Over the last forty years, the waterjet has evolved from an experimental wood cutter to a reliable, high-speed machine that cuts materials with speed, power, and precision. Long regarded as a low-tolerance, specialty process for machining large sheet materials, abrasive waterjet now performs in areas previously dominated by traditional cutting technologies. From rapid hole drilling in slow-cutting materials like titanium and steel to slicing minute details in stone, composite, ceramics, and glass, this former niche technology has found many applications.
Henry Ford once said, “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find you have paid for it but don’t have it.” As abrasive waterjet overtakes wire EDM in speed and cost-effectiveness for mixed-tolerance cutting, the process continues its development from novelty to practical necessity. But while abrasive waterjet machines parts with great speed, wire EDM does so while maintaining far greater tolerances with superior accuracy.
Despite their differences, many see the two cutting processes as complementary technologies that, if used together, can offer cost-effective, high-speed cutting with ultra-high precision. But when should a shop use one process instead of the other, and, most importantly, when should they be used in tandem?