Technical Tip of the Week: Waterjet Abrasive Removal

WARDJet's SmartRemove continuously pulls spent abrasive from the waterjet tank.

The abrasive waterjet is an extremely capable machine that has many advantages over traditional cutting systems. Like any machine, however, proper maintenance must be performed to keep the system running at peak efficiency. One of the major maintenance procedures that must be regularly performed on a waterjet cutting system is the removal of abrasive from the tank.

As an abrasive waterjet cuts, the spent abrasive is deposited into the waterjet tank. The accumulation of this abrasive waste can potentially cause issues if left unchecked. As the spent abrasive approaches the grates, the force of the jet stream entering the tank can expel the excess waste out of the tank and into the surrounding area. Along with making a large mess, the abrasive waste can cause damage to other machines or devices in the vicinity. Therefore, the abrasive must be periodically removed. The frequency of abrasive removal will depend on the size of the tank, average abrasive feed rate used, and machine job volume, but all waterjet tanks will eventually need emptied. There are three common methods of cleaning out the tank: Shoveling, extractor systems, and continuous abrasive removal systems.


Shoveling is the traditional method of removing abrasive from a waterjet tank. The waterjet must be locked-out, the slats or grates removed, and operators-turned-excavators must climb in the tank to begin the back-breaking task of shoveling out literal tons of abrasive. Depending on the size of the waterjet, the amount of abrasive in the tank, and the number of workers shoveling, this process could take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. During this time, production comes to a screeching halt as the tedius removal commences. If you must use this method of abrasive removal, ensure that all involved are wearing proper protective equipment, as large chunks of debris may be present inside the tank, posing an injury risk to those who climb inside. Once all of the abrasive is removed, the slates or grates can be replaced and the waterjet can resume operation until it is time to shovel out the tank once again.

Abrasive Extractors

Abrasive extractors are essentially modified vacuums that suck the abrasive up and out of the waterjet tank. Depending on the type of abrasive extractor used, the slates or grates may need to be removed. The extractor wand is then manually swept through the entirety of the tank, pulling out abrasive as it moves. While this is a much less labor-intensive method when compared to shoveling, it is still a lengthy process that requires operation of the waterjet to cease while the abrasive is being removed.

Continuous Abrasive Removal Systems

Continuous abrasive removal systems constantly remove spent abrasive from the tank without the need to halt operation. Generally, these types of systems are attached to the waterjet itself and require very little human input or supervision once installed. WARDJet’s SmartRemove is one such system that is an affordable alternative to shoveling and abrasive extractors.

WARDJet’s SmartRemove

The SmartRemove abrasive removal system is powered by a single compressed air hose. Flexible hoses are laid across the floor of the waterjet tank. Attached to the ends of these hoses are metal “tents” that act as filters, blocking large objects from entering the hoses and clogging the system. The abrasive that is suspended in the tank water is pulled through the tents, into the hoses, and out of the tank. It is then deposited into a hopper, where the used abrasive settles into a bag while the water is returned to the tank. The spent abrasive that has been collected can then be disposed of or sent to a recycling facility.

Because the SmartRemove functions while the machine is in operation, the tank will never become filled with spent abrasive. This completely eliminates any downtime associated with abrasive removal and reduces the labor costs that come with manually shoveling the tank. The SmartRemove can be retrofitted to any brand and size of machine and requires minimal upkeep.

For more information on WARDJet’s SmartRemove abrasive removal system, contact WARDJet by sending an email to or by calling 330-677-9100.

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