Waterjet Technology-An Introduction to Waterjet Milling

This Waterjet Weekly is written by Dr. David Summers, Curator Professor from The University of Missouri Science and Technology.

This Waterjet Weekly is written by Dr. David Summers, Curator Professor from The University of Missouri Science and Technology.

In contrast with the earlier use of high-pressure waterjets in material removal in civil engineering and mining, when industrial waterjet cutting first began it was used to make thin cuts through different materials (in the early days often paper and wood products). Through cutting, particularly in relatively thin stock, has a wide range of industrial uses, particularly when the pieces are cut “cold” and with edge qualities that are, even with the first cut acceptable as the final surface cut needed for the part.

Over time the advantages of this new cutting tool became more apparent, and the range of materials that the AWJ jet could viably cut was extended into metals and ceramics. Yet conventional machine tools do more than just cut the edges of parts, and so questions arose as to the best way to achieve the milling of internal pockets within different materials. Within relatively soft rock, and with pressurized water alone, it is possible to generate interesting shapes.

When we first started experimenting with cutting rock at Missouri University of Science and Technology (MO S&T) the support equipment that we had was very basic, and the budget similarly restricted. In order to achieve precise positioning and control of the speeds during the cutting process, we therefore mounted the nozzle and support lance on the traverse of a conventional lathe. The samples were mounted into the chuck, so that we could achieve controlled cutting speeds. To get a number of sample cuts in a single test we placed a sheet of metal, with slots cut into it, between the nozzle and the rock.

Figure 1. Rock rotates in a lathe while the nozzle traverses across the face.

Figure 1. Rock rotates in a lathe while the nozzle traverses across the face.

The notches cut into the metal plate were cut wide enough to allow the jet to make a single pass over the rock surface as the rock rotated and the nozzle swept past the slot, and they were widely enough spaced that the cut made through one slot did not interfere with the adjacent cut made through another.

Figure-2.-Slots-cut-through-the-mask-into-the-rock-target

Figure-2.-Slots-cut-through-the-mask-into-the-rock-target

After a while we became a little more adventurous and realized that, by making the mask an interesting shape that we could leave part of the rock uncut, but mill out all the rest of the material exposed to the jet, by adjusting the feed rate of the nozzle relative to the rotational speed of the rock.

We thought at first that the feed of the nozzle (easy to set with the lathe) should be one jet diameter for each rotation of the rock, but the jet spreads as it moves away from the nozzle and this turned out to be a little too small a distance, and we ended up setting the feed at about 1.5 times the jet width. This “incremental distance” is going to vary between systems, as a function of nozzle design and size, jet pressure and the distance between the nozzle and the target. In this early work in the technology (this was back around 1972 IIRC) the nozzle stood back from the rock at about one inch standoff. In more modern applications that distance can be quite a bit less, and this changes the incremental distance. Also bear in mind that the speeds at which plain high-pressure waterjet cuts are most efficient are much higher, across the target surface, than the optimal speeds for AWJ work.

So, since there was a need to remind folk that waterjetting could be dangerous if proper care was not taken during its use, we used this idea and made a sculpture.

Figure-3.-Skull-figure-carved-out-of-sandstone

Figure-3.-Skull-figure-carved-out-of-sandstone

For simple lettering and shapes such as that shown above, the practice was to cut the desired shape into a metal plate, using perhaps a cutting torch, and then attach this over the rock. The two locations for the retaining wire can be seen on the sides of the piece. This allowed the plate to rotate with the rock piece as the lathe turned, and did away with the stationary plate between the nozzle and the sample.

By adjusting the feed speed and the rotation speed of the piece a relatively smooth surface could be left in the excavated pocket. (See the depths of the eye sockets). The process is known as “Masked” milling, since the plate masks the sections of the rock that the jet should not be allowed to mill into.

