Laser cutting has been one of the go-to industry methods for cutting sheet metal for around 50 years and it still holds a large portion of the market.
However, in recent years water jet cutting has grown in popularity both domestically and perhaps especially in emerging markets looking for production methods that both cut cost and increase accuracy.
Laser cutting isn’t going anywhere, it is sure to remain popular and indeed a good option for many jobs, however it is also somewhat limited.
Here we look at four problems laser cutting has which simply don’t apply to water jet cutting.
Laser cutting is used for cutting relatively thin material fast – sheet metal a few millimetres thick a typical usage.
Where it struggles, despite what James Bond films might have you believe as to lasers’ power, is in cutting through anything thicker than around 2.5 centimetres.
For cuts through depths beyond that a different cutting technology is required, typically water jet cutting which can cut through at least 25 centimetres, so 10 times the depth of virtually any substance.
Laser cutting is a technology that creates heat in the cut, this heat having the potential to have a negative impact on the cut edge and even the part itself.
This impact can just be a visual imperfection (which can often be polished out) but it can also be micro abrasions one even structural defects being introduced.
Skilled, experience laser cutters will of course look to protect against this impact, but it is still a potential that needs factoring in.
Water jet cutting, by way of contrast, does not create heat, the process instead closer to fast erosion. There is no damage to the cut edge or the part itself.
Laser cutting struggles in the third dimension…
Or, to put it another way, while laser cutting might be suitable for cutting a simple flat shape, it is not so good when it comes to cutting complex three-dimensional parts.
Complex 3-d parts used to be a challenge for any cutting technology and typically secondary cutting would be required – the part cut first in one axis, then re-set and cut in a different pane.
Nowadays, water jet cutting has an answer in the form of XD Cutting, this being water jet cutting whereby the cutting head can move through multiple axis and so cut the most complex of parts in one go. This technological jump ensures parts can be cut more quickly but also more accurately, the job carried out in one motion and controlled by cutting edge software.
While only leading water jet cutters have this XD technology – at TMC we are among the few in the UK – the advantages are such that it is persuading many industries to switch critical parts over to water jet production.
Laser cutting and the environment
Laser cutting produces heat and creates waste that must be disposed of. As you might expect of an industrial cutting process it would not be described as being kind on the environment.
Water jet cutting is far more sustainable. There is no heat created and the bi-products are simply water, a tiny amount of the material that was being cut in a dust form and the inert cutting garnet, all of which can be disposed of in a way that does not harm the environment.
Water jet cutting helps businesses achieve their aims to be environmentally responsible and is also a technology that is far better places to withstand any future legislation to ensure processes are as green as possible.
As one of the UK’s leading water jet cutters, we are in the perfect position to advise on which types of jobs water jet cutting is suitable for.
The truth is, that this is a technology that can be used for almost any job, whether that is simple cutting of thin material, or complex three-dimensional parts. It is a technology used by huge industries and where any lack of accuracy could be catastrophic but also by artists, sculptors and hobbyists. We have worked with motor racing teams, major industries but also model railway enthusiasts and a vicar in need of a new set of parish keys.
If you’re not sure if water jet cutting is suitable for your needs, please just ask.
Contact us by calling 01625 610 441 or drop us a message online.