Dive Into the Waterjet Cutting: The Work Principle, Advantages, and Limitations

  • Updated: June 25, 2024

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Michael Yu

As a compound talent with History, Filmmaking, and Digital Manufacturing background, Michael Yu has dedicated his life to dispelling misconceptions about the manufacturing sector and transforming it into a fascinating and competent industry.
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One recurring and popular superpower in fantasy comics and films is to turn water into blades for fighting. But today it’s not quite so magical, as waterjet has already becomes a well-established fabrication technology.

Let’s take a look at how this Frostmourne of manufacturing industry cuts off the dad… the unwanted part of workpieces.

 What is waterjet cutting?

Xmake-waterjet cutting

By this part, I’ll try use simple words to show you what this technology is, how it’s been invented and developed.

Basic explanation

Waterjet cutting is a versatile method used in various industries for cutting a wide range of materials with high precision. It uses a high pressure water stream as cutting tool, use this special cutter to erode the material and create clean, smooth cuts.

This technology is widely used in many different areas, include but not limited by aerospace, automotive, and engineering.

Brief history of cut machine

Back to 1950s, researchers discovered that a high-pressure jet of water could be used to cut a variety of materials. But the first commercial water jetting machine needs to wait until 1970s to put into practice.

Originally, it was used for cutting softer materials, such as paper and food products. With the progress of technology, it gradually started to cut harder materials like metal, stone, and glass with precision and accuracy.

How does Water jetting Works?

XMAKE-Water Jetting-work principle

Okay, I believe you already understand what is this technology. Now, I’ll show you how waterjet technology works, two types of cutting, and its relationship with CNC.

Work principle

Waterjet technology works by using a high-pressure stream of water mixed with garnet abrasive to cut through materials. The pressurized water forced through a small waterjet nozzle at high speeds, allowing it to cut(more precisely, erode) through materials such as stainless steel, plastic, and stone.

Pure water and abrasive: two types of waterjet

There are two main types of waterjet. Pure waterjet cutting is used for softer materials like rubber or foam, and abrasive waterjet cutting, which is used for harder materials like metal or stone.

Both of them are versatile and efficient, making them popular choices for industries ranging from aerospace to manufacturing.

Waterjet system and CNC

Waterjet is a kind of CNC technology, you can call it CNC waterjet as well. By input specific instructions into a computer program, the CNC machine can follow precise cutting paths to create intricate shapes and designs with consistency and reliability.

How do manufacturers use waterjet cutting?

XMAKE-Waterjet cutting-how manufacturer use

Manufacturers use water jetting in many industries that requires high precision and quality cutting processes. Let’s take three waterjet applications as example:

In aerospace sector: waterjet is widely utilized for precision cutting of materials like aluminum, titanium, and composites for aircraft components, like turbine blades, internal parts and structural elements, which requires highest precision quality to avoid any possible error.

In automotive industry: They waterjet for metal parts in engine, such as pistons, connecting rods or crankshafts made of durable metal. Also, the high precision and low waste makes it very suitable for automotive decorative trim.

In engineering applications: waterjet is preferred for its ability to cut metals, plastics, and glass without heat-affected zones or mechanical stress.  It contributes a lot whether in manufacturing circuit boards, components, or diagnostic equipment and structural elements.

What is the Advantage of Waterjet Cutting?

XMAKE-advantage of waterjet cutting

I believe you already understand what is water jetting cut and how it works. And now I’m gonna answer other problems appears in your mind: Why do manufacturers choose to cut with a waterjet? What stuff can this technology produce?

Flexibility in dealing material

This technology is widely used in many different industries for its ability to cut wide range of materials, including metal, plastic, soft materials, foods, and composite materials.

This technology behaves especially well in metal process, since the tool can easily cut through the toughest metals. It also performed great on delicate plastic materials for its high precision in avoid material damage. Additionally, waterjet is perfect for composites, as it can cut through layers of different materials without any issues.

Avoid heat affected

Water jetting uses water to cut materials, which means it does not generate any heat during the process.

The absence of heat affected zone leads to two potive result. On one hand, it means minimal warping or distortion of the material. On the other hand, it makes waterjet an extremely clean and precise technology. Both of them ensures the high quality of final product.


