Cutting technologies How does waterjet cutting compare to laser cutting, plasma cutting and punching?
Laser cutting is a non-contact process for cutting materials by melting, burning or vaporizing the material along the cut line using a laser. Laser cutting is very precise but has the disadvantage of cutting with heat, which can deform the material.
Plasma is gas that has been heated to the point of ionization, which is electrically conductive. A plasma cutter can, therefore, cut any material that conducts electricity like most metals. Gas is forced through the nozzle of the plasma machine and an electric arc is introduced to this gas flow creating a plasma jet. The extreme temperatures of the plasma jet melt away the metal forming a cut.
Punching is the process of making a hole in the material by pushing a punch through the material into a die on the other side. It is a mechanical process that uses pressure to force the punch into the material and is effective for quick processing in high production environments. It is also a useful technique for creating profiles in high tech aerospace products and sheet metal for construction.
A waterjet cutting machine uses high pressure water (sometimes with an abrasive particle added) to cut through a material. The advantage of waterjet cutting over the laser and plasma cutting techniques is that it is a cold operation, which ensures the chemical structure of the metal is unaffected. It can also handle much more complex operations than the simple punch process.