Differences Between Laser Cutting and Waterjet Cutting

The differences between these two approaches don’t just lie in their methods, but in their results and applications, too. When choosing between laser vs. waterjet cutting in your applications, consider the following:

Methods: Water jet cutting is a cutting method in which high pressure water is paired with an abrasive, such as garnet, in order to erode materials at a fast rate, thus creating a cut. A laser cutter on the other hand, uses a CO2 gas for laser energy, creating a rapid heating process that melts or vaporizes material. The laser beam is focused onto an area by adjusting a the lens, in order to create a better cut.

Materials: Both laser and waterjet are excellent choices to cut metals. Any required secondary operations will help determine which technology is the best for the job. In general, waterjet cutting is better suited for thicker, harder materials than laser cutting because of its high-pressure capabilities.

Precision: Laser cutting delivers extremely high precision, reaching tolerances of +/-0.005″, depending on the speed of the laser. Waterjet cutting typically holds a tolerance of +/- 0.03″.

Speed: Laser cutting is generally a bit faster than waterjet cutting and cuts more inches per minute.

Costs: In terms of laser vs. waterjet cost, laser cutting is a more economical option as it can cut parts faster. Waterjet cutting is comparatively expensive, requiring many components to run properly, including a high-pressure pump, abrasive materials and cutting heads.

Component cleanup: Laser cutting can sometimes leave a few burrs on the cut surfaces of the components. The components then require deburring for optimal smoothness, functionality and safety. Waterjet cutting, on the other hand, generally necessitates minimal cleanup after cutting — the cut components are smooth and ready to go.

The point of this article is not to decide which is best between laser cutting and waterjet cutting, but to point out their differences, and to help you decide which one is best for your application.

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