Monday, March 16, 2015

Waterjetting 31b - short pulse lengths and traverse speed

One of the more surprising things that we learned at the beginning of the research into high pressure waterjet action was how quickly a jet will penetrate to almost full depth of penetration, and how slowly it will cut deeper after that. It is a lesson that often escapes even those who work with the technology today.

A series of tests was carried out in which a jet was exposed for very short periods of time to a fixed block of sandstone. The time that the jet hit the rock varied and the results were used to make the following plot:

Figure 1. Average penetration as a function of exposure time, for a continuous jet impacting a static target. (Polyox is polyethylene oxide) (after Brook and Summers )

The experiment was then repeated using a device that would only allow the jet to hit the rock for much shorter periods of time. When these results were plotted, the following graph was obtained.

Figure 2. The depth of penetration into sandstone as a function of time, for very short intervals. (ibid)

The depths achieved with the longer exposure times were therefore occurring within the first 1/100ths of a second, and the penetration that followed that initial impact time was at a much lower rate.

The reason for this had been suggested by earlier work by Leach and Walker at Sheffield who pointed out that once the jet starts into the hole it has no other path to exit rather than to turn around and come out the way it went in. Since the jet is continuing to flow into the hole, the result is that the pressure in the hole will diminish over time.

Figure 3. The effect of hole depth on the pressure developed at the bottom (after Leach and Walker).

It should be mentioned, however, that Leach and Walker built a special stand to make these measurements and the hole was built out of steel, rather than being eroded by a jet. The reason that this is important is that where the target is weaker then the turbulence generated by the jet:rebound will additionally erode the walls of the hole, particularly at the depth where the jet pressure falls to the threshold pressure of the material. At this point the jet begins to enlarge a cavity at the bottom of the hole. The pressure can then rise in the cavity, as the hole walls are reamed and the pressure bulb can cause spallation of the overlying rock. It is also why one has to be careful in the drilling of holes in glass, since a similar series of steps can also arise with abrasive waterjet cutting, and internal pressures within the drilled hole can cause the glass to fracture.

Rehbinder also built a narrow slot to measure pressure drop with depth of the hole, and showed that the rapid decline in pressure with depth that Leach and Walker found, was related to the relative narrowness of the hole, and that when the holes were wider, relative to the jet, that this decline was not as dramatic.

Figure 4. Changes in hole pressure with depth as a function of hole width. (after Rehbinder)

As I have mentioned in a previous post a logical progression is to then pulse the water so that each slug of water has time to leave the hole before the next one arrives. When this is carried out, in our case by building a small interrupting wheel that spun between the nozzle and the target, the jet will continue to penetrate although at a slower rate than that originally achieved.

Figure 5. The penetration of rock with an interrupted jet. (after Brook and Summers)

There have been several attempts since that time to use pulsed jets as a way of improving breakage, with a lower energy cost. This has centered around some form of water cannon, or similar tool, although the main problem – never really resolved – of maintaining a high firing rate without destroying the seals in the supply lines has led to that approach being shelved.

Other developments first led to a pulsation in the feed line to the nozzle, first described by Gene Nebeker of Scientific Associates at the 3rd ISJCT in Chicago in 1976. Although that work continued for a number of years it was never able to achieve commercial reality at the time. Subsequently Dr. Vijay pioneered the approach that led to the formation of VLN Advanced Technologies Inc. Using an ultrasonic method of pulsation, which produces very short duration pulses at a high rate in the stream, the company has developed a market, particularly in removing coatings from surfaces.

The mechanisms of target failure are different from those achieved with the more conventional, longer pulsed systems, where the length of the individual jet slugs allows more pressurization of cracks within the target. That kinetic energy allows the jets to operate under water, however shorter pulsation lengths (similar in some ways to rain) are attenuated where there is a layer of water on the surface particularly when this is confined, and Brunton and Rochester found that some of the advantages of the technique (including the ability to generate water hammer pressures are diminished when that layer is thicker.

However, if a waterjet penetrates to close to its maximum penetration within a period of around 0.01 seconds, and the jet is cutting a hole that is roughly three times the diameter of the orifice, then it is logical to suggest that after that residence time the nozzle should move further down the sample. If the jet is roughly 0.033 inches in diameter then the nozzle should move roughly 0.1 inches in 0.01 seconds or roughly 10 inches per second, or 50 ft. per minute. Lab studies have shown that shown that speeds in this range are most efficient where plain waterjets are used in cutting. Because abrasive waterjets penetrate material in a different way the best cutting speed for that technology is much slower.

The topic will continue in the next post, since it is often difficult to persuade operators how fast they should be moving tools to get them to be most efficient.

Leach S. J. and Walker G. L. “Some aspects of rock cutting by high speed water jets”. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. 260A, 295-308 (1966).
Nebeker E.B. and Rodriguez S.E. “Percussive water jets for rock cutting,” paper B1, 3rd ISJCT, BHRA, Chicago, May 1976.
Brunton, J.H., Rochester, M.C., "Erosion of Solid Surfaces by the Impact of Liquid Drops," In Erosion-Treatise on Materials Science and Technology, ed Preece, pp. 185 - 248.
Rehbinder, G., "Some Aspects of the Mechanism of Erosion of Rock with a High Speed Water Jet," paper E1, 3rd International Symposium on Jet Cutting Technology, May, 1976, Chicago, IL, pp. E1-1 - E1-20.

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