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How Automotive Metal Cutting Works


Advances in Automotive Metal Cutting
A stream of water blasts through a compilation of steel, concrete block and polystyrene foam during a demonstration at the University of Missouri-Rolla's High Pressure Waterjet Laboratory in Rolla, Mo.
A stream of water blasts through a compilation of steel, concrete block and polystyrene foam during a demonstration at the University of Missouri-Rolla's High Pressure Waterjet Laboratory in Rolla, Mo.
AP Photo/Kelley McCall

Automotive manufacturing is a constant game of improvement -- car buyers expect more refinement, performance and safety from newer vehicles, yet they typically don't want to pay a lot more for them. To make vehicles structurally stronger, more precisely built and still affordable means embracing technology advances like those described below:

EDM: Wire Electrical Discharge Machining, or EDM, cuts through metals by producing a powerful electrical spark. A negatively charged electrode made of molybdenum or zinc-coated brass releases a spark when in close proximity to the positively charged metal piece. The advantage of this method: It can reach an accuracy of 1/10,000th of an inch. That's 10 times narrower than the width of a human hair! [source: Ley]

EDM does have some drawbacks, though. For one, it only works on electrically conductive materials. For another, it's pretty slow -- as much as 10 times slower than our next technology [source: Rupenthal and Burnham].

Waterjets: Think of waterjets as a high-pressure, liquid sandpaper. Waterjets use a process called "cold supersonic erosion" to blast away material with water and some type of granular additive, called an abrasive. This combination allows waterjets to cut through metals up to 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) thick, and with a high degree of accuracy [source: KMT Waterjet Systems].

This metal-cutting tool has gotten high-profile exposure from the likes of car enthusiast Jay Leno and celebrity car customizing shop West Coast Customs. It's relatively easy to use and can cut through many different materials besides metals.

For more information about automotive metal cuttingand other related topics, follow the links on the next page.


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