This works well when the work piece allows the use of plain high-pressure water, since it is relatively simple to make the mask out of a material (in this case steel) that the jet would not erode significantly. Thus the same mask could be used repeatedly to make copies of the original (though I think, in this case we only made around three or four).

But what happens when the jet is an abrasive waterjet, and we want to make pockets in the same way as I have just described. Because the AWJ will cut through a thin mask it was not an optimal choice for the process.

One can, with precise control of the nozzle position, have the jet move back and forwards over the desired pocket geometry. With the more accurate controls available today it is possible to slow the nozzle as it reaches the end of the pocket, increment it over the desired distance, and then have it cut an adjacent path back along the material to the start side of the pocket. Here the process would be repeated, moving backwards and forwards until the desired pocket geometry had been covered.

The problem with this approach is that the depth of cut into the target is controlled, in part, by the length of time that the jet plays on any one point, or inversely as the speed with which the nozzle is moving over the surface. So moving the nozzle more slowly as it approached the edge of the pocket (which you have to do because the robotic arm driving the move can’t instantaneously stop, increment over, and reverse direction because of the inertia in the system) is problematic. This is true only however if the pocket has to have a smooth regular floor of a fixed depth but most, unfortunately, do. And slowing the nozzle at the end of the cuts means that the depth of the pocket would be deeper along the pocket profile, relative to the body of the cut.

And so, for lack initially of an alternative approach, for some time the industry used masks that would protect the sides of the pocket, and provide a space over which the nozzle could decelerate, increment over, and turn back. The mask would be eroded away, but in desirable parts (often expensive to make in the desired material) the ability of the abrasive waterjet to make the pocket in the first place allowed the expense of the mask to be written into the cost of making each part.

There is, however, at least one other way of doing this, and I will discuss that, next time.

Waterjet Technology-Determining Angles of water blasting

Dr. Summers Waterjet Blog

KMT Waterjet Systems Weekly Waterjet Series

How times change! I was reading a column in the British Farmer’s Weekly, and came upon this, where the author is discussing the need for a generator:

It will also be vital to keep the fuel flowing into the tractors, and power the pressure washer, and light the security lights, and all the other essentials of an average arable farm.

It is an indication of how far the use of pressurized water has come, that it is now seen, at the lower end of its application, as a vital farming tool. Which is a good introduction to talk a little further about the use of cleaning streams, and how to interact with differing target materials.

There was an initial first step, when someone would send the lab a mystery block of material and asked – how do I cut it? Generally the samples were small, but we would find a flat surface on the material, and carefully point a jet nozzle perpendicular to this surface. (In the early stages this was hand-held). When a jet strikes a surface, but can’t penetrate it, then it will flow out laterally around the impact point, under the driving force of the following water.

The test began with the jet at low pressure, and this was slowly raised, until the point was reached when the pressure was high enough to just start cutting into the material. At this point the jet had made a small hole in the target, and so the water flowing into that hole had to get out of the way of the water following. The sides of the hole stop it flowing laterally, and so it now shoots back along the original jet path. This spray can hit the lance operator if the nozzle is hand-held, but it is a fairly graphic way of determining the threshold pressure at which the material starts to cut. (and I’ll get into what happens as the pressure continues to go up in a future series of posts).

But for the purpose of cleaning, the jet has to move over the surface, once it has made that initial hole, at pressure. But, in many materials, if the jet comes vertically down onto the target, then only the material directly under the jet will be removed.  And so the jet has to be played on every square inch of the surface in order to ensure that it is cleaned, or that the coating/layer is removed. In some sandstones, for example, two jet paths could be laid down, almost touching one another, and yet the rib of material between them would remain standing.

 

Adjacent jet passes in sandstone, the cuts are about an inch deep, but note that even though the narrowest rib is about 1/8th of an inch wide, it is only when the cuts touch that the intervening material is removed.

Adjacent jet passes in sandstone, the cuts are about an inch deep, but note that even though the narrowest rib is about 1/8th of an inch wide, it is only when the cuts touch that the intervening material is removed.

