Tailoring with High Pressure Waterjets
Cutting fabrics with waterjets presents some obvious advantages over metal cutters. Metal cutters wear out while waterjets are always sharp. Metal cutters need to be orientated to the tangent of the contour, but waterjets need not. Waterjets have a narrow kerf and can cut complex contours with sharp turns. Its heatless characteristic also lends itself to cutting high strength textile like synthetic fibre. A research study by Luo* provided some technical data for tailoring with waterjets.
A waterjet tailoring machine requires a multifunctional vacuum table to support, draw, fix, and compress the multilayer textile materials. A Nylon-fur type of vacuum table is good in avoiding wetting the fabrics, but it is expensive. A grid-box type table is less expensive but tends to wet the fabrics. One solution to prevent the wetting is to use mylar film as the top and bottom layers. Because of the low cutting force of waterjets, the machine can be constructed as light as possible and still has sufficient precision.
The cutting is best with the highest operating pressure that the pump will allow. The nozzle size is between 0.15 and 0.35 mm. Larger nozzles can cut faster but also have a higher chance of wetting the materials. Typical feedrates are showed in the table below.
Waterjet tailoring is specially useful in cutting leather, felt, and high strength chemical fibre materials, but not so good for cutting wool and silk materials because the edge of the bottom layer tends to get wet. The cut edge is precise and clean, free of remaining links. Compared to traditional mechanical tailoring machines (GGT), the productivity of waterjet tailoring is lower (1-2 m/min vs 3-4 m/min), but with less auxiliary time. The equipment cost and operational cost are also lower. These two technologies complement, but not replace, each other.
* Luo, X. (1996) Study of tailoring with high-pressure waterjet, in Colin Gee (ed.) Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Jetting Technology, Sardinia, Italy, October 29-31, pp 643-648.
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