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December 2005 edition

Waterjet technology meets demands of aerospace industry

By Paul Castle

Flow International Corporation has developed a waterjet cutting tool that allows the user to cut composites at 15 to 30 inches per minute. To further extend the performance of waterjets for metal and hard-to-cut materials, abrasives have been added to the waterjet in specially designed nozzles. Paul Castle, Flow’s sales director, explains how it works.

The aerospace industry was an early adopter of waterjet technology. In the late 1970s, aerospace companies used pure waterjets to cut soft goods for the interior components of planes such as soft plastics, carpeting, foam and fabric for seats. As aerospace companies sought out ways to improve efficiency and productivity, they realised they needed a method for cutting hard materials such as composites, aluminium, stainless steel, titanium, and other applications that pure waterjets could not cut.

Aerospace companies use waterjet cutting technology for several reasons. Waterjets are a cool-cutting process that leave no heat-affected zone, are versatile in cutting many materials, can used for more than just one operation or application, and are amenable to automation and control technologies. While laser cutting is still an option for some applications, the heat that laser cutting imparts on materials can result in extreme warpage of the material and potential surface damage of parts, which may require secondary processing.

Boeing was an early adopter of waterjet cutting technology, using it to cut a wide range of materials inclu....

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Boeing Company
Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation Airframer
Flow International Corp. Metal Removal Equipment, Waterjet Equipment, Cutting Equipment

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