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Waterjet system for aerospace wings

MITSUBISHI Heavy Industries has purchased a waterjet system from Flow International to cut wing skins for commercial jet aircraft.

The multi-million dollar contract between the two companies will see Flow supplying a Composite Machining Centre (CMC) waterjet machining system 36m long and 6.5m wide. The system will be used to cut composite wing skins for aircraft wings.

The CMC waterjet system is expected to use ultrahigh-pressure pumps to generate a fine stream of water moving at three times the speed of sound and using 3.7l per minute.

According to the company, waterjet is superior to conventional cutting tools such as diamond or carbide-tipped routers, bandsaws, cutoff saws and abrasive wheels. Traditional cutting methods leave frayed or delaminated edges, or damage the composite materials by overheating.

Abrasive waterjets cut by erosive action rather than friction and shearing. The water flow draws in a stream of fine garnet particles that slice into the surface to produce an edge free of frayed or delaminated areas.

Waterjets have low operating temperature, and exert less lateral force on the material than conventional machines.