By Dr. David A. Summers, Curators’ Professor at Missouri University of Science & Technology
This small sequence of posts describes the initial milliseconds during which a high-pressure waterjet penetrates into a target material. Because this work was largely developed using rock targets, most of the illustrations will be with that material, but the concept applies, to a degree, also with abrasive laden jets penetrating into materials such as glass.
For this post, I am going to discuss just what happens with the jet being fired down onto the target surface without either the nozzle or the target moving. Much of this work was carried out in the 1960’s in the UK though I will begin with some tests that Dr. Bill Cooley carried out using his modification to a Russian hydraulic cannon that he redesigned so that it was capable of firing at 500,000 psi – and yes I have seen it fired at that pressure (I took the photo).
In order to see how effective different processes were in cutting into different materials, the international scientific community that was developing waterjet technology at the time needed a method to compare the different approaches. The metric that was used was to define the Specific Energy as the amount of energy that it took to remove a unit volume of the target material. (And in time that will be subject of some more specific posts).
Bill’s cannon used stored gas that was suddenly released as a way of driving the water at the desired pressure and measured the pressure indirectly by timing the break of two pencil leads in front of the nozzle. This gave the jet velocity, and pressure could be back-calculated from that value.
Dr. Cooley took results from his work and from other scientists working with similar devices, to produce the following graph.
For those running a conventional cutting table, the water orifice is around 10 thousandths of an inch in diameter. So what this graph is saying is that once the first thousand diameters of length (1000 x 0.001= 10 inches) has hit the surface, then the process starts to become significantly less efficient. If the jet is moving at 2,000 ft/sec, that length arrives in around 0.0005 seconds. Why this rising inefficiency after that time, and how do we get around it?
Earlier in this series I mentioned that one of the tests to find the pressure at which a waterjet penetrates a target is to note the point at which, instead of the water hitting the surface and flowing along it, it changed direction to flow back towards the nozzle. This is because as the jet penetrates, it makes a hole, and the only way out of that hole is back along the way the jet came. Unfortunately, there is more water still coming down into the hole, and so the water leaving the hole (at the same volume flow rate) meets the water coming into the hole. The rapidly moving water going out is moving about as fast as that coming in, and so, as the hole gets deeper, the pressure at the bottom of the hole gets less. This has been measured by a number of folk, but Dr. Stan Leach was the first, and produced this plot:
Because the holes were preformed of metal (to hold the transducer) and were sized to the nozzle diameter, this is not as it turns out totally accurate although it illustrates the problem.
It isn’t totally accurate because, as the illustration from the last two posts showed, the erosion occurs initially around the edge of the jet rather than under it, and thus the hole created is about twice to three times the jet diameter rather than being of the same size.
Nevertheless, as the hole deepens, the pressure at the bottom of the hole gets less, and after a while the jet penetration slows to almost a halt.
The sides of the hole, however, continue to erode, but from the bottom upwards so that after a short while, the narrower entry hole starts to constrict the flow out, and pressure begins to build-up in the hole.
Remember that a waterjet works by growing existing cracks in the material. So that if there is a natural crack in the rock, which may be as small as a grain boundary, or the scratch made by an abrasive particle as it moves back out of a hole in glass, then the water entering that small crevice will pressurize the walls and cause the crack to grow. Often there is more than one, and the result can be, in rock:
In rock, that might not be such a bad thing since in many cases the intent is just to break the rock out of the way, so that a tunnel can be created that folk can walk or drive through. But in the case of glass and other such brittle materials, where the object is just to make a very fine cut with no side cracks, cracking the sheet is disastrous. This can be illustrated by the results when a jet was fired along the central axis of a 2-inch diameter core of granite. The escape of water into the cracks allowed the cycle to repeat several times, and the hole was, as a result, much deeper than it would have been if the cracking had not occurred.
And so, next time, I’ll write about some of the ways in which we can get around this problem.