Waterjet machining first

Europe’s first waterjet machining technology centre has opened at The University of Nottingham to explore how the technology can be used to create parts for the aerospace industry.

The School of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering has joined forces with Rolls-Royce, the East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and the Midlands Aerospace Alliance to establish the £1.1m centre.

Waterjet cutting technology is one of the fastest growing machine tool processes, as the equipment is versatile and easy to operate. To date in the UK, the process has been predominantly limited to flat bed techniques, cutting two dimensional objects from sheets of raw material.

Engineers at the facility are using a six-axis waterjet machine, capable of cutting three dimensional parts from blocks of metal, to develop new processes and techniques.

The waterjet process claims to be more environmentally-friendly than other machine cutting techniques. The six-axis waterjet can be used to create ‘pockets’ within blocks of metal that are essential to the manufacture of aerospace parts. Currently, corrosive acids are used to do this, which must then be disposed of separately. The waterjet machine uses just water and grit.

A £492,000 grant from emda has been used to purchase new equipment. Rolls Royce and the university are supporting technical development at the centre.