Selecting Proper Fit-to-Size Metal Cutting Method, Part 2

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Selecting Proper Fit-to-Size Metal Cutting Method, Part 2

fit-to-size metal cutting method

In part one of this two-part blog, we went over a couple of the common cutting formats used for steel and other metal jobs that require cut-to-size pieces. There are a few options at your disposal here depending on the exact material you’re cutting and some of its additional properties, and knowing which can save you significant time and hassle.

At Wasatch Steel, we’re happy to provide tips on cutting for steel tube, pipe, sheet and any of our other steel products. In today’s part two of our series, we’ll dig into another major type of cutting that uses a very different energy source than the others, plus go over some very broad areas that will help you quickly choose between our three options.

Pros and Cons of Waterjet Cutting

While the other two processes we detailed in part one of this series are thermal processes, meaning they draw their energy from heat, waterjet cutting is different. It’s known as a mechanical cutting method, one that’s powered by a high-pressure stream of water that’s strong enough to actually cut through metal. Water moves through a cutting head, often combined with an abrasive material to help with tougher metal types and increase the flow speed. While the process is taking place, a tank is placed on the opposite side of the material as the cutting head, and extra water or metal is collected in this tank.

The primary benefit of waterjet cutting is its versatility. It works on virtually any metal type you can name, and even many other materials outside the metal world as well. It’s also known as a very clean and smooth cutting format, one that doesn’t come with any flames or other heat danger like plasma or flame cutting. And because there’s no heat impacting your steel or its mechanical properties, the results are highly standardized.

However, you’ll want to avoid waterjet cutting if your material is thick and particularly hard. Quality may be lower for these cuts, which might also take significantly longer. Another possible downside of waterjet cutting is the cost of equipment and maintenance, which can be high compared to the other methods.

Choosing Between Plasma, Flame and Waterjet Cutting

A simple guide to when you should consider each of the three cutting types we’ve listed in this series:

  • Plasma cutting: If you need a quality cut in a fairly short turnaround for metals that aren’t more than 3-4 inches thick, plasma is the way to go.
  • Flame cutting: If you’re cutting thicker steels or cast iron formats, flame cutting is a great outlet that also keeps equipment costs low.
  • Waterjet cutting: If precision is a key variable for you, and especially if you want to also avoid risks of properties changing due to heat, waterjet cutting should be your choice.

For more on which cutting method you should choose, or to learn about any of our steel services or products, contact the pros at Wasatch Steel today.