Laser Cutting Vs. Waterjet Cutting- Elena

Two major cutting process manufacturers commonly use when cutting material include laser cutting and water jet cutting. Depending on the type of material used and the desired end result, one of these two methods may be appropriate for a given application. First, it is helpful to examine the fundamental differences between the processes and the materials they work well with.

Water Jet Cutting

Unlike laser cutters, water jet cutters use pressurized water to cut material. To increase cutting ability, we often add abrasives such as garnets and aluminum oxide. The overall process mimics erosion in nature, just at a much higher speed and concentration. A high-pressure pump drives the water through rigid hoses, resulting in a forceful water jet—a typical water jet can output between 4 to 7 kilowatts. We put the laser source inside the laser cutter, water jet is unlike it, the work area and pump are often separate.

Material and Applications

Water jets can cut virtually any material including combination materials—with combination materials. However, water jets pose the threat of delamination. They can sometimes handle 3D material cutting, and exhibit limited ability with sandwich structures and cavities. Cutting materials with limited access is possible but difficult.

Water jets usually perform cutting, ablation, and structuring, specifically with materials like stone, ceramics, and thick metals. Materials that range in thickness from 0.4 to 2 in benefit from water jet cutting.

Precision and Safety

Waterjet cutting is not quite as precise as laser cutting, with a minimum cut size slit of .02”. Because of the high level of force used, thin, small, parts do not fare well and we must handle it carefully. Although thermal stress is not an issue and burring doesn’t occur in the cut. The surface of the material will appear sand-blasted as a result of the added abrasive to the water-jet. And goggles should be worn to protect the eyes and face. The waterjet cutting process is quite noisy, and requires a significant amount of clean up—large amounts of waste occur as a result of the mixed water and abrasive.

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