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What is a Waterjet?

Abrasive jet and Water Jet technologies have been around for years.  Waterjet cutting has been a specialty technology used in a wide variety of industries since about 1970.  Around 1993, big advances in the technology were introduced that have caused this technology to become very popular for machine shops. 
A waterjet is a tool used in machine shops to cut virtually any material with a (very) high-pressure stream of water and abrasive.

How a water jet cutter works.

A water jet can cut a "sandwich" of different materials up to four inches thick. This odorless, dust-free and relatively heat-free process can also cut something as thin as five thousandths of an inch. The tiny jet stream permits the first cut to also be the final finished surface. This single cutting process saves material costs and machining costs. For example, the engineer merely gives a gear drawing to the cutting shop via a diskette or e-mail and gets the finished gear back.

Waterjets cut softer materials, while abrasive jets are used for harder materials. The actual cutting is often done under water to reduce splash and noise. Faster feed rates are used to prevent the jet from cutting all the way through.