Waterjet Cutting Technical Tips

Waterjet Cutting Technical Tips2023-01-26T12:32:22-05:00

Waterjet Cutting Technical Tips

Customers often have a variety of technical and application questions about the proper selection, performance, and use of BARTON abrasives.

In addition to the information found elsewhere on this website, this section is provided by various experts at BARTON regarding topics that have come up frequently in conversation with customers. We hope you find the information helpful. Of course, if you have a question that’s not addressed in this section, don’t hesitate to call 800-741-7756. BARTON customer service professionals are always ready to answer your questions.

Selecting the proper mixing tube, and orifice gemstone

Stephen Podnorszki, Director of Waterjet Parts

Which Roctec Mixing Tube Is Right for You?2019-08-22T10:06:37-04:00

Using a high-quality mixing tube (sometimes referred to as a nozzle) such as Kennemetal’s ROCTEC composite carbide is vital in maintaining accuracy and peak performance from your abrasive waterjet cutting equipment. The mixing tube combines the high-pressure stream of water with the abrasive directing it to the cutting surface.

BARTON carries the ROCTEC 100, ROCTEC 500 and ROCTEC APX mixing tubes in a wide range of sizes at our two waterjet parts distribution warehouses. ROCTEC mixing tubes are considered the industry standard for waterjet cutting and consistently offer longer life than other waterjet mixing tubes.

Without a high-quality mixing tube, the kerf widens, cutting speed is reduced, and cutting precision is diminished as the original optimum jet pattern and abrasive velocity are lost. Reject rates also increase, and time is wasted replacing the mixing tube.

Superior wear reduces the frequency with which mixing tubes need replacing. That longer life also helps maintain the integrity of the jet pattern and velocity. The result is faster average cutting speeds, greater dimensional accuracy, the ability to perform longer uninterrupted cuts, and less downtime for mixing tube replacement.

The question we often get from customers is, “Which ROCTEC nozzle is best for my operation?” Here are some key facts to consider about the three models. And, of course, customers can call to discuss their operation in detail to determine the best choice.


ROCTEC APX extends abrasive waterjet nozzle life as much as 20% over industry-leader ROCTEC 500. They are reported to provide a longer period of uninterrupted, precision cutting with fewer required nozzle changes. APX nozzles maintain cutting accuracy because of uniform bore growth (wear) resulting in a reliability advantage.


ROCTEC 500 composite carbide mixing tubes are harder and typically last 30% to 40% longer than ROCTEC 100 mixing tubes. Using ROCTEC 500 mixing tubes reduces downtime, maintenance effort, and finished-product losses. It is recommended for 87K to 100K PSI applications and is especially beneficial for long-duration and unattended cuts on expensive material that could be damaged in the event of a mixing tube failure during the cut. ROCTEC 500 mixing tubes are better suited for applications where a smaller ID mixing tube is needed to achieve a narrower kerf. They can also be expected to hold tighter cutting tolerances longer, and are typically priced 15% higher than ROCTEC 100 mixing tubes.


ROCTEC 100 mixing tubes are made with the same Rapid Omni-directional Compaction (ROC) manufacturing process as ROCTEC 500 mixing tubes, but they are made with a composite carbide which is not quite as hard as a ROCTEC 500.

ROCTEC 100 mixing tubes are best suited for shorter duration cuts with less demanding tolerances. ROCTEC 100 mixing tubes come in at a lower price point, but consistently perform better than competitive brands of mixing tubes.

ROCTEC is a trademark of Kennametal Inc.

Choice of Orifices: Ruby and Sapphire vs. Diamond2018-12-20T14:49:34-05:00

The orifice assembly is a key component of the waterjet cutting process. Its function is to direct the high-pressure stream of water through the mixing tube where it draws in the abrasive and delivers it to the cutting surface. Diamond orifices are highly regarded in the industry or waterjet cutting. Ruby and sapphire orifices are also used.

Ruby and sapphire orifices are considered functional equivalents. They are commonly used in less-critical applications because they are susceptible to damage in high-pressure applications when abrasive particles impact the sides of the orifice. The impact of these particles can damage the inlet edge and compromise the quality of the waterjet stream. Ruby and sapphire orifices usually cost between $15.00 and $50.00 and can last anywhere from 1 to 40 hours.

