Advantages of Water Jet Cutting vs. Plasma Cutting

When deciding whether to use water jet cutting or plasma cutting for your job, you should consider the material type, part thickness and desired accuracy, as well as speed and feed requirements. For applications that require intricate 2D cutting through the full thickness of material, water jet cutting is often the best choice. Unlike plasma that is limited to cutting conducted metals, water jet offers the ability to cut virtually any material, ranging from very hard to very soft.

What are some advantages of water jet cutting over plasma cutting?

  • With the water jet cutting process, there is no heat affected zone. There is no thermal distortion, melting or cracking of the material being cut, as you will find with plasma cutting.
  • A plasma cutter can only cut conductive metals, while water jet machines can cut almost any material including glass, ceramic, plastic, foam and all metals.
  • A water jet machine can cut up to a 10" thickness and regularly cuts 2-6” thicknesses in steel with abrasive water jet cutting. Plasma is best when cutting materials that are less than 1” thick.
  • Particularly with the speed of abrasive waterjet cutting, it is typically faster than plasma cutting in a production situation with nearly all grades of steel.
  • Water jet cutting physics allows it to cut sandwiched structures and layers with cavities, which cannot be achieved with plasma cutters.
  • Water jet cutting produces a consistently parallel edge, while plasma cutting can create a non-parallel cutting edge in certain applications.
  • Moving parts in the head of a plasma cutter will wear and, if not properly maintained, can reduce the accuracy of the plasma machine. Water jet cutting heads have no moving parts that can fail or reduce accuracy.
  • The water used in the water jet cutting is recyclable and environmentally friendly, while the plasma cutting process produces dust and gases that are potentially hazardous.