Laser Cutting vs Waterjet Cutting

The two most common cutting practices used by manufacturing companies are laser cutting and waterjet cutting. While not always appropriate for the same applications, these two fabrication techniques offer value to manufacturing processes, albeit in different ways. To understand this more fully, it’s essential to understand the methods themselves and the differences between them.

What is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is a metal cutting process that makes use of high-density energy beams, usually produced with gas. These beams of energy are directed by mirrors to cut into materials. The beam vaporizes materials on contact, creating smooth, clean cuts while avoiding warping and tearing that can happen with other cutting techniques.

What is Waterjet Cutting?

Waterjet cutting primarily differs from laser cutting in its methods — instead of a laser beam, a waterjet is used to cut material. This waterjet contains abrasive materials like aluminum oxide or garnet to help improve cutting ability, creating cuts through abrasion rather than vaporization.

Differences Between Laser Cutting and Waterjet Cutting

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

  • Materials: Both laser and waterjet are excellent choices to cut metals (stainless steel, steel, aluminum, copper, brass, bronze etc.). Any required secondary operations will help determine which technology is the best for the job.
  • 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″.
  • Waste: Both laser and waterjet produce little waste. Depending on the material type, there can be deburring needed with laser cutting, but very little clean up required for parts cut on the waterjet.
  • Tooling: Fiber laser cutting maintains a low tooling cost, since the gasses used to produce the laser and the components are inexpensive. Waterjet cutting is comparatively expensive, requiring many components to run properly, including a high-pressure pump, abrasive materials and cutting heads.
  • Speed: Laser cutting is capable of cutting between 50 – 2,000 inches per minute, depending on speed and material thickness, while waterjet cutting is capable of up to 100 inches per minute.

In the end, each of these material fabrication methods has its own advantages and disadvantages to understand as you select your preferred method. If you need assistance deciding between custom laser cutting vs custom waterjet cutting, Laserfab can help!

Contact Laserfab

Laserfab has an extensive, experienced background of offering metal laser cutting services for a variety of industries and can help your business choose between laser cutting and waterjet cutting for your next big project. Contact us today for more information on our superb laser cutting services!

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