A Manufacturer’s Guide to Water Jet Cutting vs. Laser Cutting Method

A Manufacturer’s Guide to Water Jet Cutting  vs. Laser Cutting Method

Water jet cutting and laser cutting are two of the most popular and most widely used methods of material cutting in the manufacturing industry. It often presents a tough call when someone will try to choose one between the two for their unique material cutting requirements. But it can only become a tough call if you don’t know what makes them distinct from the other, or what their advantages and disadvantages are.  

Laser Cutting

Laser cutting method makes use of a gas laser, typically carbon dioxide.  It is beamed and directed via mirrors to the object you are trying to cut. Laser cutting can handle cutting through a manifold of materials with utmost precision. 

In CO2 lasers, you will find the source of the laser within the laser cutting machine itself. They can beam their laser at 1.5 to 2.6 kilowatt. And since laser cutting machines are known for their fine results, you can be assured to have a cutting precision that is as fine as 0.006 inches, depending of course on the material you are trying to cut. 

Laser cutters can efficiently handle a wide array of materials, including plastic, wood, glass, and a few select types of metals, too. However, we want to discourage you to even try laser cutter on reflective metals, as doing so would entail a lot of risks. Instead, you should consider the use of fiber optic lasers because they will significantly lower refractivity.   

Laser Cutting by the Numbers

  • Beam output is 1.5 up to a maximum of 2.6 kilowatts
  • Maximum cutting slit thinness (level of precision) is approximately 0.006 inches
  • Optimal thickness range for cutting is 0.12 up to 0.4 inches
  • Materials easily cut by the laser cutting method include plastic, wood, glass, and metals

Water Jet Cutting

Unlike laser cutting technology, waterjet cutting machines make use of highly pressurized water which is emitted out at enormous speeds to cut through a material. To further enhance this piece of machine’s cutting power, granular abrasive material such as garnet can be added to the water. 

With outputs that will range from 60,000 up to 90,000 psi, waterjet machines are enabled to cut through a wide array of materials with a varying range of thickness. 

Although this method of cutting is somewhat less precise in comparison to laser cutting machines, water jet cutting technology is one notch higher in the sense that it will not produce a “heat-affected zone” on the adjacent area of the material it is trying to cut. The heat emanating from the laser will naturally warp the material around the area being cut. 

On occasions you have a dire need to cut a highly reflective metal, water jet cutting machines are proving themselves as much effective as opposed to their “sophisticated” laser-emitting counterparts.