As digitally driven tools become more accessible, machines traditionally reserved for industrial use continue to shrink in size and price — something we’ve seen with everything from 3D printing to CNC milling. Now the introduction of Wazer puts the waterjet cutter into home workshops too.
The new machine offers a 12″ x 18″ bed and can cut thicknesses up to 1″ depending on the material — which is where waterjet cutting really shines, as the material options are almost limitless. Steel, titanium, and aluminum (up to 1/8″ thick), glass, stone, and porcelain (up to 3/8″ thick), and plastics (up to 1/2″ thick) are all within the capabilities of the tool. This sets it apart from consumer-grade laser cutters and mills that struggle with metals, or CNC plasma cutters that specialize just in steel. Wazer can even do paper and wood at its max depth — the team showed us a 3/4″ board that was cleanly cut with the machine, although they suggest other tools are better for those porous materials.
Wazer is a refined-looking grey setup with two major parts — the main cutting unit, about the size of a barbecue grill, and a separate pump, roughly half that size, that sits nearby. The device functions on standard 110 voltage and connects to a water source and and drainage location with a pair of garden hoses, which again sets it apart from the much higher infrastructure needs of industrial waterjet cutters. Almost everything is self contained; a drawer on the side of the unit slides out to add the abrasive cutting material (a fine garnet sand); the clear top lifts up to show the bed, cutting head, and gasket-covered CNC gantry; a cover at the front of that pulls out to reveal the used abrasive neatly stored into canisters, allowing for easy disposal (which on industrial machines requires the large pump unit to be dismantled and shoveled out, a grueling job from those I know who’ve had to do it).
Wazer founders Nisan Larea and Matt Nowicki tell us this began as a class project in 2012, to make their engineering program a waterjet cutter so they wouldn’t have to use angle grinders to cut their materials. After a stint at Biolite, the two returned to the project in the past year, joining the Hax Accelerator in January and moving to Shenzhen to produce a sellable unit and begin working on manufacturing. Their Kickstarter launched this week with a list price of $5999, but the standard early bird tiers that allowed some to back at a $3599 price. It quickly hit the $100,000 goal, and a day later is nearing the half-million dollar mark. They tell us they expect to ship in the Fall of 2017.
There are tradeoffs with Wazer versus large waterjet machines — the cut speeds and thicknesses are reduced, as is the bed size. It’s also slightly less precise than a CNC mill, making it harder to use the waterjet-cut parts for engineering purposes where ultra-precise tolerances are a must (Wazer lists the XY gantry precision at 0.003″), and the technology is designed for full cuts, rather than engraving and etching. And all types of water jets use consumables, another expense, and will experience wear — the nozzle on this is replaceable for that.
It has advantages too — no fumes or dust, and no material deformation from heat. The price, size, and ease of use gives homes, classrooms, makerspaces, and more access to a new, powerful tool.