We managed to interview experts from a welding shop based in Montreal known as Taylor Steel & Stainless Inc., specializing on material cutting. Our goal was to find out which is better between laser cutting and waterjet cutting. Please note that we are not aiming to decide whether one is superior to the other. However, our goal is to highlight their similarities and differences. It is all about helping you make a smart decision about which option will be best to explore for your application.
Laser cutting machines can have materials engraved, they can also cut such materials. Waterjet on the other hand, can only cut materials. There is an advantage that comes with laser engraving. For instance, it is useful when it comes to adding serial numbers directly, aesthetic designs, and assembly marks.
Waterjet cutting can partially allow 3D material cutting. Laser cutting is the opposite as it doesn’t. Please note that for combining materials, both techniques should be avoided. If both materials have varying melting points, there will be a problem. In the case of waterjet cutting, an issue like delamination can occur.
Waterjet and laser cutting are capable of cutting difficult materials. Also, laser cutting can be used on various categories of materials. These could be metals, woods, and glass. Please note that highly reflective metals aren’t included. It is also possible to laser cut aluminum, mid steel, or stainless steel. Waterjet cutting can cut all of these materials.
Thick materials can be cut by laser cutters. However, waterjet machines will cut thicker objects. Their maximum thickness can range from 10-50mm. Laser cutters can handle objects with maximum thickness of 3-10mm. As compared to waterjet cutting, laser cutting seems to be more accurate. 0.006” is the least cutting slit size. For waterjet, it is 0.02”. The processing tolerance for waterjet cutting and laser cutting are 0.2mm and 0.05mm respectively.
In the case of part integrity, you should always know that each of these techniques has its own challenges. For instance, during the process of manufacturing, both machines can cause little damage to the material.
Important fact to keep in mind is that laser cutting can leave marks on your material. The sides which have been cut will look dark.However, cleaning can remove these marks though. Always remember that cardboard and acrylic materials will not be marked.
Heat is not required for waterjet cutting. However, the force applied on the material is very high. This could be a problem for small components/parts since they may become deformed.