Waterjet Cutting Vs. Laser Cutting

In the manufacturing industry, our customers want equipment that will increase their efficiency and maximize profitability, but with so many options on the market, choosing the right tool can be difficult.

Two of the most used processes, waterjet cutting and laser cutting, are highly valuable processes that have increased in popularity over the years. These two machines are often used to complement each other in different manufacturing processes because they each have their own set of strengths and limitations.

Waterjet Cutting Machines

Waterjet cutting machines use water mixed with abrasive materials, known as garnet, to cut materials. This process is capable of easily slicing through hard, dense materials like glass, metals, stone, and wood without creating heat-affected edges. With no heat used and extremely clean cuts made, the part cut can go straight to threading or welding operations without any grinding, sanding, or cooling time.

Waterjet cutters are one of the most versatile machines on the market. Because the cutting process is executed with water, there is no limit on which materials you can cut. Waterjet cutting machines cut clean, meaning there is essentially no need for secondary processes. With the ability to cut up to 12” thick material, waterjets can take on wood, foam, and plastics. Just like the laser, waterjet cutters can handle basic cuts as well as intricate part designs. Like lasers, waterjets are used in industries like aerospace, automotive, medical, agriculture, and more.

Some disadvantages to waterjet cutting machines include a 0.02-inch tolerance. This is slightly larger than a laser can offer. Because waterjets use the method of erosion, eroded material mixes with the garnet and needs to be disposed of properly based on environmental codes. The most substantial disadvantage of a waterjet cutting machine is the speed. A waterjet cutter cannot cut at the speed and acceleration of a laser.

Laser Cutting Machines

Laser cutting machines are a metal cutting process that uses high-density energy beams directed by mirrors to cut into materials. This process creates a high level of precision and accuracy and is used on all types of cuts from simple to complex. Very little waste is produced in the laser cutting process resulting in minimal cleanup of dust.

Laser cutting is largely used to cut metal such as stainless steel and aluminum in industries like automotive, manufacturing, aerospace, architecture, and many others. There are many advantages when considering a laser cutting machine. Laser cutters on the market use a high level of precision and accuracy making them extremely reliable. Whether your part is an intricate design or your most basic cut, a laser cutting machine will be able to tackle it with unmatched speed and acceleration. Though laser cutters may require a large upfront investment, with the low cost to operate the machine and a variety of automation options, the investment can pay for itself in no time.

Some disadvantages involved in laser cutting systems can be the need for secondary processes. There will often be a need to deburr parts. Additionally, though it expertly cuts metals, it is much less useful when other materials are introduced.

Waterjet Cutting Machines Vs. Laser Cutting Machines

The question of waterjet cutting machines vs. laser cutting machines really becomes a question of application. What are you cutting and for what purpose? If you are interested in cutting different materials, at different thicknesses in a timely matter with no secondary processing needed, you would likely want to invest in a waterjet cutting machine. If you have high precision cuts, need exceptional repeatability in record times, a laser cutting machine will best fit your needs.

Northeast Machinery Sales can provide both solutions for customers near the Massachusetts region. Whether you are needing a Flow Waterjet or a Laser Cutting system, your local Northeast Machinery Sales representative will equip you with the knowledge to make the best decision for your business. Contact Northeast Machinery today by visiting our website or calling our office at 717-541-1633.