Yet that rib of material was, in that case, so weak that it was easy to break it off with a finger. (This turns out to be a weakness in making delicate sculptures out of rock). To use the full pressure of the water can be a waste of energy, if the material is very thick, since it all must be eroded with such a direct attack.

Yet the minimum amount of material that needs to be removed is that that attaches the layer to the underlying material (the substrate concrete, steel etc) and this can be quite thin. Thus, in attacking a softer material, particularly one that can be cut with a fan jet, a shallow angle directed at the edge of the substrate can be more effective.

Round v fan cleaning from Hughes (2nd US Waterjet Conference)

Round v fan cleaning from Hughes (2nd US Waterjet Conference)

Because there is a balance between cutting down through the material to be removed, and cutting along the edge to grow the separation crack between the materials, some practice is needed to find, for a given condition, what that angle would be.

Choice of angle from Hughes (2nd Waterjet Conference)

Choice of angle from Hughes (2nd Waterjet Conference)

The more brittle the material, then the greater the angle to the surface, since rather than just erode the material, the jet may also shatter the layer into fragments that extend beyond the cut path. But otherwise using an angled jet to the surface can be more effective. Hughes (from whose paper at the 2nd Waterjet Conference I took these illustrations) has a simple test for orifice choice.

How target response influences nozzle selection. (Hughes 2nd Waterjet Conference)

How target response influences nozzle selection. (Hughes 2nd Waterjet Conference)

Some of the more advanced cutting heads use a series of nozzles that spin within an outer protective cover, as they remove anything from layers of damaged concrete to thin layers of paint from ship hulls. Increasingly these are connected to vacuum systems that will draw away the spent water and debris from within the contained space, without it entering the work space, and creating problems for the worker.

In order to reduce any collateral damage to the surroundings these jets are often made very small (thousandths of an inch in diameter) so that their range is short, and they are inclined outward to cut to the edges of the confining shield.

We have had some success in turning those angles the other way, so that they cut into the shield, rather than away from the center, and also so that each jet is directed towards the path of the next jet around the circumference. The intent in this case is to allow the use of a slightly larger jet, with a greater cutting range. In this case the individual cleaning/cutting path is a little larger, but because the jet at then end of the cut moves into the range of the adjacent jet, then any remaining energy that it and the dislodged debris still have, will not be enough to get through this second jet.

Inclined jet and shroud design.

Inclined jet and shroud design.

The action of each jet then becomes not only to cut into and remove material, but also to contain the spent material from the other jets dispersed around the cutting arm, and to hold the debris in the center of the confinement for the very short time needed for it to be caught up in the vacuum line.

In all cases the choice of pressure, nozzle size, and operational factors such as angle of attack, come down to the target materials, those that have to be removed, and those that need to be left undamaged. And it is why it is useful, at the start of any new job, to take the time to do a little testing first, to make sure that the right choices of nozzle and angle have been made to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Incidentally the idea behind the test of effective pressure, that the jet flows laterally when it hits something it can’t cut, can help, for example in easing the meat from the bone when a jet cuts a deer leg.

Cut across a deer leg, note how the jet has cleaned off the meat from the bone, undercutting the flesh.

Cut across a deer leg, note how the jet has cleaned off the meat from the bone, undercutting the flesh.

Labels:angle of attack,cutting flesh,fan jets,jet cleaning,shrouds,waterjet cutting

Waterjetting Technology-Repairing Concrete

This Waterjet Weekly is written by Dr. David Summers, Curator Professor from The University of Missouri Science and Technology.

This Waterjet Weekly is written by Dr. David Summers, Curator Professor from The University of Missouri Science and Technology.

With the record snow falls and ice storms in The United States this 2013 season, and knowing that there is STILL one more month of winter, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss damage to concrete roads and how waterjetting technology has assisted in cleaning roads and bridges.

