If you are in the manufacturing industry, you must be aware of this never-ending debate between laser and waterjet cutting. Both processes are highly used in the manufacturing industry due to which industries can cater to the global demand of goods. These two are completely different processes and choosing between them can be a hustle for sure. However, the decision depends on the type of material you are using and what is your desired product. Yet, before we compare both of these techniques, we should understand how they work;
What is waterjet cutting?
One of the latest processes to cut down materials is waterjet cutting or you may call it waterjet machining. In this process, a water jet machine uses water with a super high velocity that works more like a blade and easily penetrates through the toughest of materials. Whether it’s wood, rubber, plastic, or even metal, this technique can be used to cut through them. Not only this, the stones and tiles cutting industry also benefits from this technology.
The intensifier in this machine converts the water pressure from 5 bars to around 4,000 bars, which is surely astonishing. Using a nozzle, high-pressure water is directed at the point where the action is required. In the nozzle, the water is also mixed with some abrasives for better results. However, there are two different types of waterjet cutting, pure and abrasive, both are highly effective.
What is laser cutting?
Laser cutting is the process of cutting or engraving materials with the use of a very powerful laser. Materials such as wood, acrylic, cardboard, metal, and other such materials are easily cut through this technology. In this process, the material is cut by burning, and due to this different odors are also released into the environment, depending on the material being cut or engraved.
Laser machines are responsible for creating a potent light that is also adjustable. Moving on, the light is properly focused at the point where a cut is to be made. After continuous concentration of this high-powered light, the material is either engraved or cut. Designs made by using laser cutting machines are with the help of CAD software. Metal laser cutting has been in practice for fairly a long time now and is also considered a very effective technique in the manufacturing industry.
Here are the factors that determine which process is more energy efficient;
If you are planning to cut workpieces with thicknesses of around 3 to 10 mm, laser cutting is pretty cost-effective. Yet, the quality of the operation is surely determined by the material you are using in the process. However, if we are talking about waterjet cutting, it can cut through 10 to 50 mm thicker material, which is way higher than laser cutting. Yet, it is not suitable for very thin materials, as it can damage the workpiece due to very high pressure, but comparing both, laser cutting requires more energy to even cut through materials with less thickness. It requires an immense amount of energy to power the laser which is used to cut or engrave any workpiece.
There’s no denying the fact that laser cutters are way ahead of waterjet cutting when it comes to speed as they have a pace of 70 inches per minute and the ideal speed of waterjet cutters is only 20 pieces per minute. Due to the higher speed of performing the tasks, laser cutting machines usually require more energy and gas, making them less energy efficient as compared to water jet cutting machines.
The accuracy of laser cutters is way better than waterjet cutters as they can cut with an accuracy of 0.15 mm, but the cutting precision of waterjet cutting is only 0.5 mm. Higher precision is surely the demand in the manufacturing industry as the shapes and sizes of the workpieces are closely monitored. Providing high precision requires more energy and gas being used in the laser cutting process.
The energy efficiency highly depends on the process, as light energy is used to heat and melt the material in the laser cutting technique, more energy and gas are consumed to complete each operation. When metal is being cut with a laser cutting machine, some amount of light energy is also reflected, meaning that more energy is required to cut down metal pieces. In general, creating heat to vaporize or melt any workpiece makes laser cutting less energy-efficient.
Talking about the cost, a waterjet cutting machine is cheaper when compared to laser cutters. The equipment cost of laser cutting technology is more and this is only the up-front cost. The operation cost of laser cutting machines depends on the power cost and that depends on how much energy and gas the machines are consuming. Energy-efficient machines are more likely to help you save operational costs in the long run. Many industries such as automotive and food are using these technologies, but they all focus on cutting down the operational costs.