Water jet cutters are also capable of producing rather intricate cuts in material. With specialized software and 3-D machining heads, complex 3-D shapes can be produced.
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" (1.016 to 1.27 mm), but can be as narrow as 0.02" (0.508 mm). Non-abrasive cuts are normally 0.007" to 0.013" (0.178 to 0.33 mm), but can be as small as 0.003" (0.076 mm), which is approximately the width of a human hair. These small jets can make very small detail possible in a wide range of applications.
Waterjets are capable of attaining accuracy of 0.005" (0.13 mm), and repeatability of 0.001" (0.025 mm).
Water jet is considered a "green" technology. Water jets produce no hazardous waste, reducing waste disposal costs. They can cut off large pieces of reusable scrap material that might have been lost using traditional cutting methods. Parts can be closely nested to maximize material use, and the water jet saves material by creating very little kerf. Water jets use very little water (a half gallon to approximately one gallon per minute depending on cutting head orifice size), and the water that is used can be recycled using a closed-looped system. Waste water usually is clean enough to filter and dispose of down a drain. The garnet abrasive is a non-toxic natural substance that can be recycled for repeated use. Garnet usually can be disposed of in a landfill. Water jets also eliminate airborne dust particles, smoke, fumes, and contaminants from cutting materials such as asbestos and fiberglass. This greatly improves the work environment and reduces problems arising from operator exposure.
Meatcutting using waterjet technology eliminates the risk of cross contamination since there is no contact medium (namely, a blade) between different animals in the abattoir.
An important benefit of the water jet cutter is the ability to cut material without interfering with the material's inherent structure as there is no "heat-affected zone" or HAZ. Minimizing the effects of heat allows metals to be cut without harming or changing intrinsic properties.