Some years ago we were on a bridge in Michigan, working on a demonstration of the ability of high-pressure jets to remove damaged concrete from the surface of the bridge. Before the demonstration began the state bridge inspector walked over the bridge armed with a length of chain. He would drop the lower links of the chain against the concrete at regular intervals, and depending on the sound made by the contact, would decide if the concrete was good, or not. He then marked out the damaged zones on the concrete, and suggested that we get to work and remove those patches.

Automated removal of damaged concrete with water pressure

Automated removal of damaged concrete with water pressure

The change in the sound that he heard, and used to find the bad patches in the concrete, was caused by the growth of cracks in that concrete. It was these longer cracks, and delaminations in the concrete that made it sound “drummy” and which identified it as bad concrete.

Now here is the initial advantage that a high-pressure waterjet has in such a case. The water will penetrate into these cracks. As I mentioned in an earlier post, water removes material by growing existing cracks until they intersect, and pieces of the surface are removed. The bigger the cracks in the surface, the lower the pressure that is needed to cause them to grow. This is because the water fills the crack, and pressurizes the water, the longer the crack, the greater the resulting force, and thus the greater the ease in removing material.

At an operating waterjet pressure of between 11,000 and 12,500 psi, for a normal bridge-deck concrete, the cracks that are long enough for an inspector to call the bridge “damaged” will grow and cause the damaged material to break off. The pressure is low enough, however, that it will not grow the smaller cracks in “good” concrete, which is therefore left in place.

Damaged area of bridge after jet passes.

Damaged area of bridge after jet passes.

In order to cover the bridge effectively and at a reasonable speed, six jets were directed down from the ends of a set of rotating crossheads, within a protective cover. The diameter of the path was around 2 feet, and the head was traversed over the bridge so that it took about a minute for the head to sweep the width of a traffic lane.

Scarifying jets, with the head raised above the deck so that their location can be seen. Normally the nozzles are positioned just above the deck, so that the rebounding material is caught in the shroud.

Scarifying jets, with the head raised above the deck so that their location can be seen. Normally the nozzles are positioned just above the deck, so that the rebounding material is caught in the shroud.

Unfortunately, while this means that the rotating waterjet head could distinguish between good and bad, and remove the latter while leaving the former, it could not read marks on concrete. So where the bridge inspector was not totally accurate, the jet removal did not follow his recommendations. It was, however, quite good at removing damaged concrete from reinforcing bar in the concrete, where the water migration along the rebar had also caused the metal to rust. And, since the pressure was low enough to remove the cement bonding, without digging out or breaking the small pebbles in the concrete, they remained partially anchored in the residual concrete. As a result when the new pour was made over the cleaned surface, the new cement could bond to the original pebbles, and this gave a rough non-laminar surface, which provided a much better bond than that left had the damaged material been removed mechanically with a grinding tool.

Rebar cleaned by the action of the jet as it removes the surrounding damaged concrete.

Rebar cleaned by the action of the jet as it removes the surrounding damaged concrete.

Waterjets had an additional advantage at this point in that, in contrast with the jackhammer that had previously been used to dig out the damaged region, but which vibrated the rebar when it was hit, so that damage spread along the bar outside the zone being repaired, with the jet action there was no similar force, so that the delamination was largely eliminated.

Now this ability to sense and remove all the damaged concrete is not an unmixed blessing. Consider that a bridge deck is typically several inches thick, and it is usually sufficient to remove damaged concrete to a point just below the top layer of the reinforcing rods. Once the damaged material is removed, then the new pour bonds to the underlying cement and the cleaned rebar. But the waterjets cannot read rulers either. So in early cases where the deck was more thoroughly damaged than the contractor knew at the time that the job began, the jet might remove all the damaged concrete, and this might mean the entire thickness of the bridge deck. And OOPS this could be very expensive in time and material to replace.

