Laser or Waterjet Cutting: Which One Should You Choose?

Laser and waterjet are both processing tools that appeared in the late 1960s.

The technologies and methods adopted by the two are also completely different.

Many sheet metal factories will wonder: should laser or water jet be chosen?

Laser cutting machine

At the beginning, the laser cutting machine was developed to drill holes in diamond molds.

It uses laser radiation heating to cut the workpiece.

This technology is unparalleled in speed and accuracy.

Therefore, it is compared to “Swiss Army Knife”.


  • The cutting accuracy is high, and it can be used to process workpieces with complex shapes while causing little waste;
  • Suitable for cutting thinner materials, such as plastic, ceramic or metal with a thickness of less than 25mm;
  • Cutting can be performed quickly from any direction.
Laser or Waterjet Cutting: Which One Should You Choose? 1

At present, there are two kinds of laser cutting machines, one is CO2 cutting (carbon dioxide cutting), and the other is fiber laser cutting.

Related reading: Fiber Laser vs. CO2 Laser

Difference between CO2 cutting and fiber laser cutting:

1. Power

Fiber laser cutting machine: diode Aurora system is adopted, which can effectively transmit very high power without any attenuation.

CO2 laser cutting machine: it is difficult to increase the power, and the mirror it uses may burn out when the power is high.

Therefore, the available power of the fiber laser cutting machine is much larger than that of the CO2 laser cutting machine.

2. Cutting thickness

At present, in many cases, the thickness of the fiber laser that can be cut is almost the same as CO2, but it is more efficient than CO2, with 70% less power consumption and less wear.

Related reading: Laser Cutting Thickness & Speed Chart

3. Simplicity

Many fiber laser manufacturers call the installation of fiber laser cutting machine “plug and play”.

For users who need this technology, fiber laser has high efficiency and fast cost recovery.

Laser cutting has become a low-cost production mode due to its fast cutting speed, short time and high accuracy.

Water jet cutter

Water jet cutting is more economical than laser cutting.

It was first proposed by Norman Franz, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

He found that water flow has huge cutting force under high pressure.


  • It is wider than laser cutting because it is cold cutting and can be applied to many kinds of materials.
  • It is a sustainable and environmentally friendly cutting method, suitable for heat-sensitive materials.
  • It will not cause thermal damage to the workpiece and can be used in industries with high requirements, such as aviation, navigation, automobile manufacturing, textile and shoe making, ceramics, machining and other industries.
  • It cannot be used to cut absorbent materials, such as wood, or materials that may corrode when exposed to moisture.
Laser or Waterjet Cutting: Which One Should You Choose? 2

Another advantage of water jet cutting is that it can use 3D nesting software, because it can cut from any direction.

When the water is sprayed from the nozzle to the specified position on the material with great force under high pressure, the surface can be cut;

When cutting softer materials, only pure water can be used;

For harder materials, garnet sand is usually used and mixed with water, which is conducive to sheet metal cutting.

According to the thickness of the workpiece, the nozzle size is different.

The smaller the nozzle, the thinner the material to be cut, and vice versa.

However, when cutting very thick and hard materials, it takes more time, so it will increase the cost.

Although water jet cutting is more economical, its maintenance cost is high, because parts such as high-pressure pumps and cutting heads will wear.

Related reading: Waterjet Cutting: The Ultimate Guide


Laser cutting and water jet cutting have a common advantage, that is, compared with other methods (plasma and oxyfuel cutting), their cutting width is very small, so they can be used for small workpieces that cannot be cut by other machines.

To sum up, the cutting methods of laser and water jet are completely different, but they are not either or, but complement each other.

Sheet metal factories can use each other according to needs.

Once your factory has these two cutting machines, its competitive advantage will undoubtedly be significantly improved.

Because you can have more flexible choices whether in the type of cutting materials, the thickness of workpieces, or the later factory order management system.

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