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The next time you have a project to complete, one of the many questions you will have to ask yourself is whether to use laser cutters or water jet cutting systems. Each of these methods has benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to consider the type of work you are going to be doing, in order to determine which method is right for you. These are a few of the pros and cons of each method, to help you decide which option is right for you.

Laser Cutters –
Laser cutters use a CO2 gas for laser energy. This creates a rapid heat process, which vaporizes or melts the material being cut. You focus the beam by adjusting a lens, allowing you to make a more precise cut. Cutting machines range from .12” up to .4”. There are a number of benefits to using laser cutters, some of the pros include:
– It is powerful, allowing you to cut through nearly any material (plastic, wood, non-reflective glass, etc).
– It can do more than just cut.
– You can weld, engrave, and remove excess materials via this cutting process.
– It is efficient, and with high heat settings, allows you to complete the cutting for a project, in no time at all.

Along with these benefits of course comes certain drawbacks to using laser cutters. Some of the cons to this system include:
– Sensitive materials may warp due to high heat levels, resulting in an ill cut product.
– Composite materials and 3D materials can’t be cut using this process.
– Smoke and other chemicals make it a little more hazardous and dangerous to work with, in comparison to water cutting.

Water Jet Cutting –
This method is one in which high water pressure is paired with an abrasive (like garnet), to erode and cut materials at a quick pace. Over the years this method has improved, allowing people to cut using nearly any abrasive, along with the high water pressure jet system. Some of the pros of cutting using this method include:
– It can cut many materials (solid metals, titanium, plastic, glass, stone, rocks, etc).
– The jets can cut from .0005” up to 10” around, and can typically cut 3D objects.
– No heating is required, meaning warping won’t be an issue.
– Clean cut finish, meaning grinding or sanding is not required.

Similarly to using laser cutters, there are a few cons to using the water jet method. Some of these drawbacks include:
– The finished product might appear sand blasted, due to the abrasive that is hitting it during the cutting process.
– Extensive cleanup may be required, due to the waste water after cutting.
– Waste is common. A high amount of water is used during the process.

Which is the right method? –
This really depends on what you are cutting. With laser cutters, it takes less time, less force, and you can cut through nearly anything. The drawback, warping may occur, and the use of gases can prove detrimental to the environment. On the flip side, water jets are also quick, but do cause plenty of waste, and cuts may appear uneven or sanded down, when you are complete. But, it is safer, and can cut through nearly anything. It is important to consider both methods, the cost, time, and the desired finish of the materials you are cutting, so you can determine which cutting method is best for your next project.

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