What was therefore needed was a tool that still retained some of the advantages of the existing waterjet system, that it cut through weakened concrete, and cleaned the rebar without vibration, but that it did so with a more limited range, so that the depth of material removal could be controlled.

There was an additional problem that also developed with the original concept. For though the jets removed damaged concrete well in this pressure range, the jets were characteristically quite large (about 0.04 inches or so). The damaged concrete is contaminated with grease and other deposits from the vehicles that passed over it. Thus any large volumes of cleaning water would also become contaminated, and, as a result will have to be collected and treated. That can be expensive, and so any way of reducing the water volume would be helpful.

The answer to both problems was to use smaller jets at higher pressures. Because of the smaller size, their range is limited, and at the same time the amount of water involved can be dramatically reduced. It does mean that the jet is no longer as discriminatory between “good” concrete and “bad.” This is not, however, a totally bad thing, since when working to clean around the reinforcing rods, there has to be a large enough passage for the new fill to be able to easily spread into all the gaps and establish a good bond.

Thus the vast majority of concrete removal tools that are currently in use are operated at higher pressures, and lower flow rates. This allows the floor to be relatively evenly removed down to a designated depth, and this makes the quantification of the amount of material to be used in repair to be better estimated, and the costs of disposal of the spent fluid and material to be minimized.

Scarified garage floor showing the rough underlying surface. This will give a good bond to the repair material, as will the cleaned rebar.

Scarified garage floor showing the rough underlying surface. This will give a good bond to the repair material, as will the cleaned rebar..

The higher pressure system has the incidental advantage of reducing the back thrust on the cutting heads, so that the overall size of the equipment can be reduced, allowing repair in more confined conditions.

 

 

Waterjet Technology – An intro to water jet structure

 

Dr. Summers Waterjet Blog

KMT Waterjet Systems Weekly Waterjet Series

Waterjet Technology – An intro to water jet structure

Once a waterjet starts to move out of the nozzle with any significant speed, as the pump pressure begins to build, it becomes more and more difficult to look at the stream of water and get any realistic idea of its structure. Mainly what is seen is the very fine mist that surrounds the main body of the jet, and while some idea of the structure can be obtained by making cuts through material, it can be quite expensive to actually see within that structure. Part of the problem is that though the mist is very fine, it is also moving at speeds in the range of a couple of thousand feet per second. The human eyeball isn’t quite that fast. But we can use a very high-speed flash (in this case it was on for two millionths of a second) which has the effect of “freezing” the motion.

Figure 1. 40,000 psi jet issuing from a 0.005 inch diameter orifice, front lit.

Figure 1. 40,000 psi jet issuing from a 0.005 inch diameter orifice, front lit.

However this mist still hides the solid internal structure of the jet and does not change much in relative structure, even when the internal jet conditions can be quite different. Fundamentally the internal structure was described by Yanaida at the 1974 BHR Group Waterjet Conference, and his description has been validated by many studies since.

Figure 2. The break-up pattern of a waterjet (Yanaida K. “Flow Characteristics of Waterjets,” 2nd BHRA Conf. 1974, paper A2.)

Figure 2. The break-up pattern of a waterjet (Yanaida K. “Flow Characteristics of Waterjets,” 2nd BHRA Conf. 1974, paper A2.)

This structure holds for jets across a wide range of pressure and flow volumes, but it is difficult to determine the exact transition points of that structure conventionally. And this can lead to very unfortunate results. I have twice seen people back a nozzle away and then move their hand in front of the jet to show that even high-pressure jets (these were being used to cut paper products and had no abrasive in them at the time) could be “safe.” If both cases the individuals were very lucky to escape injury (water can penetrate the pores of the skin and lacerate the internal parts without any surficial signs of injury, and, as I showed last time, if the nozzle is too close it will slice through flesh and bone). I thought to take today’s post to show, though the use of photographs, why that was such a stupid action.

