Carbon fiber cutting by waterjet, especially for small features, is much faster than using a router. With a router, the depth of cut and feed-rate depends on the size of your router bit and part thickness. Smaller bits and thicker parts require multiple passes, whereas a waterjet can cut the same part in one pass and usually with a faster feed rate.
Another major advantage to using a waterjet is the dust containment. One of the main concerns when working with carbon fiber is dust. Carbon fiber dust can find its way into the inner workings of your machines and cause parts to grind or wear faster than they normally would. It is also an irritant if inhaled or can cause itchiness if it gets on your skin. With a waterjet, all the carbon dust gets blasted into the water tank where it is easier to handle for proper disposal. No expensive dust evacuation systems are required.
Tight cut patterns
The jet diameter of a waterjet can be tuned to roughly .025 inches, this will allow for designs with very small holes or internal features to be cut. This tool diameter can also be used to cut fairy close to an internal square geometry.
While there are many advantages to using a waterjet for cutting carbon fiber, there are some drawbacks as well. The next few sections will address these areas.
Because a waterjet uses an abrasive to cut through the strong carbon fibers, the edge can have a slightly rough surface. This can be controlled with the garnet mesh size (the finer the abrasive, the finer the finish) and with the feed rate. While for some parts this finish is acceptable, other parts will need to be sanded to get a smoother finish. The time spent cleaning up the edge may offset some of the advantage gained from cutting the parts on the waterjet. There is a balance between cutting speed and part complexity to consider if running a large volume of parts.
Cutting composite material is a perfect application for abrasive waterjets. A precision waterjet with a taper compensating head will machine 1/4" thick carbon fiber as fast as 180 inches/minute at 60,000 psi with taper of less than 0.001" per side. And 13/16" thick G10 can be machined as fast as 40 inches/minute at 60,000 psi with the same precision.
While speed and...