Diamond orifices are known to produce a more cohesive stream than a ruby or a sapphire. A more cohesive stream can result in longer mixing-tube life and increased cutting power. Diamond orifices cost between $425.00 and $500.00 each, are generally warrantied for 500 hours, and consistently meet or exceed the 500 hours. It is not uncommon for an operator to get 1,000 hours or more from a single diamond orifice.

Diamond orifices are recommended for use with 87K to 100K PSI equipment and are typically preferred for long-duration cuts on expensive material that might be ruined in the event of an orifice failure mid-cut. The cost of a ruined part because the cut was compromised by a damaged orifice can far exceed the initial upfront cost of purchasing a diamond orifice as compared to a ruby or sapphire orifice.

Diamond orifices also result in significant cost-efficiency because they require less maintenance and wear longer, requiring fewer replacements.

Operators running multiple cutting heads can also realize the added value of using diamond orifices. Ruby and sapphire orifices have a shorter, more unpredictable usable life than diamond orifices. That shorter life cycle adds to increased downtime, especially on multi-head machines.

And while diamond orifices are preferable for a variety of reasons, there are times when less expensive ruby and sapphire orifices are often chosen. Operators who cut a wide variety of materials that do not have exacting specifications, and change orifice/mixing tube combinations often, may prefer to use less expensive ruby or sapphire orifices, since the frequent handling of the components during regular replacements creates greater potential for loss or damage. More expensive diamond orifices would present greater financial risk to the operation.

Protecting the orifice against damage is always a good strategy. Whether ruby, sapphire or diamond orifices are chosen, the useful life of any orifice assembly can be improved by adding a short-stop filter assembly in the high-pressure line before the on-off valve to eliminate the risk of contaminants entering the line and damaging the orifice. If a short-stop filter assembly is employed, periodic cleaning with an ultrasonic cleaner is recommended to remove calcium deposits and extend the life of the orifice.

Determining Optimal Abrasive Feed Rates

Stephen Podnorszki, Director of Waterjet Parts

How can I achieve the optimal abrasive feed rate?2019-05-08T12:00:05-04:00

The optimal abrasive feed rate is essential to achieve ideal cutting efficiency, precision and reliability of any waterjet operation. The abrasive feed rate directly impacts the quality of the cut, cutting speed and the volume of abrasive used. Improper feed rates can result in clogging in the mixing tube, overuse of abrasive, slow cutting and poor edge quality.

Abrasive feed rates will vary depending on a variety of factors. The mesh size, or grade, of abrasive being used is the largest factor that affects feed rate. So is the type of abrasive being used. For example, BARTON’s ADIRONDACK HPX garnet has extremely sharp edges while our HPA alluvial garnet abrasives have slightly rounder edges. Due to HPX abrasives having sharper edges, HPX tends to flow a little slower through the same size metering disk than our HPA abrasives. Other factors that affect abrasive feed rates include humidity changes and the condition of the abrasive feed hoses.

Abrasive feed issues can also occur if the abrasive regulator is not grounded. Ungrounded abrasive regulators can build static in the feedline to the cutting head and slow or stop abrasive feed.

The abrasive metering charts provided by OEMs are a great starting point to ensure use of the optimal abrasive feed rate for a specific application. However, it is always good practice to perform an abrasive calibration test and physically measure the amount of abrasive being fed from the abrasive regulator. Most OEMs recommend performing this test weekly or anytime there is a change to the abrasive mesh size, abrasive type, equipment change, or other factor that is known to affect feed rate and overall cutting performance.

A simple feed rate test can be performed by following these steps:

  1. Follow OEM-specified instructions for calibrating abrasive feed.
  2. Remove the abrasive feed line, or feed block if so equipped, from the bottom of the abrasive regulator.
  3. Using a stopwatch, or test function available in some OEM software, turn on the abrasive feed and run the abrasive for exactly one minute into a container such as a plastic sandwich bag. Weigh the container prior to feeding the material to get its tare weight.
  4. Weigh the abrasive sample using an accurate scale.
  5. Subtract the tare weight of the bag or container to get the weight of the material. The feed rate is X lbs. of abrasive per minute.
  6. Run this test two or three times using the same test specification and conditions to ensure you’re getting consistent weights.
  7. Adjust metering disk sizes up or down to get to the desired feed rate, and repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 to once again ensure that the proper feed rate has been achieved. Test until you are confident that you have an exact feed rate.
  8. Enter the exact feed rate into your software settings.


