Choosing between water jet cutting machine and laser metal cutter can never be as straightforward as they may often seem. We can’t make a conclusion that one is a better option over the other because each one of them is likely more suitable to certain types of materials and applications than the other. According to water jet machine manufacturers, choosing between these two options is often a tough call for users and fabricators, but ultimately everything would depend upon your own specifications.
The main reason why developers and fabricators are incorporating the use of metal in their projects is because they bring about various benefits to their work. A sheet of metal is versatile, durable, recyclable, pliable — and for the most part of it, they are cost-effective, too.
One of the major hurdles of working with metal is the amount of time it will usually take to work with it. If you have a sharp blade, you know that you can whittle something from wood, but when it comes to metal and steel you need to have a good level of craftsmanship and at times special kind of machinery to create something from it, be it brass, aluminum, stainless steel or bronze.
The most complained thing about working with metal is cutting it. This is a pressing concern most especially when the metal sheet thickness is about 1” or even more. It is such a relief to know that they can be cut into intricate patterns with the help of water jet cutting technology or laser, although they both have their own respective strengths and limitations.
Waterjet cutting machines make use of abrasive particles such as an aluminum oxide or garnet and pressurized water to cut into a tough material like metal sheets. With a strong pressure force as high as 60,000 psi, the gentle water is suddenly transformed into an indurated cutting tool. Hence, it is ideally used to cut through thicker materials where the use of laser cutters would either be of inferior quality or not feasible enough.
Fabrication centers that utilize waterjet technology for most of their works do so under one of the following conditions:
- Most of their projects involve the use of thick materials, or that they are usually working with patterns that have large tolerances.
- They prefer waterjet technology to veer away from the heat of the laser, which runs the risk of interfering with a cut
- Their projects involve the use of different kinds of materials – from ceramic stone to steel and reflective metals, and many more.
- Waterjet cutting technology allows for cutting of metal while letting it remain flat throughout the entire process, whereas in laser cutting it would require some leveling.
We qualify laser cutting as a typical state-of-the-art cutting technology, it can be very fast and precise with only one major drawback to mind about. It can only cut through a ⅝” thickness to really maintain its exceptional quality, beyond that measurement runs the risk of having a poorly executed cut.
Modern application software allows a CAD file to be relayed to a laser computer so it can start the cutting process within seconds. Many metal fabrication shops employ this strategy for prototyping purposes. There are actually companies that take on long cutting runs overnight, letting their machine to run unattended.
As for the laser itself, it is usually powered by nitrogen, carbon dioxide, or sometimes it works with a combination of gases. The laser beam is then transmitted through a series of mirrors. It usually has an output of 2600 watts in certain machines but could go as high as 4,000 to 6,000 watts on others. The plexiglass, plastic, wood, all types of metals can be cut with the use of laser technology.