While precision waterjet technology has only been available on an industrial scale since the 1980’s, waterjet technology itself was first used in California during the 1880’s to carve mountainsides and then flush out their mineral contents, such as gold, silver, and copper. This old technology was both inaccurate and wasteful — hundreds of thousands of gallons of water had to be used to expose the ore and send it down to the refiners in the form of slurry. Almost none of the water was recaptured and the resulting tainted water polluted many major rivers and aquifers in California. That’s why waterjetting still carries a bad reputation in some regions of the country.
But today’s waterjet technology is precise, efficient, and non-polluting. Using a waterjet cutting machine today, a machinist can cut through up to a foot of steel or platinum, not to mention softer materials such as stone, plastic, aluminum, and glass, to create any sort of tool or dye. There’s no noxious gas produced, as there is when lasers are used. Or toxic dust, as when drills and saws are used. And there’s never any danger of explosion or burns, as happens all too often when electric and gas torches are used. Plus waterjet technology has evolved today to the point where the entire process can be fully automated on an assembly line level, so that one operator can control a dozen or more waterjets to mass produce anything from a gear shaft to replicas of the Statue of Liberty.
Waterjets are also in high demand by building contractors for finishing stone and metal building exteriors. Unlike sandblasting, waterjetting does not raise a choking cloud of dust that can be a hazard to workers and the public alike. It leaves behind nothing but some puddles and a fine mist that quickly evaporates harmlessly into the air.