate glass

Tiny waterjet part

A tiny waterjet part made with a mini-nozzle


OMAX 2652 JetMachining® Center (Waterjet machining center)

An OMAX 2652 JetMachining® center

In the above picture, you can see all the major parts of a waterjet. In the enclosure on the bottom left is the high-pressure water pump. The box with the black front on top the water pump contains the computer used to control the waterjet machine–it turns on the water pump, controls the abrasive flow, and controls the position and speed of the nozzle head.

The largest part of the machine is the machining table, with the catcher tank which collects the water and abrasive. The two large black cylinders above the tank are the X and Y axes along which the nozzle moves. (There axes are covered with black bellows that protect the precision positioning gears of the axes from dirt, grime, and spent abrasive.) The clear round cylinder in the center is filled with reddish garnet abrasive that flows through a small tube down to the nozzle.

OMAX Layout showing Gear generation command

A CAD program display: OMAX Layout for Windows

The Layout CAD software creates tool paths to be machined with abrasive waterjets and pure waterjets. The basic process of creating a tool path involves drawing the part (or importing from another CAD via DXF or other file type), then drawing leads and traverse lines (or letting the computer do so for you automatically, then saving as a tool path file to run on the machine. Carl Olsen has been heavily involved in the design and creation of the Layout software since the early 1990’s.

The screenshot above shows the “Gear” command used to creating gears and racks. Most of the gear pictures in this section were programmed with this CAD program.

OMAX Layout tracing background image

OMAX Layout for Windows showing the “Image tracing” command and a pop-up window for automatic tool path creation

Layout contains both manual and automatic image tracing features. The manual features are most useful for reverse engineering scanned parts, or doing other operations where the highest precision is required, while the automatic mode makes converting detailed artworks relatively easy. (Image of the Vashon Island / Tacoma / Seattle area of Washington State (USA) courtesy of NASA.)

OMAX Make machine tool controller showing video locator

OMAX Make for Windows

The Make software directly controls the waterjet machine, by turning on the high-pressure water pump, controlling the flow of abrasive, and controlling the movement of the waterjet nozzle at a precision of 2000 points per inch (800 points per cm). In the above picture you can see a video image of a part on the machine that is being referenced optically for secondary machining.

OMAX Make machine tool controller showing gear

OMAX Make for Windows showing a preview of the cutting speeds

The different colors shown in the preview indicate the speed of the nozzle, where yellow is fastest and blue is slower. This feedback can be used to optimize the tool path when designing a part that will be made many thousands of times. 

If you have pictures you would like to share about something you made on a waterjet, send them by with a short description of what it is, what it is made of, and any notes on how it was made.


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