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Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a page dedicated to our waterjet and laser cutting customers. We receive a variety of questions on numerous occasions about our laser and waterjet cutting services, so it seemed to be a good idea to make it easier for our customers to get answers! If your question or concern does not fall into any of these categories, feel free to contact us and ask a FedTech associate.

For definitions and explanations, see our Glossary Page. Or, if you want to ask a question and get an instant response, check out our blog at http://fedtechmn.blogspot.com.

Does abrasive waterjet cutting cost the same as laser cutting?

No, waterjet cutting is actually the more expensive process. This is due to the slower processing rates, coupled with the large amount of consumable material involved. Although multiple cutting heads, tight nesting capabilities and the ability to layer some materials do help to offset these additional costs, generally speaking, abrasive waterjet cutting is a more costly process than laser cutting.

Do you cut glass?

Yes! Our abrasive waterjet cutting services are great for contour cutting of glass. We have done countless projects involving cutting glass, and the cuts look amazing when they're done. However, some types of glass may be more fragile than others. If there is a specific type of glass you'd like to cut but are unsure about it, feel free to ask a member of our sales team.

Do you reverse engineer?

Yes, we can reverse engineer depending on the part and what needs to be done. Our Virtek machine gives us the ability to reverse engineer parts as large as 48" x 48", by generating a CAD file that can be used in our waterjet cutting and laser cutting process. See a reverse engineering project we have done here.

What file type do I need to send in to get a quote on my part(s)?

We will take files in many forms including; DXF, IGES, DWG, and PCX. If you have another type of file, feel free to consult with a member of our sales team before requesting a quote.

Do you have in-house inventory that you can use on my job?

Of course! We stock all kinds of material, including; 300 series of stainless steel (such as 303, 304, 316, and 321), Aluminum (including 2024, 3003, 6061, 5052, and 7075), carbon steels (CRS, HRS), super alloys, plastics, rubber, foam and more.

How fast can you have my parts done?

Lead-time for waterjet cutting and laser cutting orders is typically 1-2 weeks and often times, deliveries in just a couple days are possible.

Do you cut titanium?

Yes, abrasive waterjet is an ideal process for cutting titanium.

Do you do titanium welding?

It depends on the project, we can offer titanium welding depending on the application and requirements of each project.

Do you do laser welding?

No, laser welding is one area that we do not specialize in at FedTech.

Do you cut customer supplied materials?

Yes, we also inventory a large variety of materials such as 300 series of stainless steel (including 304 and 316), carbon steels and several alloys of aluminum.

How thin/thick of material does your abrasive waterjet cut?

Abrasive waterjet processes materials from .0005" to 12".

What is the largest plate size you can cut?

Our largest plate size to waterjet cut would be 144" x 360".

Does abrasive waterjet cut hardened metals?

Yes, we can use waterjet to process hardened metals ranging from 20-70 Rockwell C.

What size of kerf is generated with the abrasive waterjet process?

The kerf width can be as small as 0.020" for waterjet processing of thin materials or up to 0.055" in thick materials. Also, kerf on non-abrasive waterjet is .006".

Is there any taper on the part after cutting?

Yes, there is often times a taper when waterjet cutting a part, however it can be eliminated on certain materials.

What tolerance can you hold?

Our common tolerance for waterjet cutting is ±.005", however a tolerance of ±.003" is very achievable as well.

What are your prices?

There's really only one way to find out, we quote each project based on the waterjet cutting, laser cutting, or in-house processing that will need to be done. The price varies depending on material costs and the size of each project, so there really isn't a way to give prices without knowing these factors.

How thick can you cut?

Our waterjet can process materials up to 12" thick. On the water-only waterjet, we have processed materials up to 3", however it really depends on the material. Laser metal cutting can process materials up to about 3/4" (carbon steel) in thickness.

What are the limitations of waterjet cutting?

Four materials that we do not use waterjet cutting for are; Tungsten, Tungsten Carbide, Lead and Beryllium Copper. Tungsten is an extremely hard material, and Beryllium Copper releases poisonous Beryllium into the air. Because of this, these are materials that we do not process with our waterjets.

What kind of abrasive is used in abrasive waterjet cutting?

