Water Jet Cutting Versus Laser Cutting

Choosing the better option between water jet cutting and laser cutting is not as easy and straightforward as most of us think it would be. There is no possible way we can qualify either one of them as the better option.

Each one of them is suitable to use certain materials and applications. Therefore, your choice between the two will be greatly dictated by your own specifications.

You can make use of the following set of questions to help you determine which one would deliver your best expectations.  

  • What type of material are you planning to cut soon?
  • How thick was it?
  • What edge and tolerance finish do you require?
  • Would you mind the presence of heat?

As for how the name of this method of cutting suggests, laser cutting utilizes a strong, concentrated beam of laser light to burn, melt, or vaporize a material. This focused beam of laser light can be static, meaning, you have the liberty to move it across the material.  

Laser cutters are ideal to use on materials that come with a level of thickness ranging between 0.12” to 0.4”. It is commonly used to cut flat sheets of steel of medium thickness.

As for waterjet option, it utilizes a jet of pressurized water. To further intensify its power to cut through materials, abrasives like garnet particles can be added to the water.  The technique allows for cutting a wider spectrum of materials, to close tolerances, cleanly, squarely and most importantly with a good edge finish.

While laser cutting technology is often viewed by many as a complimentary service to waterjet cutting, the latter does prove to offer more advantages as follows:

  • Ability to work with a wider spectrum of materials
  • Cut materials with thickness levels that laser cutting won’t be able to cover
  • The absence of the heat-affected zone (HAZ)
  • More nature-friendly
  • Increased safety level for the user
  • Does not put emphasis on the uniformity of the material
  • Improved tolerance on thicker areas
  • Improved edge finish

While laser cutters are capable of cutting through non-ferrous materials, it can be quite thin, like wood and plastics. However, there is one thing you might get concerned about is the fact that the edge could harbor some burns brought about by the heat generated by the laser method.

On the other hand, with water jet cutting, it is possible you can profile almost all kinds of materials up to 250 mm thickness. There would be very few exceptions as opposed to the laser’s 25 mm thickness.

Conclusion:

Most people who are not very fastidious about the quality of accuracy or finish can be observed to opt instead for laser cutting. So far, the laser cutting method offers the most cost-effective option when it comes to thin parts.

On the other hand, with respect to the ability to stack up sheets and multi-heads, it is evident that the waterjet method is catching up fast. One important factor to look into is that as far as the material thickness is concerned, the more cost-effective waterjet method while the level of thickness increases.  

In Action:  water jet cutter