Cutting soft materials like foam is hard. Try pushing in the blade of a knife and the material compresses. The thicker and softer the foam is, the more it deflects. The only way is to use the point of the knife: once the surface is pierced the blade can go through.
That’s why we have a waterjet cutting machine. Like an incredibly sharp knife, it lets us cut complex profiles from soft materials up to 6″ thick. If you need pieces for a flexible foam fabrication, talk to Merryweather about waterjet cutting.
In waterjet cutting a needle-thin jet of water moving at near supersonic speed slices through soft material. By moving the jet over a sheet of material it’s possible to cut out intricate two-dimensional shapes. Recessed pockets can’t be cut with a waterjet though, because it goes all the way through. Instead, the way to make those is from two separate pieces of foam. Combining waterjet-cut pieces that way allows creation of almost any custom foam fabrication.
Why cut with water?
It’s a fast way of cutting out large, complicated shapes. It’s a clean process with no chemicals or hazardous wastes, and has many other useful characteristics too.
- Pierce straight through so there’s no need to cut in from the outside. Essential for creating contiguous shapes with hollow centers (as you’d need for a pocket.)
- Cuts very square, even on materials like thick reticulated polyurethane foam, and leaves smooth edges needing little to no finishing.
- Very narrow cut width or “kerf” thanks to the thin beam. This allows cutting of very intricate shapes and lets us nestshapes to use a sheet efficiently.
- No sideways forces, so there’s no material distortion. This also lets us cut very thin wall sections.
- No heat, unlike laser cutting, so there’s no unsightly edge melting or heat affected zone.
- There’s no tooling or fixturing. All that’s needed is a program for the waterjet’s computer, and that comes from the CAD of the shape needed.
When is waterjet cutting appropriate?
With no need for tooling, waterjet cutting is ideal for one-offs such as for prototypes or for custom applications needing only a few identical shapes. As a single point-of-cut process, it’s not the fastest method but does yield excellent results on thick, soft materials like reticulated polyurethane foam. Waterjet machines are also capable of cutting out very large shapes: ours handles sheets of material up to 60″ by 132″.
Small quantities that look good
Materials that are thick and soft, like those you might use in a custom foam fabrication, are difficult to cut cleanly. When appearance matters, tooling-free waterjet cutting is a cost-effective method of producing the shapes you need. If you’re interested in learning more, contact us today.