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Water Jet Cutting vs. Laser Cutting
BSM North America
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Water Jet Cutting vs. Laser Cutting

Cutting techniques have advanced with industrial fabrication and advanced manufacturing, and there are two main custom options, including waterjet and laser cutting. If you are considering purchasing one of these options, the question of which one is better will come up.

Due to increased demand from many industries, the laser cutting machine market is anticipated to grow by 5.5% through 2030 and water jet cutting at 5.2% through 2033.

There are some significant differences between them, so let's break them down and the pros and cons of each to help you choose the right one for your business.

What Is the Laser Cutting Process?

Laser cutters utilize a beam that heats the material and cuts through it, leaving a smooth finish behind. 

The system also uses gas to blow away any leftover materials, and the typical output of the CO2 laser is between 4000 and 6000 watts.

How Does Water Jet Cutting Work? 

Water jet machines cut through the materials with pressurized water. They also utilize garnet and aluminum oxide to help enhance their cutting ability, resulting in a process similar to erosion in riverbeds. 

A water jet machine pumps the liquid through the holes at a much higher speed and concentration, producing an output of around 4 to 7 kilowatts.

Cost Comparisons

The laser will be the less expensive choice in terms of operating cost, coming in between $15 to $30, with the machine ranging between $8000 and $250,000. 

Water jet cutting machines will run you between $60,000 and $450,000, and operating costs range from $15 to $30.

Accuracy

One of the biggest concerns is the accuracy these machines offer. In this case, the laser will be more accurate because it has a tolerance of +/- 0.005, whereas the waterjet is at +/- 0.03. 

Speed

There will always be pros and cons with any machines you purchase, but when you are considering speed, it all depends on the application. The laser is typically quicker with thinner materials because the beam can penetrate and vaporize the materials more efficiently. 

Laser cutters are mostly used for material thicknesses around 0.12 inches to 0.4 inches. 

The water jet works well with thicker substances because it can remove more material faster than the laser option and handle thicknesses of up to 2.0 inches.

Cost of Components

Your other consideration is the cost of components. The water jet is pricier because it uses a water pump that needs regular maintenance and consumables. 

Water jetting also requires filters, seals, abrasive material, and cutting heads, making the laser a more cost-effective option because it's only a single tool. 

Materials

The type of materials you're using will affect which method is best for your project, and water jet cutters have no problem cutting through composites, glass, stone, and aluminum.

Laser cutting and marking works for most materials, including leather, foam, and fabric, but be aware that some metals and plastics can emit harmful fumes during the process.

Eco-Friendliness

Laser and water jet cutters can be considered eco-friendly. While water jet cutting doesn't produce fumes or hazardous waste when used correctly, laser cutting can also be a great option because it has precise cuts.

With precision cutting, you get less waste and reduce your environmental footprint and energy consumption during manufacturing.

BSM: Streamlined Processes Designed for Your Needs 

There are many variables to consider, and the choice will ultimately come down to your specific requirements and needs. Designing the right products is crucial, and when you need professional support with OEM development, BSM North America has you covered. 

Our Minnesota company has been in the industrial parts fabrication business for over 30 years and specializes in multiple products, including off-road steering columns, to help you design components that fit your needs.

When you need the highest-quality results, our team is here to help get you started; message us online or call us at 952-890-8146 today.

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