Should we be able to sustain the current wave of progress and development in the technology working behind water jet cutting machines, there is a good chance that abrasive waterjet cutting applications will be advancing even further in the medical parts manufacturing sector.
To give you a glimpse of what is happening now, for instance, the development of micro-miniature waterjet nozzles has already started. It is expected to set the cost benefits of waterjet cutting and productivity available to a wider spectrum of medical applications. The majority of which though would be involving micromachining of small components.
When it comes to micromachining of medical components, to come up with top-caliber quality, the use of extremely precise water jet streams is of paramount importance. However, if you try to shrink the sizes of traditional waterjet nozzles to make them generate thin, precise streams, you’ll come across 2 major challenges. The vast majority of waterjet manufacturers have struggled with this for the longest time.
The use of an extremely fine garnet will help in producing an effective narrow stream. Unfortunately, the use of small particles of garnet runs the risk of clumping. Moreover, you’d probably have a hard time in getting yourself a smooth flow of materials that your cutting process might require.
Clumping usually occurs in the machine feed tubes. If this occurs, it may pave the way for a non-uniform or intermittent stream and this can result in skipped cuts. Sometimes it can also wreak damage to the part material being worked on.
Besides the non-uniformity of cuts wrought out by the challenges found in abrasive particle feeding, mixing tubes and small nozzle orifices can produce a water column that can remain seated within the tubes.
The low speed fronting the abrasive waterjet stream impacts the water column surface. This can produce a backsplash and runs the risk of wetting the mixing chamber’s residual abrasive particulates or feed port entrance. The risks of clogging will continue to rise substantially if there is going to be a sustained accumulation of wet abrasives in these areas.
A good number of waterjet manufacturers resorted to a handful of different approaches. They believe that doing so would help them find their way around the non-uniform abrasive flow and clogging issues. Over the years, top manufacturers did various kinds of trial and error approach with water flushing and vacuum assist techniques. They’re in a desperate attempt to finally eradicate clogging issues and abrasive flow.
Sad to say, most of the time what they came up with are just unsatisfying results, nozzle designs were a bit bulky with multiple ports. Aside from that, there are also modifications of ejectors, connecting tubes, control software, water pumps, and other devices. In the end, these complicated systems will negate the technology’s time benefits and parts of the costs.
Why Waterjet Cutting Machine Technology?
In comparison to the various conventional metal cutting techniques we have around, abrasive waterjet systems deliver substantially higher speeds in cutting, greater ease of use, reduced amount of time in setting the system up.
Waterjet system operators only need to upload a drawing of a part, indicating already the various specifications of the material together with the required tolerances. The onboard software will then take on calculating the tool paths before it begins to carry out the cutting data.
Waterjet machines are giving the manufacturing firms catering to the needs of the medical sector the flexibility to handle the cutting of a wide spectrum of materials. Fabricating shops will just indicate the material change that is within the machine controller.
No other equipment or programming would be necessary to go from the cutting of ceramics or metals to other materials. With respect to material thickness and type, it will automatically make adjustments to the machine’s X and Y axes. By this measure, the level of productivity is maximized while sustaining the required precision.
Lastly, in comparison to a piece of stamping equipment or any other established traditional metal cutting methods, the use of abrasive waterjets necessitate you exert only a small amount of force on handling workpieces subject to cutting.
In the case of a waterjet cut machine, this allows the medical sector to cut highly delicate part features that would be either very costly to produce or just way too impossible to accomplish if you will only employ traditional machining methods.