Water jet cutting

Two major cutting process’ manufactures commonly use when cutting material, include laser cutting and water jet cutting.

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

Laser cutters work well on materials such as plastic, glass, wood and metals. Flatbed laser cutters are commonly used to cut flat sheets of metal, however, five axis laser cutters are able to do 3D laser cutting. For further information on the topic got to five axis laser cutting.

Unlike laser cutters, water jet cutters use pressurized water to cut material. To increase cutting ability, abrasives such as garnets and aluminium oxide are often added. A high pressure pump drives the water through rigid hoses, resulting in a forceful jet – a typical water jet 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.

Water jets can cut virtually any material including combination materials—with combination materials, however, water jets pose the threat of delamination. Water jets usually perform cutting, ablation, and structuring, specifically with materials like stone, ceramics, and thick metals. Materials that range in thickness between 0.4” and 2.0” benefit from water jet cutting.

Laser cutting is more precise than water jet cutting due to the high level of force used by the water jet. The water jet cutting is very noisy and requires a significant amount of clean up due to the large amounts of waste it produces. The overall risk involved in working with laser cutting machines is very low, as is the amount of waste produced and the subsequent clean up.