Water jet cutting or laser cutting? Almost everyone working in the metal fabrication sphere has this question in mind. But the truth is, even the expert minds in this industry find this question very challenging and thus they can never provide a definitive answer if that is what you are looking for. It is because the answer you want to hear will greatly depend on what you value the most.
Choosing between these two leading material cutting methods in the metal fabrication industry is indeed a qualified tough call. Both come with their very own array of advantages and disadvantages. To help get this issue resolved, we have come up with a breakdown of their technical and economic aspects.
Waterjet Machine Speed
If you are currently involved with a fabrication project that requires a thin mild steel gauge cutting volume, the use of laser cutting machines will get the job done right.
On the other hand, the use of a waterjet machine would be most recommended when cutting stock materials or several sheets at a time. Such a measure would significantly help in reducing costs. Waterjet technology is powerful enough to be able to cut through a thick pile of metals with great ease.
HAZ or heat-affected zone around or near the cut is one of the laser cutting method drawbacks and unfortunately it is inevitable in laser cutting technology. This is the reason why you can’t completely rely on this material cutting method since it would necessitate most of the time secondary finishing, depending upon your project’s required finish.
One good thing about the use of a waterjet cutting machine is that it takes the creation of HAZ out of the picture. Besides, water jet cutting technology is renowned for its smooth edge finish, meaning there are no jagged edges, burrs, or slags. Therefore, it is, even more, cost-effective for the overall cost of your material cutting project because it eradicates the need for secondary finishing processes.
This material cutting technology is also known not to impart heat or distort parts, so you can freely stack parts for an increased level of productivity.
If your project involves cutting through very thick material, normally the most practical option for such a herculean task is to employ the use of a waterjet cutting machine. Waterjet technology can handle the best cutting through the toughest materials around including, stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, composites, brass, mild steel and many more.
You can employ the use of waterjet material cutting technology in cutting through thick materials, up to about 7 inches.
At the other end of the rope, lasers are most ideal for material cutting jobs of up to about ½ inch thick. But there are also high-powered lasers that can easily manage to cut through 1 inch thick. Another drawback of laser cutting is that thicker materials tend to slow it down. This implies that using this technology, though state-of-the-art technology that it is, may require a significant amount of manufacturing times.
Both of these material cutting technologies are known to deliver an almost similar degree of finished product quality and precision.
However, if you will make use of a laser to cut through acrylic, it tends to flame polish the material’s edge. Similarly, the laser cutting machine tends to heat-seal as it cuts through the fabric. With this in mind, aluminum, copper and other highly reflective materials are not highly recommended for laser cutting.
What is the Bottom Line?
With all the points indicated above, we can safely declare that there is no “correct” answer. Everything will depend on the project you are working on and the many specifics that come along with it.
Most of the time waterjet technology of cutting is a far better option when the material cutting projects you’re working with involve handling varied and thick materials. If you are in dire need of an effective convenient way to handle your metal cutting concerns, waterjet technology is the best choice.