Choosing the right waterjet abrasive for your application

Thomas H. Riggs, Waterjet Market Manager

How do hardness, density, toughness, and particle shape effect the performance of a waterjet abrasive?2019-02-20T11:30:00-05:00

Selecting the right abrasive type and size for a waterjet cutting application can make a significant difference in the performance and profitability of your waterjet equipment.

Abrasive selection begins with an examination of the material and the cutting specifications. How difficult the material is to cut and the desired surface finish are two factors important to determining the proper abrasive to use. The abrasive product needs to have hardness, density, toughness, and a consistentparticle shape.

Virtually every abrasive known to man—both natural and synthetic—has been considered for use as an abrasive in waterjet cutting. Almandine garnet has emerged as a mineral with the best characteristics for waterjet cutting. Other minerals may be harder, heavier, or lower in cost, but almandine garnet emerges as the one abrasive with the best combination of characteristics for waterjet cutting. The naturally occurring material is mined and processed for numerous industrial applications in addition to waterjet cutting, such as blasting media and water filtration applications. The common almandine garnet is brownish-red in color and opaque. The much rarer, gemstone-quality almandine garnet is marked by a deep red color and is transparent.

Other abrasives can be used in waterjet cutting. Aluminum oxide is harder than garnet and is sometimes used for cutting very hard materials such as ceramic. One drawback, however, is that using aluminum oxide dramatically shortens mixing tube life, increasing the cost of the operation.  Staurolite is a naturally occurring mineral with a density and hardness similar to garnet and is an economical general-purpose waterjet abrasive. Softer abrasives like olivine can be used for cutting less-demanding materials such as aluminum.

A closer look at abrasive characteristics

Natural attributes and mineral processing have a direct effect on how the abrasive material will perform as a waterjet abrasive. A fabricator should be aware of how these four key attributes affect the performance of the abrasive.

Hardness. Waterjet cutters need to balance cutting speed and component wear. Using a soft abrasive extends nozzle life but slows down cutting. Using an abrasive that is very hard offers fast cutting but erodes the nozzle too quickly. Nozzle erosion decreases accuracy in the cutting process, results in recurring downtime, and adds the expense of frequent nozzle replacement. Almandine garnet falls between 7 and 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, which effectively balances the need to cut quickly and provide reasonable cutting tool life.

Density. The principal cutting force of a waterjet is a function of mass multiplied by velocity. The ideal abrasive therefore has the heaviest particle that the water stream can accelerate to maximum velocity. This generates the maximum cutting force.

An abrasive that is too light won’t pack much of a punch, and an abrasive that is too heavy won’t accelerate to maximum velocity, sapping the waterjet stream of its power. As with hardness, the key is to find an abrasive that hits the sweet spot. Almandine garnet has a specific gravity of 4.0 (four times the weight of water) and falls right into the ideal range for both punch and acceleration.

Toughness. Sometimes referred to as friability, toughness plays a direct role in how well a waterjet abrasive performs. Material that is too friable breaks down in the focusing tube and ends up too fine to cut effectively. Abrasive that is too tough (think malleable like lead) rounds during the mixing process and is too dull to cut well. The ideal abrasive has a measured rate of breakdown and produces sharp, angular cutting edges. Once again, almandine garnet, with its semi-friable nature and conchoidal fracture fills the need.

Particle Shape. Abrasives are available in every particle shape imaginable, from perfect beads like steel shot, to razor-sharp, needle-like crystals found in silicon carbide, a synthetic abrasive used in high-tech applications. Recognizing that a sphere is the ideal carrier of mass projected in a high-powered water stream, a fabricator might assume that the waterjet manufacturers would look for spherical particles. However, they must keep in mind the constant balancing act involving acceleration, wear, and cutting efficiency.

Through extensive trials on numerous waterjet platforms around the world, waterjet experts have determined that the most suitable particle shape depends on two factors: the material being cut and edge-finish required. Grains with sharp, angular edges have been proven to cut more quickly and offer superior edge finishes. Sub-rounded grains are used in more general-purpose, standard cutting applications.

