Plasma vs Waterjet vs Laser—Which System Is Right for You?

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Plasma vs. Waterjet vs. Laser Cutting Systems—What’s the Difference?

A robotic trimming system can play an integral role in a manufacturing company. If you need precise cuts in rigid materials like metal, wood, or plastic, a cutting machine is the only way to ensure you’ll get consistent, high-quality cuts. Plasma, waterjet, and laser cutting systems can all cut metal efficiently, but some key differences limit each method’s applications.

Plasma Cutting vs. Laser Cutting

Plasma and laser cutting systems perform the same function—they use heat to cut through metal. However, laser cutting uses concentrated light in a laser beam to generate heat, whereas plasma cutting uses gas. Plasma cutters can only cut through metals like stainless steel and aluminum, while you can use laser cutters on various industrial materials like wood, fabric, and plastic.

The main difference between plasma and laser cutters is the level of precision you can achieve. Laser cutters are extremely precise, and you can use them to cut minuscule lines. Plasma cutting is far less accurate and is best used when you need to cut simple shapes with thick borders. Additionally, laser cutters produce very little waste, so they require minimal cleanup and safety precautions. Workers need to take extra safety precautions when operating a plasma cutter because it produces harmful electromagnetic radiation, which can damage vision.

When it comes to affordability, plasma cutting machines are the clear winner. The plasma table and cutting mechanism are significantly cheaper than a laser cutting system. As a result, plasma cutting systems are a great option for manufacturers who only need to cut metal and don’t require meticulous cuts.

Laser Cutting vs. Waterjet Cutting

Laser systems and plasma systems can cause heat distortion to the material they cut, whereas waterjet systems use pressurized water to cut a wide variety of materials. And unlike plasma cutters, waterjet and laser cutters aren’t restricted to cutting metal. Therefore, laser cutters and waterjet cutters are ideal for manufacturers that need a system that will cut metals, woods, and plastics.

When choosing between a laser and waterjet cutter, you should consider how thick your materials are and the cut quality you need. Waterjet cutters can be used on thin and thick materials, whereas laser cutters are limited to thin materials. However, waterjet cutters are not ideal for cutting precise, intricate lines.

The main drawbacks for waterjet cutters are noise, waste, and operating costs. When running a waterjet cutter, you need to protect your eyes from debris and your ears from loud noises. Additionally, cleanup can be time-consuming. Waterjet cutters use a combination of water and abrasives to slice through messy materials, which creates far more waste than laser cutting. And though the upfront cost of a waterjet cutter is less than a laser cutter, operating costs are higher for waterjet systems.

Plasma Cutter vs. Waterjet Cutter

Compared to laser cutters, both plasma and waterjet systems are significantly cheaper at purchase. However, you can’t use either option for precise cuts or engraving—only laser cutters will work. As a result, plasma and waterjet cutting systems are a bad option for manufacturers that need accurate, high-quality cuts.

Aside from being less precise than laser cutters, there are few similarities between plasma and waterjet cutters. Waterjet cutters work on any material; plasma cutters only work on conductive metals. Plasma cutters have a high production rate and can power through thick metals with ease. Conversely, waterjet cutters are much slower, especially when used on thick materials. If you’re in the market for a high-speed metal trimming tool, plasma cutters are the best option.

Because of the many differences between plasma, waterjet, and laser cutters, it’s impossible to declare a winner—you have to evaluate your manufacturing needs and budget to decide which option is the best for you.

Robotic Trimming Systems for Any Application

If you’re struggling to decide which automated cutting system will best serve your manufacturing company, our team at Oxygen Service Company can help determine your unique needs and walk you through your options. We sell automated cutting systems from top-quality equipment manufacturers to ensure you get the best product when you buy from us.

Automatic cutting machines are an excellent investment if you want to improve productivity and safety in your workplace. They are also an expensive investment. Don’t make a hasty decision when buying a robotic trimming system—let our experts guide you through the process. Contact us today to learn more about our high-quality automated cutting system options for any industry.