A water jet cutter is a tool capable of slicing into metal or other materials using a jet of water at high velocity and pressure, or a mixture of water and an abrasive substance. The process is essentially the same as water erosion found in nature but accelerated and concentrated by orders of magnitude. It is often used during fabrication or manufacture of parts for machinery and other devices. It has found applications in a diverse number of industries from mining to aerospace where it is used for operations such as cutting, shaping, carving, and reaming.
An important benefit of the water jet cutter is its ability to cut material without interfering with the material's inherent structure as there is no "heat affected zone" or HAZ. This allows metals to be cut without harming or changing their intrinsic properties.
Water jet cutters are also capable of producing rather intricate cuts in material. The kerf, or width, of the cut can be changed by changing parts in the nozzle, as well as the type and size of abrasive. Typical abrasive cuts are made with a kerf in the range of 0.04" to 0.05", but can be as narrow as 0.02". Non-abrasive cuts are normally 0.007" to 0.013", but can be as small as 0.003", which is approximately the size of a human hair. These small cutters can make very small detail possible in a wide range of applications.