Waterjet has great eco-friendly reputation. Traditional methods like laser or plasma cutting inevitably releases harmful gases into the air, but the air around waterjet machine smells like Tibetan plateau..

Another key benefit of waterjet is that it generates less waste. The bufferfly effect of high precision leads to the minimization of material wastage and reduces the need for excess resources, which also save a lot of money.

What is the limitation of Waterjet Cutting?

XMAKE-limitation of waterjet cutting

Well, one can be lucky, rich, powerful, but one can’t have all good stuff in the same time. Like other industrial technology, waterjet also has its limitations and unsuitable situation.

Let’s what this cutting requires, lack of, and be bad at.

Slow Cutting speed

You can’t have your cake and eat it. Choose precise, you’ll needs to accept the slow speed of the cutting. Compare with the speed of other fast cutting techniques like laser cutting, waterjet looks like a Beetle trying to catch up with Ferrari.

The problem comes from the nature of process. Whether pure water cutting or abrasive water cutting, it requires the stream of water to erode a narrow way in material, which obviously slow the process down.

High initial investment cost

Money doesn’t means everything, but no money means nothing. While waterjet offers precision and versatility in cutting materials, the initial cost drives many businesses crazy.

Espacially to many small businesses, The initial investment, which includes purchase machinery, acquire and install the equipment, training, and specialized knowledge needed to operate machine, lookes like an astronomical figure.

Stuck for thickness

There is a ‘Wall of sighs’ between flexible and omnipotent, so does waterjet with some materials. Waterjet can cut metal up to a certain thickness easily, but can do nothing with more thickness-pronounced materials like cut glass or ceramic.

These materials are harder and more brittle, which makes waterjet hard to cut through thicker sections without causing damage.


conclusion of waterjet cutting

In conclusion, waterjet cutting has become an efficient cutting method in modern manufacturing. It has significant advantages in precision, accuracy, eco-friendly and versatility in dealing materials, but also shows limitations in speed, price and in dealing some material. In specific industrial production, whether use or not and how to use water jet should be decided according to specific needs.

XMAKE and Waterjet

As the leading digital manufacturing platform, XMAKE has advanced technical support and sufficient production experience in waterjet. If our esteemed reader have needs in waterjet services, you are welcome to press the link and let us solve your problems.

Frequent Asked Questions:

Q1: What is the waterjet cutting tolerance level?

A: Waterjet cutting usually offers high precision and tight tolerances, with some machines capable of achieving tolerances as low as +/- 0.002 inches.

Q2: How does waterjet cutting differ from flame cutting?

A: Waterjet cutting is a cold cutting process that uses a high-pressure stream of water to cut materials and often preferred for materials sensitive to heat, while flame cutting relies on heat to melt or burn through materials.

Q3: What are the key components of a waterjet machine?

A: Waterjet system typically includes a high pressure pump, cutting nozzle, cutting stream, and optional abrasive material. These components work together to create the cutting device required to process various materials.

Q4:Compare Laser Cutting and Waterjet Cutting, what’s their suited qpplication scenario?

Former is more suitable for cutting thinner materials and intricate designs, while the latter is ideal for cutting thicker materials and materials that are sensitive to high temperatures.

Q5: What is the future of waterjet?

A: The future of waterjet holds promises of even faster cutting speeds, improved efficiency, and advancements in cutting tolerances to meet the demands of various industries.

Q6: What is the role of abrasive jet in waterjet?

A: Abrasive jet in waterjet refers to the process that uses a mixture of abrasive particles and high-pressure water to enhance the cutting power and precision of the waterjet stream.


  1. Waterjet cutting technology principles and characteristics – Scientific research information – Science Compass. (n.d.). https://shiyanjia.com/knowledge/articleinfo-1846.html
  2. Richards, A. (2024, May 6). Top 5 Industries Using Waterjet Cutting Technology. Proleantech | Custom Parts On-Demand Manufacturing. https://proleantech.com/zh-CN/top-5-industries-leveraging-waterjet-cutting-technology/

  3. Classification and application of high-pressure water jet cutting technology-Scientific research information-Science Compass. (n.d.). https://shiyanjia.com/knowledge/articleinfo-1847.html 


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