When considering what machine to use to cut specialty metals and alloys, it’s important to consider a variety of factors. Your decision must be guided by material type, thickness, ability to machine post cut, and how much tolerance your operation has for post-cut processing.
When it comes to materials like titanium, stainless steel, and other specialty alloys, this is even more true. Getting a quality cut while avoiding damage to the material is even more critical given the cost of the materials. You can’t afford to be throwing away materials because of heat damage.
What are Alloys? Why are they Difficult to Cut?
An alloy is a substance made my melting two or more elements together with at least one of those elements being a metal. Specific alloys are used for their chemical and/or physical properties that make them useful for certain products and/or applications. Typical improvements alloys allow over single-element metals include:
- Corrosion resistance
- Improved resistance to wear and tear over time
- Special electric or magnetic properties
- Improved heat resistance
Specialty metals and alloys are notoriously difficult to cut. This is because they are often very dense materials that require special care making them hard to machine as well. Enter water jet machines.
Cutting Titanium and Stainless Steel with Water Jet Machines
Two alloys that are particularly well suited for use with water jet machines are titanium and stainless steel. Let’s explore.
Stainless steel is a ferrous alloy that contains a minimum of 11% chromium that prevents the iron in the steel from rusting and also provides significantly better heat resistance. It’s low maintenance and looks great which makes it ideal for a variety of applications. While it is common to cut low gauge stainless steel with lasers and plasma, there are disadvantages to that. First, the extreme heat created with these methods can cause unwanted hardening of the material. Second, machining can be made much more difficult due to poor edge quality (requiring deburring).
Titanium can be easily alloyed with other elements to produce strong, lightweight metals for industries such as aerospace, military, automotive, agriculture, medical, and more. It has an incredible strength to weight ratio, a high melting point, and is resistant to almost all corrosion.
Specialty Alloys and Super Alloys
Specialty alloys and/or “Super Alloys” are developed for very specific applications. They are very high in strength, resistant to corrosion and more specifically, they maintain those properties under extreme temperatures. Some examples of these materials include:
- Tool Steels
These are high-value, application specific metals tailored for the products they’re used in.
Benefits of Using Water Jet Machines in these Applications
For these types of metals, water jet machines are the ideal cutting tool as they maintain several advantages over their alternatives like lasers and plasmas:
- Water jet machines are capable of cutting much thicker pieces of these alloys than any other cutting system – up to 8” for stainless steel and aluminum block alloys up to 20” thick.
- Water jet cutters have no HAZ (heat affected zones). The process is cool – meaning there is no risk of deformation, warping, and/or damage to the material during cutting. These are extremely high-value and high-cost metals with very little room for error during cutting.
- Water jet cutters support detailed geometry with extremely tight tolerances meaning less or no machining required post cut
- Because of the cool nature of the cutting process, there are no fumes or hazardous vapors creating during the cutting process
Talk to Jet Edge
Water jet machines are a fantastic fit for cutting specialty alloys. Compared to alternate cutting systems, water jet machines have many advantages. However, there are many different configurations available, and getting the right one for your application is crucial. Talk to us at Jet Edge today before making a purchasing decision. We'll have a one on one conversation about what material you’re cutting, and work with you to design a custom machine that fits your exact application.
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