Garnet is the most commonly used abrasive for waterjet cutting. Since abrasive is one of the most expensive things in abrasive waterjet cutting, Garnet is a nice choice as it's one of the least expensive options.

What types of materials can you laser cut?

We can use laser cutting to process many different types of materials such as stainless steel, Hastelloy, aluminum, and carbon steel.

Can you describe abrasive waterjet cutting?

As you might know, waterjet cutting has been around for years. The process is a means of cutting countless types of material, much faster and with much higher quality than traditional methods of tooling. Waterjet has the capability to easily process materials like stainless steel, titanium, alloy steels, and many more. The best part about waterjet cutting is the fact that it has no heat-affected zones. This means that the metals do not get hardened or damaged in any way during the process of cutting, leaving no further work to be done with the parts. With that being said, it's important to point out that there are two types of waterjet cutting; abrasive waterjet cutting, and water-only cutting (also known as pure waterjet). In water-only cutting, the cutting stream erodes the material.

However, in abrasive waterjet cutting, the abrasive particles shear the material after being accelerated through the waterjet stream. This process is much more powerful than water-only cutting. The abrasive is often made up of tiny garnet particles. The particles start as a pile of abrasive, and are delivered through tubing to arrive in the mixing chamber. From there, the abrasive is mixed in with the water and the two are rapidly projected down through the nozzle. The nozzle creates a perfect cutting stream to produce exact cuts with exceptionally smooth edges.

How thick of aluminum can be laser cut?

Laser cutting can usually be used to cut aluminum up to 1/8" thick. Since the dust from aluminum is actually flammable, a lot of times it is better to use waterjet cutting for aluminum. Not to mention, aluminum is a reflective material, so we try to avoid cutting thick aluminum because it can damage the lens on the laser.

I've heard of water-only waterjet cutting. What is it? Why would I choose that over abrasive waterjet cutting?

The most obvious difference between the two is the lack of abrasive in pure waterjet cutting. Since abrasive waterjet is more commonly used on hard and thick materials, water-only is often used for processing materials such as PTFE, plastics, neoprene rubber, foam board, composites, cellular silicone, nylon reinforced rubber, and virtually any flexible material.

Water-only processing has no heat affected zones, as to not alter any of the materials being processed. Water-only waterjet generates a fine jet of water with very high energy. Water-only cutting is a non-contact process which means there is minimal lateral effect on the part. It can also be used to process materials ranging from .004" to .010" in diameter. Another reason why you might choose water-only processing is for its cleaner processing. When abrasives stream through soft, light-colored materials, they often leave a dirty trail behind them. However in water-only cutting, there are no abrasives, thus no trail and the results look much more pleasing. Abrasive waterjet cutting and water-only cutting both offer many benefits. Both have: cutting tolerance up to +/- .003", burr-free parts, multiple-head cutting, tight nesting of parts, and the ability to produce parts for many different industries. These industries include; defense, architectural, automotive, food processing, agriculture, mining, packaging, public utilities, pulp and paper, shipping, medical, aerospace, power plants, and more.

Can you laser cut HY-80 material?

Yes. HY-80 can be laser cut, only up to about 3/4" though. If the material is thicker than this, a good alternative might be waterjet cutting, which can cut up to 12" HY-80. See our material list here.

When should I choose waterjet cutting over laser cutting?

If your project involves cutting thick material over 5/8", then you should use waterjet cutting. If your project involves cutting aluminum, copper, brass, titanium, wood, acrylic, plastic, or requires no heat affected zones, then you should use waterjet cutting. If your project involves processing thinner stainless steels, or carbon steels, then you most likely will choose the laser cutting route. Laser cutting is also a little less expensive, as it uses less consumables than waterjet cutting.

How thick of steel can waterjet cut?

Our waterjets can cut up to 12" thick in nearly every material, steel included. If you require material that is thicker than 12", feel free to contact one of our sales team members and they can help guide you in the right direction.

What is 'burr'?

A burr is a raised or jagged edge on a metal part, most often appearing after it has been processed. Generally speaking, it's unwanted material that can be fixed using a process called deburring.

You can learn more about deburring by taking a look at our value-added page of our website, or listen to our deburring podcast.

In manufacturing, when people say,"rounds", what does that mean?

Basically, a round is a thick circle part cut from a long bar of material. Most often seen in stainless steel (SST).

