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Water Jet vs Laser Cutting: What’s the Difference?

  • January 22, 2021
Water jet cut gaskets by Monroe Engineering

Cutting is a common manufacturing process. To convert materials into finished products, manufacturing companies must cut them. Cutting allows manufacturing companies to change the size and shape of materials so that they are aligned for their production applications. There are different types of cutting methods, however, including water jet and laser.

What Is Water Jet Cutting?

Water jet cutting is a cutting method that involves the use of high-pressure water — as well as an abrasive substance in some cases — to slide through materials. This cutting tool is known as a water jet. Water jets run water through a pump where it becomes pressurized. At the end of a water jet is a nozzle that releases the pressurized water in a focused and narrow stream. As the pressurized water is released, it cuts through the underlying material.

What Is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is a cutting method that’s defined by the use of a high-powered laser. It’s been used for over a half-century. In the mid-1960s, some of the first laser cutting machines were used to cut holes in diamonds. Since then, laser cutting machines have worked their way into the manufacturing industry. Thousands of manufacturing companies across the world use them to cut materials. Laser cutting machines create a focused beam of laser light that slices through most materials.

Benefits of Water Jet Cutting

The main benefit of water jet cutting is that it doesn’t use heat. Heat, of course, can change the properties of the materials to which it’s exposed. Many materials can deform or exhibit other structural changes when exposed to heat. Fortunately, water jet cutting doesn’t use heat. It allows manufacturing companies to cut through materials without the formation of heat-affected zones (HAZs).

Water jet cutting is also accurate. It can achieve cuts with an accuracy of 0.005 to 0.001 inches. Manufacturing companies can program water jets to cut materials in custom sizes and shapes.

Benefits of Laser Cutting

Laser cutting, on the other hand, is a more powerful cutting method. Using a laser cutting machine, manufacturing companies can cut through otherwise hard materials. Whether it’s aluminum, high-carbon steel or stainless steel, it can probably be cut with a laser cutting machine.

Like with water jet cutting, laser cutting can be automated. There are computer numerical control (CNC) laser cutting machines that support automation. Manufacturing companies can program a CNC laser cutting machine to perform the necessary cuts on a given material or workpiece.

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