Waterjet cutting vs. Laser cutting

Waterjet cutting is a manufacturing technique that uses pressurised water concentrated in a very small point to cut material. Sometimes the pressure can be as high as 60 000 psi (4 137 bar).

Laser cutting on the other hand is a thermal process where a concentrated laser beam is used to melt material.

Working differences

laser cutting machine can both cut and engrave material, while the waterjet option only allows cutting. So if you want to add serial numbers, small details like assembly marks on add design flourishes, laser’s engraving capability gives it an advantage.

Although Waterjet cutting isn’t really designed for 3D material cutting, it can do this to a limited extent. Laser cutting though, cannot perform this action.

When it comes to combined materials neither method performs well. If the materials have different melting points this will pose a problem for laser cutting while Waterjet cutting result in delamination.

Choosing a cutting method

Both laser and waterject cutting methods can cut through difficult materials, including:

  • all plastics
  • glass
  • woods
  • metals – stainless steel, aluminium, mild steel, but laser can’t cut highly reflective metals

Material thickness

Waterjet cutters can slice through thicker objects (10 to 50 mm) while laser’s cutting depth is usually 3 to 10 mm.

Cutting precision

However, laser cutting is much more precise, with a minimum cutting slit of 0.15 mm compared to 0.5 mm for waterjet cutting. Comparing processing tolerance laser cutting comes in at 0.05 mm to waterjet cutting’s 0.2 mm.

Material damage

When it comes to part integrity, both techniques can be problematic. Both damage material during the manufacturing process to some extent. Laser cutting may leave some burn marks on the material. Burn marks can often be removed with cleaning and darkening sides can be worked into the design as a contrast of colouring. This won’t be a problem with Waterjet cutting but the high pressure forces on the material can deform small pieces.

Inconvenient factors

Comparing the levels of noise, danger, maintenance, and waste laser cutting comes out on top. It involves very low risk and waste and requires little clean-up. Safety goggles are recommended although not required. Some materials can cause dust and smoke so it’s essential to work in a properly ventilated space. Noise pollution is minimal and the cutting waste is usually dust that can be easily vacuumed.

Waterjet cutting poses more risks – the extreme noise requires ear protection. In addition, safety glasses and other specific protection gear are essential. The cutting areas would also require extensive clean-up efforts as a result of cutting waste resulting from the mixing of water and abrasives.

Remove the hassle

Vest Profiling is a trusted laser cutting and waterjet cutting company in Meyerton and will take care of all your profile cutting requirements so you don’t have to worry about choosing the best approach. Speak to one of our specialists today to discuss your needs and we’ll take care of the rest.

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