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Will Water Jet Cutting Make Laser Cutting Obsolete?

To start this blog we’re going to make a bold claim -water jet cutting could make laser cutting close to obsolete in years to come.

Think we might be overstating the likely change? Stay with us, we’re going to take a look at why water jet cutting could, perhaps will, come to dominate.

Reasons why water jet cutting will (might / could!) make laser cutting obsolete

Water jets can cut through thicker material – and that’s only going to become more of an advantage

There’s a common misconception that lasers can cut through thicker material than a water jet can manage.

Perhaps it’s the false image Hollywood has given us of lasers, making them seem like something that can cut through pretty much anything in their path. Water, by comparison, feels underwhelming, doesn’t it? It’s just water, what’s that going to cut through.

However, the reality is quite the opposite. A laser is going to struggle to get through a thickness of more than about 2.5 centimetres, whereas a water jet can cut through 10 times that depth.

And, the gap is likely to grow further still. Water jets will deliver jets of ever-higher water pressure and through thinner cutting heads, this means the depth of cuts will grow further still. Major advances in lasers are perhaps less likely, especially given it is already lagging behind as a technology.

Water jets can cut complex parts

Water Jet cutting can now use something called XD cutting, this is essentially a cutting head that can tilt on both axis and so can cut complex, three-dimensional parts.

Not all water jet cutters have this technology yet (we do!), but it is becoming more readily available globally. What it means is that there is no longer a need for secondary cuts, ie cutting a part, then re-angling it and cutting again, often several times.

XD cutting saves both time and expense while reducing the chance of there being errors in the cut – it is all done in one fluid motion now.

Global demand for efficient, cheap cutting

Two countries will push demand for water jet cutting – India and China. Both have economies that are developing rapidly, both have economies where a lot of items get cut – especially in the automotive industry, but also all sorts of technological firms.

These economies and companies will of course choose a cutting technology that is faster, cheaper and more accurate. Throw in the fact that water jet cutting is also environmentally friendly as these economies try to keep emissions down and you have three huge benefits.

With the weight of these economies behind water jet cutting, there are likely to be further advances in the method and these enhancements will be shared globally.

Small scale cutting

Few small businesses want a fully functioning laser in their garage, but having a small scale water jet cutter could become increasingly common.

Smaller water jet cutters could be used where a business has to make repeated, similar cuts and where it is acceptable to have cuts with less accuracy than a professional cutter could offer.

It might be similar to the likely growth in 3-d printers, allowing businesses to make and cut common parts without resorting to a third party.

About TMC

TMC Waterjet are leading water cutters with a reputation for innovation – we were the first in the UK to utilise XD cutting.

We have clients ranging from small businesses to multi-national firms and can take on jobs of any size and complexity.

Please get in touch with us today to discuss your bespoke needs.