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Comparing Water Jet Cutting vs Plasma Cutting

On this site, we have compared water jet cutting and laser cutting as this tends to be the most common query for anyone unsure which cutting technology to choose.

However, plasma cutting is a third option, so how does this compare?

In this post we will quickly run through the pros and cons.

What is Plasma Cutting?

Plasma cutting is a process that uses heat to melt material, a jet of ionised gas at above 20,000 degrees centigrade forcing the parting of the material.

A stream of gas is blown at extreme high speed, and an electrical arc passed through this – this creates the plasma and the force is such that the molten metal is blown from the cutting area.

The plasma cutting machines are extremely advanced and, with this, expensive as this is a cutting process that utilises high pressure, heat and the electrical arc, all working together.

What is Water Jet Cutting

Abrasive water jet cutting is the process whereby a water jet under extremely high pressure is mixed with an abrasive garnet and this creates a focussed stream that can cut through virtually any material.

No heat is created, the water essentially parts there material to be cut in a process that can be described as accelerated erosion.

The Advantages  and Disadvantages of Plasma Cutting

Plasma cutting is versatile – it can cut a wide range of alloys and this is often its main use, in the cutting of carbon, stainless steel and other such metals and alloys.

Plasma cutting can also be carried out under water when specialist equipment is used, this making it suitable for some highly specialist, difficult jobs.

The accuracy is also good, with accuracies in the region of 0.008”

However, plasma cutting also has major disadvantages and this is why it is so rarely mentioned when people are considering the cutting technology to choose.

For starters, there are a lot of materials for which plasma cutting is wholly unsuitable – for examples plastics and laminates.

The process itself damages the edge, rounding it or producing poor edge squareness. Perhaps more importantly, the process can also create micro abrasions and structural damage to the edge as it is forced apart through heat.

Plasma cutting does not tend to be cost efficient – if either laser or water jet cutting can carry out the same job they will usually be cheaper.

Finally, the accuracy does not stand comparison to other technologies.

The Advantages  and Disadvantages of Water Jet Cutting

Water jet cutting can be used for virtually any material – and a depth of at least 25cm on any material.

This technology also leaves a pure, undamaged edge, this because there is no heat used in the cutting – the integrity of the part remains sound.

The finished part is made to a higher degree of accuracy, with a smooth edge as desired and, a final benefit, is that water jet cutting is more environmentally friendly – unlike plasma cutting no fumes are produced in the cutting process.

Which to Choose?

In a small number of highly specialised cases, plasma cutting may be suitable for in the vast majority it is an inferior technology.

It is less accurate, costs more, is more harmful to the environment and creates a part that both looks worse and may have minor structural defects.

We don’t believe it offers much competition to water jet cutting.

About TMC Water Jet

AT TMC Water Jet, we are a leading UK water jet cutter with clients across the UK and, increasingly Europe. We pride ourselves on bringing unmatched quality to jobs of all sizes for clients across every sector.

We work with major industries, so too with artists and small businesses.

At our state of the art facility, we have high pressure water jets capable of 87,000 PSI, we were also the first in the UK to introduce XD Cutting, this a cutting head that can move through multiple axis and so perform the most complex, delicate of cuts in a single process.

If you have a tile cutting job for which you would value an obligation free quote, please contact us today.

Call us on 01625 610 441 or use our Contact Form.