Cutting techniques How does waterjet cutting compare to laser cutting, plasma cutting and punching?
In addition to waterjet cutting, laser cutting, plasma cutting and punching are popular cutting techniques. Each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages, but how do they relate to each other?
Laser cutting: contactless, heat, precise
Laser cutting is a non-contact process for cutting materials by melting, burning or evaporation of the material along the cutting line with a laser. Laser cutting is very precise, but has the disadvantage that it uses heat. This can deform the material.
Cutting with a plasma cutter
Plasma is a gas that is heated to the point of ionization, after which it is electrically conductive. It allows a plasma cutter to cut any material that is electrically conductive, like most metals. Gas is pushed through the nozzle of the plasma machine, after which the plasma is exposed to an electric arc, creating a plasma beam. The very high temperatures of the plasma then melt the metal to produce a cut.
Punching: a mechanical process
Punching is the process of making a hole in a material by pushing a shape through the material. This mechanical process uses pressure to push the punch through the material. This technique is often used to process materials in production environments where speed is important. The technique can also be used to make profiles for example for high-tech aerospace products and sheet metal for construction applications.
Waterjet cutting: a cold process
A water jet cutting machine uses water under high pressure - to which sometimes abrasive particles are added - to cut through materials. The advantage of waterjet cutting over laser and plasma cutting methods is that it takes place in cold conditions, so that the chemical structure of the metal is not affected. They can also be used to perform much more complex operations than the rather rudimentary punching process.