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Robotic Ultrasonic Cutting vs Robotic Waterjet Cutting

Ultrasonic cutting and waterjet cutting are two material removal processes that are alternatives to conventional cutting methods. Both of these applications provide an environmentally friendly approach to material removal in manufacturing as there is no dust, smoke, or chemical solvents involved. As manufacturers look to improve their sustainability, many are opting for these cutting methods over more traditional ones. Ultrasonic cutting and waterjet cutting can both be automated with industrial robots. Below is a comparison of these two robotic cutting methods.


Industrial robots used for ultrasonic cutting are integrated with cutting tools. Unlike conventional robotic cutting tools, the ones used for ultrasonic cutting produce microscopic vibrations in the blade. The energy emitted by those vibrations creates a powerful pulse that allows the blade to easily slice through workpieces. Robotic ultrasonic cutting produces clean cuts while also sealing edges all in one step. The Motoman HP20D is ideal for automating an ultrasonic cutting application.

Unlike ultrasonic cutting, waterjet cutting does not involve using a blade for cutting. Instead, the tooling integrated with industrial robots for waterjet cutting emits an ultra-high-pressure jet of water. This waterjet is extremely powerful reaching up to 60,000 pounds per square inch. When applied to workpieces the waterjet wears away material, separating it to create a cut. Like ultrasonic cutting, waterjet cuts are clean with even edges, with most cuts not requiring any additional finishing. Six-axis robots are typically used for waterjet automation. The ABB 2600 is an articulated robot capable of performing waterjet cutting.


Ultrasonic cutting robots can be used for a variety of materials; however, non-metallic materials are best. Plastics, film, foam, food, rubber, textiles, thermoplastic resins, and carbon fiber reinforced polymer can all be cut using the ultrasonic method. Ultrasonic cutting robots are commonly used in the automotive industry. The FANUC M-20ia can trim vehicle interior components such as door trim or seating upholstery. Ultrasonic cutting robots can work with materials up to 20 mm in thickness.

Waterjet cutting robots can handle a greater variety of materials than ultrasonic cutting robots. They can cut through plastics, composites, textiles, steel, aluminum, and stone. With softer materials plain water is sufficient. However, harder materials may require the addition of an abrasive to the water in order for the robot to be able to cut through. Waterjet cutting robots can also cut through thicker materials than ultrasonic robots. The FANUC M-16ib can cut through metals up to six inches thick and other materials up to twelve inches thick.


Out of the two robotic cutting methods, ultrasonic cutting is the more affordable option. This is because consumable costs are lower than those associated with robotic waterjet cutting. The Yaskawa MH50 can cut through materials using little pressure with the ultrasonic method. Applying minimal pressure preserves the tooling and saves energy contributing to lower consumable costs.

With waterjet cutting more consumables are involved compared to ultrasonic cutting. Items such as coils, orifices, and pump components can wear easily due to constant water exposure and will need to be replaced. The frequent consumption of consumables will contribute to higher operational costs of a robotic waterjet system.

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