Waterjet cutting machines can have numerous benefits for a machine shop, including being able to cut almost any kind of material you can touch with extraordinary precision. However, there are many different types of waterjet cutting machines on the market, so finding the right one for your machine shop can be difficult.

How can you find the best waterjet cutting machine for your machine shop? Here are a few tips to help you choose the right kind of waterjet cutting machine for your shop floor:

1) Consider What Kinds of Materials You’ll Be Cutting

To cut harder materials, water jet cutting machines will need to add a grit material to the water stream. So, if you routinely cut harder materials such as mild steel, aluminum plate, or some kinds of stone, you’ll want to choose a model of waterjet cutter with an ample grit tank that is easy to load, unload, and maintain.

If, on the other hand, you primarily cut softer materials, such as wood or thinner plastics, then all you’ll likely need is plain water. In such cases, the capacity and efficiency of the grit tank are not as important. Also, you can probably get away with using a lower-pressure machine than you would if you were cutting steel.

2) How Complicated a Cut Will the Waterjet Cutting Machine Need to Make?

On average, how “complex” are the cutting jobs you need to perform with the waterjet cutter going to be? If your machine shop specializes in highly complicated cutting jobs for custom parts forming, then you’ll probably need a waterjet cutting machine with a “fifth axis.”

This extra axis of control will help you make more intricate cuts at specific angles when you need to. Fifth axis machines also excel at taper compensation and weld preparation work.

If such complicated cuts are not typical for your machine shop, then it may be better to find a waterjet cutting machine that just does basic cuts and shop out the complicated cutting jobs to a specialist. Otherwise, you could end up spending a lot of extra money on a machine that will only do a little bit of extra work every once in a while.

3) Consider Buying a Used Waterjet Cutting Machine

Quick question, if you have a choice between two machines that do the exact same thing in the exact same way, why would you spend two or three times on one machine over the other? Well, this is what happens when you decide to buy a brand-new waterjet cutting machine over a used one.

Used waterjet cutting machine prices are typically half that of their factory-new equivalents. The increased cost of a new machine over a used one doesn’t even really provide you any benefits—unless you count the extra time you get to spend with your creditor as you pay interest on a business loan (that takes longer to pay off and takes a bigger chunk out of your budget) as a positive.

4) When Buying Used, Carefully Inspect the Waterjet Cutting Machine

Of course, when you buy a used waterjet cutter, it’s important to thoroughly inspect it so you know what you’re getting. Be sure to check the following during your inspection:

  • The Intensifier. Waterjet cutting machines have a electric pump that is used to produce the intense pressure needed for the stream to cut through hard materials. Check to make sure the pump’s seals are in good condition and are free of leaks.
  • The Nozzle. Is the nozzle for the water spray in good condition (free of cracks, rust, or dents)? A damaged nozzle is relatively easy to replace, but it’s important to know whether it is damaged before you start trying to use the machine.
  • Electrical Cabinet. Are the wires neat and in good order, or is the electrical cabinet a jumbled mess of random patches that would take forever to sort out?
  • Maintenance Documentation. A well-cared-for machine should have a long history of maintenance records telling you exactly what issues the previous operators encountered and how they were fixed. If the seller cannot provide the machine’s maintenance documentation, that could be a red flag.
  • Control System. What kind of control system does the machine use? Is the interface fully functional, or are there missing controls/functions? A damaged controller can severely impair the functionality of the machine.

Be sure to get a demonstration of the machine in action if you can. Having the seller perform a test run of the waterjet cutting machine can help reveal issues that might not be obvious from glancing at the maintenance history or performing a cursory check of the machine’s condition.

Or, you can have an experienced and trusted used machine shop equipment dealer help you find a waterjet cutting machine for sale that is sturdy, reliable, and free of potentially inconvenient liabilities (such as equipment liens). Southern Fabricating Machinery Sales has decades of experience in tracking down and appraising used manufacturing equipment for a variety of applications. Contact us today for help and advice regarding how you can find the right waterjet cutting machine for your machine shop!