Rubber water jet cutting creates custom sealing solutions without long lead times or tooling charges. A form of digital manufacturing, this CNC cutting process uses computer numerical control (CNC) to convert your computer-aided design (CAD) file into coordinates that control the machine’s movement. The results include seals, gaskets, and insulation with clean edges, chamfers, dovetail cuts, and 90° corners. Rubber water jet cutting can also produce small parts and support features like notches and vent holes.
How the Water Jet Cutting Process Works
Water jet equipment uses a stream of highly pressurized water to provide the cutting action. First, a pump generates pressures that are measured in tens of thousands of pounds. To put this in perspective, a fire hose typically delivers water with a pressure that’s less than 1000 pounds per square inch (PSI). Next, the water jet cutter converts this pressure into velocity. Water travels into the cutting heads and a jewel orifice restricts the flow as high-pressure water cuts rubber sheets or profiles on a large cutting table.
Watch this YouTube video to see the water jet cutting process with silicone profiles.
Rubber Water Jet Cutting for Harder and Softer Materials
Pure water jet cutting uses only pressurized water. By contrast, abrasive water jet cutting introduces an abrasive like garnet into the stream. This abrasive is mixed with the water and used to cut harder materials such as metal, ceramic, stone, and glass. Pure water jet cutting is used with industrial rubber products such as sponge and solid profiles for bonded gaskets, and with sheet materials that are laminated together. Abrasive water jet cutting may be used with bulb trim that contains metal wires.
Watch this YouTube video to see abrasive water jet cutting for 45° cuts for bulb trim seals.
Water Jet Cutting Speed and Machine Time
Water jet cutting is a powerful way to make fine, fast cuts. Power is a function of two factors: the amount of water that’s exiting the jewel orifice, and the pressure of the water. As a rule, a smaller orifice with lower pressure will cut more slowly than a larger orifice with higher pressure. Yet machine time isn’t just about power at the nozzle. The hardness and thickness of the material, the geometry of the part, and the software that controls the waterjet head also determines cutting speeds.
Watch this YouTube video to see how Elasto Proxy cuts thick rubber gaskets from sheet materials.
Sizes and Tolerances for Water Jet Cut Rubber Parts
Water jet cut rubber is fabricated on table with a large surface area. This size of this table supports the cutting of sandwich-style insulation that’s laminated from large sheets of thermal and acoustic materials. Yet rubber water jet cutting can also make cuts as small as 1/2” x 1/2”. With rubber gaskets, holes with diameters as small as 0.01” are achievable. It’s important to remember, however, that part tolerances are also a function of the material – and a reason to refer to RMA Tables during gasket design.
Download the RMA Handbook and see these tolerance tables for yourself.
Water Jet Cut Gaskets vs. Manual Gasket Cutting
Water jet cutting services can produce fast, precise, and consistent cuts that are hard to make with manual cutting methods. With hand tools like knives, the quality of cuts on a Monday morning may differ from the ones made at mid-day Wednesday or on Friday afternoon. Uneven cuts make it harder to bond rubber gaskets, and the amount of shop waste from mis-cuts can be significant. Plus, water jet cutting won’t deform rubber profiles. The cuts are quick and match the part schematics every time.
Water Jet Cutting Costs vs. Die Cutting and Digital Knife Cutting
Unlike other machine-based cutting methods, water jet cutting is a tool-less process. By contrast, die cutting requires metal tools called dies that can be expensive to buy and may take weeks to arrive. Digital knife cutting doesn’t require custom tooling, but customers still need to buy a set of knives or at least pay for their use. Water jet cutting avoids tooling fees and even eliminate setup changes. Plus, if an engineer revises a part design, there’s no tooling to scrap.
Rubber Water Jet Cutting for Lower Volumes and Smaller Manufacturers
Elasto Proxy uses water jet cutting to fabricate custom sealing for prototypes and production runs. These specialized solutions aren’t just for large companies with high production volumes, however. Small-to-medium manufacturers (SMMs) can also save time and money by replacing in-house gasket cutting with outsourced fabrication. Marine MetalCraft, the subject of a recent article in Canadian Fabricating & Welding magazine, provides an excellent example.
Is rubber water jet cutting right for your application? Contact Elasto Proxy to discuss your requirements.