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Difference Between Water Jet Cutting and Laser Jet Cutting

Find out the difference of laser cutting to water jet cutting

Water jet cutting and laser jet cutting are two of the most commonly used material cutting methods in the manufacturing industry. With respect to the material in question and the desired end result, either of these two options would be appropriate for a given application. By delving deeper into the fundamental differences that exist between these two material cutting methods and the range of materials that they usually work well with, we’d be able to determine when and to which project they will best work for.

Laser Cutting 

CO2 is considered as the lifeblood of laser cutting machines, it functions as its energy or fuel. This gas is being transmitted through a beam and under the guidance of custom-built mirrors, then finally directed to your material. In CO2 laser cutting machines, the source of the laser itself can be located inside the machine itself. The beam of the laser can produce an output between 1500 to 2600 watts. When trying to consider the application of laser cutting method in your material cutting requirements, applications, materials as well as precision and safety are among some of the important factors to take into account.  

Materials and Applications 

You can work with laser cutting machines with a manifold of materials. This would include wood, glass, plastic and all kinds of metals with only one exception though, the reflective type. If the material you are going to use as a workpiece is comprised of different materials with different melting points, it might pose a certain level of challenge. Sandwiched structures highlighted by cavities might not be cut by CO2 laser, and any material that eventually proves as having limited access will prove to be difficult to cut also. Cutting material for a 3D project will pose a certain level of a challenge due to the rigid beam guidance.   

Precision and Safety

Precision and accuracy have never been an issue with laser cutting. Depending on the laser speed itself, the minimum cutting slit size can reach to 0.006 inches. Thinner workpieces are at a greater risk of suffering from gas pressure in case that the proper distance is not well maintained. Partial burring is likely to occur due to thermal stress. This will render your cut material to have a striated appearance.  

While safety goggles may not be a constant requirement, the laser cutting process may produce dust and smoke. With some metals and plastics, it may run the risk of even producing toxic fumes, therefore proper ventilation would be critical. Overall, the perceived risks involved when working with a laser cutter is rather low, much like the amount of produced waste and the subsequent cleanup.  

Water Jet Technology

Contrary to how laser cutting machines work, water jet cutters make use of strongly pressurized water to cut through a wide range of materials. To further intensify its cutting power, abrasive particles such as aluminum oxide and garnets can be added to water. Overall, the water jet process is designed to imitate the erosion of the soil in the mountains and nature, just that it is done with much stronger force, greater speed, and higher concentration. 

A high-pressure pump is worked to drive water through tiny and rigid hoses. This action will result in the production of a forceful water jet. Regular water jet cutting machine typically produces about 4-7 kilowatts of output. If the laser source in laser cutters are located inside the cutting machine itself, it works pretty differently for water jets – the pump and the work area are always separate from each other.  

Material and Applications

Water jets are highly reputed in the industry due to its ability to cut through virtually almost any kind of material, even with the combination of materials. But there is one downside to the use of water jet technology and that involves the risk of delamination. 

You can make use of water jet technology with your 3D material cutting projects. But they usually tend to exhibit having a limited ability when it comes to handling sandwich cavities and structures. It is possible to work with materials that give you limited access to it but working your way through it will be very challenging or difficult.  

Precision and Safety

Compared to laser cutting, water jet technology is considered by many experts as not absolutely at par with it. Due to the high amount of force that it requires to have, thin and small parts don’t fare well, and for this reason, they need to be handled with extra care. While thermal stress is not likely to be seen as a possible issue and burring is not likely to appear in the cut, the material surface will have a sand-blasted appearance due to the abrasive material added to the water. This necessitates the use of goggles for eye and face protection. 

Water jet cutting may produce noise. Aside from which may also necessitate a good amount of clean up work to be done in the work area. The addition of abrasive material to the water may likely produce a significant amount of waste.