Laser vs Waterjet cutting: Similarities and Differences
Last update 08/31, Time to Read:5 minutes
Laser cutting and waterjet cutting are the most commonly used cutting practices by manufacturing companies. For the manufacturers, choosing between laser and waterjet cutting is a tough task, as each can be more suitable for different materials and applications. Both the processes have high accuracy and precision with minimal waste. These processes can handle a wide range of metals, which are most likely suitable for the automation industry with a small kerf width.
Waterjet cutting is most suitable for thick and harder materials compared to laser cutting. The laser cutting completes the operation in less time compared to waterjet cutting, but the workpiece will have burnt edges which require a deburring process. Waterjet cutting is quite expensive and laser cutting is the most economical process. Multiple questions need to ask, before selecting the appropriate cutting method, such as Material type, Material thickness, required tolerance and edge finish and the effects of heat on the material.
In this blog, a detailed explanation of laser cutting and waterjet cutting are discussed along with their capabilities. If you would like to know more detail about these two process, you can always get hel from our enginers.
What is a Laser Cutting?
The high-density energy beams produced with gas are generally used for cutting material in laser cutting. To cut the materials, the beams of energy are directed by the mirrors and these high-density beams are known as Laser. The laser is used to melt, burn or vaporize the material at the contact zone to create a smooth and clean cut. During laser cutting operation, the laser can be at a static position or it can move across the material according to the requirements.
The laser cutters are commonly used to cut flat sheets of medium thickness steel with a thickness, in the range of 0.12” and 0.4”. The laser can cut non-ferrous materials which are thin such as plastics and wood. However, there will be burned edge due to the heat generation. To attain a high degree of precision and accuracy for any cutting job, laser cutting is the ideal one. With this laser cutting, the simpler jobs like rings, disks and highly complex jobs for different industries can be accomplished. A consistent high degree of repeatability and tight tolerances can be attained by laser cutting and it is also highly compatible with mass production operations.
What is a Waterjet Cutting?
The waterjet cutting primarily uses a pressurised jet of water, which contains abrasive materials such as aluminium oxide or garnet. These abrasive materials help to improve the cutting ability and create cuts through abrasion rather than melting, burning and vaporization. This process replicates the erosion that carves out riverbeds and cliffs in nature. A high-pressure pump with higher concentration and speed is required to drive the liquid through rigid holes, which results in a massively powerful jet with an output of 4-7 kilowatts. Waterjet cutting enables the cut of a wider range of materials and it is ideal for difficult or complex cuts. It will make the cutting operation cleanly, close tolerances, squarely and with a good edge finish. With very few exceptions. the waterjet cutting is commonly used to make any profile on any material up to a thickness of 250mm.
Similarities between the Laser and Waterjet cutting
Across numerous industries, both the Laser and waterjet cutting processes are used to cut various materials for different applications. Most of the characteristics of these two processes are discussed below:
v Accuracy and Precision: Both processes ensure consistency across the product batches by making the component production process at a highly repeatable level. In many applications, they provide remarkably high precision and accuracy.
v Minimal Waste: Both the processes generate a small amount of reusable and recyclable scraps, and further it will give a boost to sustainable practices.
v Versatility: As both processes can handle a wide range of metals from steel and stainless steel to aluminium, copper and bronze, they are highly versatile. They can produce custom parts for any application, by which these processes are highly tailorable.
v Small Kerf Width: The amount of material removed from the workpiece with each cut is known as “kerf width”. Both processes offer a small kerf width, with waterjet cutting, which is about 0.7 to 1.02 mm and laser cutting offers an incredibly thin kerf width, which is about 0.08 to 1 mm. This small kerf width allows both the processes to produce the products with fine detailing and intricate shapes.
v High Quality: Due to the precision and accuracy of the machines, both processes deliver high-quality cut products.
v Suitability for Automation: Automated processes require the repetition of processes with utmost precision and accuracy. For this, both the processes are ideal and they can make the same cuts several times by maintaining the dimensional tolerances.
Differences between the Laser and Waterjet Cutting
The results and applications can also make the difference between these processes, not only their methods. Most of them are discussed below:
v Materials: To cut metals, both the processes are excellent choices, but the second operation will determine the best for the job. In general, due to its high-pressure capabilities, waterjet cutting is most suitable for thicker and harder materials compared to laser cutting.
v Speed: The laser cutting operates within less time and cuts more inches per minute compared to the waterjet cutting.
v Precision: Depending on the speed of the laser, the laser cutting delivers exceptionally high precision, with a tolerance of ±0.005” and the typical tolerance of the waterjet cutting is ±0.003”.
v Component Clean-up: A few burns on the cut surfaces of the component will be occurred due to laser cutting and the component shall require a deburring process for its optimal smoothness, functionality and safety. Exerting a high pressure on the workpiece due to the waterjet cutting results in the blasting of small/thin workpieces compared to the large/thick workpieces. Ideally, the waterjet cutting process requires minimal deburring/cleaning of the workpiece, as the cut workpieces will have a smooth surface finish.
v Costs: For waterjet cutting, some additional components need to work properly such as a high-pressure pump, abrasive materials and cutting head, which results in a comparatively expensive process. Laser cutting is the most economical process as it can cut the parts in less time.
Post time: Aug-01-2022