How can I cut acetal?

Your best bet for cutting acetal is most likely water-only waterjet cutting. Here's a link to a project that was waterjet cut from acetal.

How can I cut blocks of aluminum?

Have you seen our aluminum blocks case study? That's definitely worth checking into. The answer to the question is waterjet. Waterjet can cut up to 12" thick aluminum blocks very well.

What is the best way to cut"AR" steel?

"AR" means abrasion resistant, including AR236, AR400, AR500, etc. The best way to cut these materials is laser cutting.

How can I cut urethane?

We usually use water-only waterjet cutting for urethane parts. We can also machine urethane.

What are some renewable materials used for waterjet cutting?

As far as renewable or recyclable materials that you can cut with waterjet, this could include bamboo, cork, plastic (polycarbonate, acrylic, nylon, polyethylene, HDPE) or rubber (foam, silicone, urethane, vinyl, neoprene) and more. We also process numerous composites with waterjet this can include glass, ceramics, linoleum, and others.

We consider FedTech's waterjet cutting 'green' because we:

  • Recycle our abrasive that is used in our cutting process
  • Recycle our water from our RO systems
  • Recycle all of our metals
  • Test our air compressor system plant wide for leaks and reduce air pressure to optimum levels

Should I use waterjet cutting or laser cutting for acrylic?

Some laser machines have the capability to accurately laser cut acrylic, otherwise you can choose to waterjet cut acrylic. It all depends on the intricacy of the design and the thickness of the material. Simple designs can easily be cut on the waterjet table. At FedTech, we only use waterjet cutting to process acrylic.

What is the best cutting method for polycarbonate; abrasive or non-abrasive waterjet cutting?

Depending on how thick of material you are using, we would recommend using water-only waterjet for polycarbonate up to .032". From there, you may have to switch to abrasive waterjet which cuts up to 12" thick.

Can phenolic be laser cut? How about foam board?

Yes, they can be laser cut. But we do not laser cut these two materials at FedTech, we use waterjet cutting instead.

Can a waterjet cut plastic?

Yes, it can. You'd want to use water-only waterjet cutting but abrasive waterjet cutting would work as well. It would depend on the application you'd be using the plastic for.

Can you cut armor plate with waterjet?

You can, and we do! We usually laser cut armor, but we're able to waterjet cut armor plate and ballistics up to 12" thick and from all different types of plate. Click here to see a specified page on the topic.

Can you define"high speed machining"?

Oh yes, and we have defined it in our glossary section of our website. Jump to the H's here.

What's the difference between cutting stainless steel with a laser or a waterjet?

That's a great question. The most basic differences can be seen in 1) heat affected zones, which laser cutting has and waterjet does not have. 2) laser cutting typically cuts up to 5/8" thick stainless steel. Anything thicker than that and you may need to use waterjet cutting. 3) Laser cutting typically has tighter cutting tolerances, so if your part includes intricate designs and is less than 5/8" thick, then laser cutting is the ideal choice.

How can I cut thick aluminum sheets?

Thick aluminum plates can be cut easily with abrasive waterjet cutting. See a thick aluminum project that we cut here with waterjet to get a good idea of how it works.

How can I make a custom gasket?

You can order it from us. First request a quote and we'll get you pricing. Then we can waterjet or laser cut it to your dimensions and tolerances. Choose your material according to your application (ie. heat resistancy, soft/hard material...) Visit our gaskets page here.

How do I laser cut acetal?

You don't. At least, we don't. We typically waterjet cut acetal. Since waterjet cutting leaves no heat-affected zones, it's our best bet for clean cuts and unwarped/unmelted material.

I'd like to see some laser cutting videos, where can I find some?

Our Youtube account is a great place to start. It features a few laser cutting videos and also some waterjet cutting videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/WaterJetter08

What are some industries that waterjet serves?

Waterjet can serve almost any industry. We tend to see a lot of customers coming from machine shops, custom fixtures (lighting, panels, etc.) renewable energy segments, medical parts, custom military and defense vehicles, other automotive industries, architectural and art sculptures, appliance components, gaskets and flanges, custom flooring (tile and such) and so much more. See this page for a full list of industries we serve.

For other questions, Contact FedTech today to request more information about our waterjet and industrial laser services or to request a custom quote!

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