Archive: Aug 2021

Laser Cutting vs. Water Jet Cutting

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Cutting is an important step in nearly every manufacturing project. It makes raw material easier to handle and helps it achieve the proper shape and size. There are many cutting methods available, each of which has distinct advantages and disadvantages that make it suitable for different applications. Two of the most commonly used processes to produce high-precision components are laser cutting and water jet cutting. Below, we discuss the differences between the two processes and highlight the advantages of each.

Differences Between Laser Cutting and Water Jet Cutting

Laser cutting and water jet cutting are considered non-conventional cutting processes, meaning they do not require direct contact between the tool and the workpiece. The laser cutting process uses a focused, high-powered beam of light (i.e., a laser) to cut the workpiece, while the water jet cutting process uses a high-pressure stream of water (i.e., a jet) to cut the workpiece. The difference in the equipment used results in each process being appropriate for different cutting needs. For example:

  • The laser cutting process can be used to cut a wide range of materials, including metal, plastics, wood, and glass. However, it is not recommended for cutting highly reflective materials since there is a risk of the laser bouncing off the workpiece toward the equipment or the operator. The water jet cutting process can be used to cut all types of materials, including reflective ones.
  • The laser cutting process can cut through thick materials (0.010–0.4 inches in thickness). The water jet cutting process can cut through thicker materials (0.010–4 inches in thickness).
  • The laser cutting process cannot accommodate 3D material cutting, while the water jet cutting process can accommodate 3D material cutting.
  • The laser cutting process can cut and engrave materials, while the water jet cutting process can only cut materials.

Advantages of Laser Cutting

Compared to other cutting methods, laser cutting offers the following advantages:

  • Higher cutting accuracy and precision. The laser cutting process can achieve cutting tolerances of ±0.002 inches. Additionally, since the laser cutters are commonly fitted with computer software and controls, they can consistently produce the same cuts between different workpieces.
  • Broader project versatility. Laser cutters can cut and/or engrave a variety of designs of varying complexity into a wide range of materials, making them suitable for various manufacturing projects.
  • Greater sheet utilization-to-waste ratio. The high-accuracy, high-precision cuts achieved by the laser cutting process help optimize material utilization; a single piece of material can produce more pieces and less waste.
  • Lower risk of damage and warping. Unlike traditional cutting methods, the laser cutting process does not require direct contact between the equipment and the workpiece. As a result, there is less risk of the workpiece experiencing mechanical distortion. Additionally, since the process produces a small heat-affected zone (HAZ), the risk of thermal distortion is low.
  • Operating costs. The operating and maintenance costs associated with laser cutting are much lower than other cutting processes. Laser cutters use less energy than cutting equipment like presses, while the laser components require less repair and replacement.
  • The laserjet cutting process is also exponentially quicker compared to the water jet cutting process.
  • Operating costs. The operating and maintenance costs associated with laser cutting are much lower than other cutting processes. Laser cutters use less energy than cutting equipment like presses, while the laser components require less repair and replacement.

For these reasons, among others, the laser cutting process finds application in the manufacturing operations of a wide range of industries, including the following:

  • Advertising
  • High Technology
  • Automotive
  • Lighting
  • Medical
  • Aerospace & Defense
  • Semiconductor

Advantages of Water Jet Cutting

Similar to laser cutting, water jet cutting offers a number of advantages over other cutting methods, such as:

  • Broader material versatility. The water jet cutting process can be used to cut virtually any material.
  • Lower risk of damage and warping. Water jet cutting is a non-contact cutting method that utilizes water at minimal heat. As a result, the water jet does not have to create a heat-effective zone during the cutting process that could change the cut edge hardness.
  • Cleaner cuts. Water jet cutting produces highly accurate cuts with clean edges, so workpieces generally do not have to undergo secondary finishing operations to clean up the cuts.
  • Better eco-friendliness. The water jet cutting process does produce hazardous waste (e.g., fumes or gases), which allows it to be considered more environmentally friendly than cutting processes that do produce it.

Some of the industries that use water jet cutting for their manufacturing projects include:

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Construction
  • Medical
  • Defense
  • Electronics & Semiconductor

Laser Cutting & Water Jet Cutting Services From South Shore Manufacturing

Want to learn more about laser cutting and water jet cutting? Ask the experts at South Shore Manufacturing! We offer extensive laser cutting and water jet cutting capabilities, so we can answer any questions or address any concerns you may have about the processes.

Interested in partnering with us for your cutting needs? We use the latest fiber optic laser technology to produce highly detailed components accurately, precisely, and quickly. We’ve also perfected our water jet cutting processes to ensure cost-effective, on-time solutions for projects across various industries and applications. Check out our laser cutting and water jet cutting service pages for more info on our capabilities. To get started on your order, contact us or request a quote today.