The photos that follow were taken in Baxter Springs, KS, which has been recognized as the Birthplace of Waterjet Cutting.

Baxter Springs, Kansas. Birthplace of Waterjet Cutting.

Baxter Springs, Kansas. Birthplace of Waterjet Cutting.

In the early 1970’s we used, what was then a McCartney Manufacturing waterjet intensifier, (today KMT Waterjet Systems) to shoot jets of varying pressure, and nozzle diameter along a path, so that we could see how coherent the jets were. As I mentioned above, the problem with looking directly at the jet is that the internal structure is hidden by the surrounding mist. To overcome that part of the problem we shone the light along a ground glass screen (to diffuse it) that was placed behind the jet, so that we could see the outline of the internal structure.

Figure 4. Arrangement for taking photographs of a high-speed jet.

Figure 4. Arrangement for taking photographs of a high-speed jet.

This more of the downstream mist from the photograph, and a much better idea of the internal structure of the jet, and where the solid section ended could be measured.

Figure 5. Backlit, 30,000 psi jet issuing from a 0.01 inch diameter nozzle, the distance across the photograph is 6 inches.

Figure 5. Backlit, 30,000 psi jet issuing from a 0.01 inch diameter nozzle, the distance across the photograph is 6 inches.

The benefit of the technique is perhaps more evident when nozzles at different pressures and diameters and different chemistry are compared. First consider the change with an increase in jet diameter. From the front-lit view there is little difference in the jets. From the backlit, it is clear that the smaller diameter jet only reaches 3-inches across the screen, while the larger jet barely reaches the end of the range.

Figure 6. The effect of doubling the orifice diameter at the same jet pressure on jet range, the photo length is 6 inches.

Figure 6. The effect of doubling the orifice diameter at the same jet pressure on jet range, the photo length is 6 inches.

One of the parts of the study we were carrying out in 1974 was to examine the effect that adding different long-chain polymers had on jet structure. The ones that we were looking at include some that are now used in the oil and natural gas industry to make the “slick water” that is used in the fracking industry to improve production from shale reservoirs. But it also has an advantage in “binding” the jet together. And so, in the study, Dr. Jack Zakin and I tested a wide range of different polymers to see which would be give the best jet.

There were a number of different things we were looking for. In cutting paper, soft tissue and water sensitive material for example, the polymer can bind the water sufficiently well as to further lower wetting to the point where it doesn’t have an effect. It also can improve jet cutting under water – but I’ll cover those in a few post on polymer effects that will come to later in the series.

The effect of a polymer (in this case an AP273) is shown in two tests where the only change was to add the polymer to the water for the lower one.

Figure 7. Jets with an orifice diameter of 0.01 inches at a pressure of 20,000 psi, the range is 6 inches, and the lower jet has had the polymer AP273 added to the water.

Figure 7. Jets with an orifice diameter of 0.01 inches at a pressure of 20,000 psi, the range is 6 inches, and the lower jet has had the polymer AP273 added to the water.

The narrower stream in the lower frame is the effect that we were looking for. Putting change in diameter and the better polymers together gave, as an example, the following:

Figure 8. The effect of changing jet pressure, nozzle diameter and polymer content on jet cohesion.

Figure 8. The effect of changing jet pressure, nozzle diameter and polymer content on jet cohesion.

It might be noted that the jet in the bottom frame has as much relative concentration (and power) at the end of the range as the top jet had at the beginning of the range.

Now it all depends on what you want the jet to do, as to which condition you wish to achieve. Inside abrasive mixing chambers the object is much different than it is when the object is to cut a foot or more of foam with high quality edges. And there have been some interesting developments with different polymers over the years, but I’ll save those stories for another day.

But bear in mind that those individuals who could slide their fingers under the jet in the top frame of figure 8 would have had them all cut off if the jet had been running instead under the conditions of the bottom two frames, and in all three cases, to the naked eye the jets looked the same.