A waterjet cutting machine manufacturer, or an abrasive supplier can provide more information on both types and assist in trials to determine which particle shape is best for an application.

How do purity, particle size, and cleanliness effect the performance of a waterjet abrasive?2019-02-20T11:30:23-05:00

The waterjet cutting industry depends on sources that can produce abrasives with high purity, tight particle size distributions, and a high degree of cleanliness, all of which are attributes that are controlled during mineral processing.

Purity. As a natural mineral, almandine garnet is mined, milled, and processed to meet the producer’s final specifications. High-purity materials typically involve added processing stages and call for greater attention to detail during the refining process when compared to low-purity products. As a result, high-purity materials cost more, but they also deliver superior cutting results. Low-purity products may contain materials other than garnet that rob a waterjet cutting machine of its ability to cut well. When produced for use as a waterjet abrasive, other minerals must be processed to meet the high-purity level required for waterjet cutting.

Particle Size Distribution. Tight, consistent control of the particle size distribution (PSD) is extremely important to maximize the performance of a waterjet. Coarse or oversized particles pose a real risk of clogging the nozzle, which can bring the machining process to a standstill and potentially damage the workpiece. Conversely, excessive fines can collect in the feed line or the cutting head, causing irregular feed or sputtering in the cutting stream. Inconsistent particle size distribution can create a nightmare for operators that have to adjust the abrasive feed rate to maintain cutting speeds.

Cleanliness. While similar to particle size distribution, abrasive cleanliness stands on its own as the final important attribute for a waterjet cutting abrasive. Cleanliness refers to the amount of super-fines present in the abrasive product. These fines are so small that they often adhere to larger particles. From a technical perspective, the producers of quality garnet abrasives use a measurement called “suspended solids” to quantify how clean the product is. Using a product that has not been properly processed generates nuisance dust while loading the abrasive hopper, which may cause poor feeding and cutting over time.

What should you look for from a reliable abrasive supplier?2019-08-20T10:59:19-04:00

Choosing the right supply partner is an important action for a metal fabricator. A reputable waterjet manufacturer or abrasive supplier should assist a fabricator with determining the right abrasive type and grade. This aids in the selection of an abrasive that will maximize the performance of the waterjet cutting machine.

Expert advice. Expert consultation by a supplier includes helping fabricators evaluate a wide variety of different product factors, including the type and grade of abrasive that is best for the job.

Hard rock or alluvial garnet. The material being cut, its thickness, and the desired surface finish requirements influence the choice of hard rock garnet or alluvial abrasives. Hard rock garnet is best for cutting hard materials and achieving a superior edge quality, while alluvial garnet is suitable for less demanding applications.

Other abrasives. Purchasing from a supplier that carries a variety of waterjet abrasives gives operators multiple options for abrasive performance and value to meet a wide range of applications.

Choosing the proper grade. Waterjet abrasives are available in a variety of grades, ranging from coarse (50 mesh) to very fine (230 mesh). Most waterjets use grades between 50 and 120 mesh, with 80 mesh being the most widely used.

Delivery options. The supply partner should be capable of delivering waterjet abrasive in paper bags, bulk bags, or even in straight bulk. It also helps if the abrasive supplier can ship within 24 hours of receiving an order and has a warehouse nearby for one-to-two-day shipping. This ensures timely deliveries and keeps freight costs as low as possible.

About the Author

Stephen Podnorszki
Director of Waterjet Parts

Stephen Podnorszki provides Waterjet Cutting Technical Tips to get the best results from waterjet cutting and BARTON abrasives

Stephen manages our waterjet parts division. He maintains warehouse inventory levels and manages consignment programs and new product development. Stephen draws on more than 17 years of BARTON experience to assist customers in troubleshooting waterjet machine maintenance issues. Stephen has certificates in waterjet training from Flow®, Omax®, and WardJet.

Thomas H. Riggs
Waterjet Market Manager (Retired)

With more than three decades in the waterjet cutting industry, including 20+ years as an application and service engineer, Tom brings a tremendous level of expertise to the Barton team. In his role as market manager, Tom works closely with waterjet equipment manufacturers to develop new strategies and methods to maximize performance and efficiencies of BARTON waterjet abrasives.

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