Abrasive type and size can be critical components to the performance of your CNC waterjet. We consulted with MultiCam, which is known for their wide-ranging catalogue of waterjet cutting systems, to help us choose the right abrasive in the areas of hardness, density, toughness and particle shape.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind from the CNC waterjet manufacturer: 

Examine your material and its cutting specs

Regardless of the abrasive you choose, it must have hardness, toughness, and a certain shape. When you get right down to it, virtually every abrasive substance has been considered for use as a CNC abrasive.

Almandine garnet, however, has emerged as a great all-around abrasive. Other minerals can be harder, heavier, or lower in cost, but none has all of these qualities in the proportions you want like almandine garnet. So if you’re not sure what else to choose, it’s definitely a good starting point.

Good abrasive qualities

Hardness: Waterjet cutters need to balance cutting speed and component wear. A soft abrasive extends nozzle life, but slows cutting. A hard abrasive cuts faster, but also erodes your nozzle faster too. Almandine garnet balances the two well, as it falls to 7-8 on the Mohs scale.

Density: Mass multiplied by velocity gives you the primary cutting force of CNC waterjet machining. Simple logic dictates the ideal abrasive has the heaviest particle the water stream can accelerate to maximum velocity. Since Almandine garnet has a specific gravity of 4.0, it’s the ideal abrasive in this regard.

Toughness: Weak material breaks down in the focusing tube and end up too fine to make the cuts you want. An abrasive that’s too tough gets rounded in the mixing process and winds up too dull to cut well. The ideal abrasive has a measured rate of breakdown and creates sharp, angular cutting edges.

Particle shape

The ideal particle shape depends on the material you need to cut and the type of edge your customer wants. Typically, rounded grains get used for general purpose cutting. Angular grains get used when you need a faster cut or superior edge finish.