People are under the impression that they can be very straightforward when it comes to choosing between water jet cutting and laser jet cutting. There is no possible way you can say which one is better because each one of them is naturally more suitable for use in different materials. Each one can be utilized in different applications. Therefore, trying to choose between water jet and laser cutting, it would depend entirely to your specifications.
As the name itself suggests, laser cutting involves the use of laser, it will help you to burn, melt or vaporize a material. During this process, a beam of focused light is used to carry out a cut design. The laser beam itself can be static and stationary or, depending on your cut-design, you can have it move across the material.
Laser cutters perform extremely well with materials that have a thickness range between 0.12” to 0.14”. This method of cutting is commonly used to cut sheets of medium-thickness steel.
Water jet cutting machines are using a jet of high-pressure water and are often combined with an abrasive material such as garnet particles. Adding abrasive particles to the water itself will help intensify the water jet’s ability to cut through a material, thus reducing work time.
Even if many people qualify laser cutting as some kind of complementary service to the water jet method, many are surprised to know that the latter is actually offering a wide array of advantages as follows:
- Adaptable to work with a wider spectrum of materials
- Capable of cutting through materials whose thickness makes it difficult for the laser to cut.
- The absence of the heat-affected zone (HAZ)
- Easy on the environment.
- Safer to use compared to other cutting methods
- No need to observe uniformity of material
- Higher tolerance level on thicker parts
- Better edge finish
Even if laser cutters tend to work a nice job in cutting through non-ferrous materials, they tend to be quite thinner, much like wood and plastics. But the thing is when it comes to the edge some parts are usually burnt as brought about by the heat generated by this cutting method. On the other hand, with water jet cutting, you can profile almost any material having a maximum thickness of 250mm as opposed to the laser’s 25mm thickness.
These 2 cutting methods sometimes have outstanding features of their own and sometimes you need to take them into account when trying to decide which one is most suitable to your needs. Holes with a much smaller diameter compared to the level of thickness of the material can’t be lasered. In this case, a waterjet machine is a much better option because it can handle extremely small holes.
What About the Cost?
Many people who consider laser cutting as the most cost-effective option for thin parts and are not actually bothered by its level of accuracy or quality of finish, would usually settle for this method of cutting. Nevertheless, with water jet cutting and its ability to pile up sheets, is catching up fast and one important aspect to look into here is that as the level of thickness of the material increases, the natural tendency of the waterjet is to become even more cost-efficient.