Laser Cutting vs. Water Jet Cutting

On top of the many decisions you have to make during your next project is how you will choose to cut materials needed. Two popular methods include laser cutting and water jet cutting. While both have many pros and cons, they are two entirely different methods.

Water Jet Cutting

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.

Over the years water jet cutting has evolved to where more and more materials are able to be cut by an abrasive water jet cutting system. Metals (titanium too), material composites, plastic, stone, glass and rocks, can all be cut using an abrasive water jet. Water jets can cut from .0005″ to around 10″. Water jets can typically cut most 3-dimensional objects.

One of the most important things many appreciate about water jet cutting is that this type of cutting doesn’t require heat, and therefore sensitive materials are free from any warping. And because water jet cutting is such a clean cut, the need for grinding or sanding around the edges is unnecessary. This diminishes costs, and the easy automation of a water jet cutting machine mean prototypes and high production can be utilized. Also, water jet cutters make good use of provided materials, cutting down on waste, and therefore can reduce material costs.

Water jet cutting produces little to no waste, and doesn’t release harmful chemicals or residue, protecting anyone near the machine, as well as the environment. This type of cutting typically is an inexpensive choice when compared to the price laser cutting.

The finished product may appear sand blasted after a water jet cuts through it, solely because of the abrasive that will be hitting the surface. Because of the amount of waste water jet cutting produces, the time for cleanup can be extensive.

Laser Cutting

A laser cutter on the other hand, uses a CO2 gas for laser energy, creating a rapid heating process that melts or vaporizes material.┬áThe laser beam is focused onto an area by adjusting a the lens, in order to create a better cut. Laser cutting machines can typically cut from .12″ to .4″.

Because of its power, many materials are able to be cut this way, including plastic, wood, non-reflective metals and glass. However, some metals that are sensitive may warp and bend under due to high temperatures, creating an ill-cut product. Composite materials may not be as easily cut by laser cutting machines, nor are 3-dimensional materials.

The benefits of this type of laser is that it can do more than just cut- it can weld, engrave, remove excess materials and drills.

Laser cutting can produce harmful residue (smoke and dust) from the different materials it may cut. Because of this some call it environmentally harmful, however it doesn’t pose a major threat to any technicians who are equipped with proper safety gear.

So which is better?

No one can really truthfully say which of these are better, solely because it just depends on the project you’re working on and the material you are using. Should you need help deciding how to choose, Texas Metal Tech is just a phone call away.

We have experts standing by to answer your machining questions. Call (281) 893-0411.