Whether you’re a small-time hobbyist or a self-employed fabricator, there may come a time where you need to be able to cut glass safely and accurately.
One way to cut glass is using waterjet cutting. These systems are the definition of versatility, and glass is just one of the many materials they can cut through. In fact, waterjet cutting can be so effective and powerful, the machinery can go from cutting through 12 inches of titanium to delicately slicing a 1mm sheet of glass.
However, when working with fragile materials like glass, it is important that you use the machine properly and carefully.
This guide will show you how to do exactly that.
Note: The following guide is not designed for tempered glass, specifically to shatter into small pieces when broken.
Whenever you’re using heavy or potentially dangerous equipment like waterjet cutting machinery, it’s important to first ensure you’re protected with PPE.
Before turning the machine on, make sure the work area is free from trip or slip hazards. Check the floor to ensure there are no cables or debris and sweep any potential hazards away from the area.
In terms of PPE, those working with or near the waterjet machine should wear gloves, closed-toe shoes, eye protection, and ear protection if needed.
It’s recommended that you use 120-150 abrasive mesh when cutting glass. This will help to decrease the chance of cracks, chips, or shattering occurring.
Place a study material onto the cutting table before placing the glass on top. The buffer could be something like wood or foam, something that can provide a foundation.
Once you’ve got the table and cutting piece completely level, it’s time to make the actual cut. Again, it’s worth pre-piercing the start points either through CAD or manually.
First, reduce the operating pressure to somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 PSI. Then, reduce the abrasive flow to 0.2-0.3lb a minute.
You then need to switch both the water and abrasive on at the same time and start the piercing movement instantly. Again, this is to prevent cracking. This could be either back and forth or in a small circular motion in terms of the type of movement. Whichever movement you attempt, it needs to start at the same time as switching on the water and abrasive.
Once you’ve pierced the starting points, return the abrasive flow and pump back to normal. You can then do the actual cut, making sure to go through the original pierced points.
If you notice stress adding to the glass, it’s a good idea to slow down the cutting head. Otherwise, it may crack the piece entirely.
Once you’ve finished the cut, make sure to lead the nozzle completely off the piece of glass before stopping. Without this lead-out, you could end up chipping the corner.
Removing the glass
Once the cutting is complete, spray off the glass to get rid of any debris. Be careful when lifting the glass from the table, as you may need to handle it slightly differently from the original piece – especially if you have added multiple cuts. PPE should be worn throughout and after the cutting process. Including while removing the piece from the table.
Waterjet cutting of glass doesn’t need to be scary or complicated. Taking it slow will ensure the glass stays intact throughout the process, and you’ll finish with a perfectly cut piece with zero distortion.