Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Waterjetting 32d - Cutting with polymer in the water

In the recent past I have written about the use of polymers in high-pressure jets and that they can significantly improve jetting performance, with no additional changes in the power or pump and equipment used in the work. This is because of two different effects that the polymers have. Firstly they reduce turbulence in the flow from the pump to the nozzle, reducing pressure loss and increasing fluid flow, for the same pump power. As a practical consequence since the fluid flow will be greater for the same pump pressure, this will require that a larger orifice diameter be used to handle the greater, or – for the same flow rate and nozzle diameter, the pump can be operated at a lower pressure.

Figure 1. Comparison between a conventional jet and one containing the polymer additive marketed as SUPERWATER. (after Glenn Howells)

This is not immediately apparent, since the jet carrying the polymer appears smaller, but this is due to the second effect of the polymer, which is to tend to glue the water together, so that it is not dispersed as easily by the surrounding fluid – air in this case. In fact, for the same pump pressure and orifice diameter the lower jet will be operating at a higher pressure (since there is less pressure loss in the line) and there will be more water coming out of the polymer-supplied orifice at a higher velocity. But because it is not spreading into the air, it appears smaller.

This will improve the cohesion of the jet as it moves away from the jet, and as noted in an earlier post, this means that the jet will cut to a greater range from the jet, since it maintains the required critical pressure further.

The impact that the more coherent jet has on performance can be seen where the jet is used to cut into two different types of limestone, one oolitic and one crystalline.

Figure 3. Depths of cut of the polymer-containing jet (left) and plain waterjet, operating at the same pump pressure, nozzle diameter and standoff distance (Glenn Howells)

Note that at the distance where the normal waterjet has broken into droplets (as seen by the nature of the cut surface) and the jet has barely enough energy to remove the surface layer, where the jet contains polymer it retains the ability to cut.

Further, and this is more critical where cut quality is more important, the jet cut is much straighter and cleaner than the dispersed and wider normal cut. This can be seen where a different, more crystalline limestone has been cut closer to the nozzle.

Figure 4. Change in the cut shape to a narrower, deeper cut where polymer is added to the jet stream (rhs)in cutting limestone. (after Glenn Howells)

The benefit of the improved performance changes therefore with the distance of the target from the nozzle, with the more dramatic improvement being seen as the target gets further from the nozzle. Looking at the data from the original work that we did in Leeds, back in the early days of this study, this can perhaps be better realized through the use of a 3-D plot.

Figure 5. Improvement in cutting performance as a function of distance from the nozzle and jet pressure.

Note that, in these trials, the polymer improved the jet performance relatively more at lower pressures and greater standoff distance. Part of the reason for this (in hindsight close to 50-years after running the tests) is that when the jet was cutting at the lower pressures it was closer to the threshold pressure of the rock and this any drop in jet pressure had a more significant impact on cut depth than occurred at the higher pressures, where the gain was not relative to such a low benchmark.

For a number of years, until our research took us into fields where use of the polymer was precluded for several reasons, we routinely used a polymer (generally Superwater, marketed by Berkeley Chemical) rather than Polyox because it gave a relatively consistent and significant improvement in performance plus, being a liquid, it was relatively simple and inexpensive to buy a small metering unit (about the size of a small case) which would feed the polymer into the water supply line to the pump at the required concentration – typically 0.1 to 0.3%.

It tends to work better in improving abrasive jet cutting when it is used with a Direct Injection of Abrasive (DIAjet) or Abrasive Slurry Jet (ASJ) system than with conventional abrasive waterjet (AWJ) systems. The reason for this is that the AWJ system has the abrasive fed into the water stream at the mixing chamber just before the jet leaves the nozzle to strike the target. Within the mixing chamber the abrasive has to penetrate into the waterjet stream in order to acquire the jet velocity, and to distribute across the jet and give an even cut on the target.

Where the abrasive is feeding in from one side of the jet and the waterjet stream is more coherent, it becomes more difficult for the abrasive to penetrate the stream, and if the design is not adjusted accordingly, the cutting performance can be diminished, particularly relative to the gain that can be achieved where the combination is carried out effectively.

On the other hand with the ASJ systems the abrasive is mixed with the water far upstream of the nozzle and the are already thoroughly mixed together, so that the added cohesion of the jet will help to provide the acceleration that the particles need to reach close to the waterjet velocity, and achieve the improved cutting performance required.

Where an ultrahigh pressure jet does not contain abrasive, the polymer can be of benefit as a means of improving cut quality – as evidenced from this comparison in cutting a shoe sole pattern, both with and without the Superwater polymer.

Figure 6. Shoe sole cut comparison with and without Superwater. Note the smoother cut, with less fraying of the back side of the cut with the polymer. (after Glenn Howells)

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