A question we get asked regularly is “When should I use a Waterjet cutting service instead of Laser cutting?”, so here we look at the fundamental differences between the processes.

Laser Cutting: How it works

A laser cutter relies on a gas laser, such as a CO2 laser, for energy. The CO2 is then transmitted through a beam, which is guided by mirrors, and directed at the material. With CO2 lasers, the laser source is located inside the machine and the beam can output between 1500 and 2600 Watts.

Materials suited to Laser cutting

Laser cutters work well with a variety of materials including, plastic, glass, wood, and all metals (except for reflective metals). If a material combination consists of materials with different melting points, however, it can be rather difficult to cut.

Sandwich structures with cavities cannot be cut at all using a CO2 laser, and materials with limited access prove difficult as well. 3D material cutting is also hard to manage because of the rigid beam guidance.

Heat Damage

However when using some materials, such as metal alloys, some deformation and minor structural changes can occur as a result of thermal stress, and the cut material will appear striated.

Accuracy

Laser cutters do well with thicknesses of up to 25mm Mild Steel, 20mm Stainless Steel and 15mm Aluminium and precision is not an issue, with a geometric accuracy of +-0.1mm on all but the very thickest materials.

Waterjet Cutting Services: How it works

Unlike lasers, our Waterjet Cutting service use pressurised water to cut material. To increase cutting ability, abrasives such as garnets and aluminium oxide are often added. 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 Waterjet can output between 4 to 7 kilowatts.

Unlike a laser cutter, where the laser source is located inside the machine, the work area and pump are often separate.

Materials suited to Waterjet cutting services

Waterjet cutting services 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.

Waterjet cutting services usually perform cutting, ablation, and structuring, specifically with materials like stone, ceramics, and thick metals. Materials that are too thick to be laser cut (up to a maximum of  200mm) or have a bed size too large for a Laser (up to 4m x 2m) benefit from Waterjet cutting.

Heat Damage

The cold cutting process ensures that there is no heat damage to materials and is therefore used for Metal alloys.

Accuracy

The most technically advanced Waterjet cutting machines match the +-0.1mm  geometric accuracy of a laser  and produce accurate parts with typically less than 1 degree of taper.

 

Key Points

Laser Waterjet
Geometric accuracy +- 0.1mm Geometric accuracy +- 0.1mm
No Taper
Some materials experience heat damage No heat damage
Maximum thickness 25mm Mild Steel, 20mm Stainless Steel,15mm Aluminium Maximum thickness 200mm
Emsea: Max bed size 3050 x 1520mm Bed size 4000 x 2000mm
 Most suited to metals (non-reflective)  Can cut virtually any  material