Back to News Waterjet Cutting vs. Laser vs. Plasma vs. Wire EDM - what is the right solution for you and your business?

Waterjet vs Laser vs Plasma vs EDM Cutting System Comparison

Waterjet vs Laser vs Plasma

Is a waterjet cutter (waterjet cutting machine) right for your business?

Many cutting solutions are available in the market today, including die cutting, stamping, oxy fuel, waterjet, laser and plasma just to name a few. With all of these options, how do you know which one is the right addition to your shop floor? We've gone ahead and created a simple chart comparing the most common cutting methods and their most practical applications. Check it out below...

While we'd love to tell you that waterjet cutting is the perfect cutting method for every application, the truth is, that just simply isn't so. Sometimes, depending on your part dimensions, acceptable tolerences and final application, another cutting method like plasma or laser is going to be the right way to go. Where waterjet shines is in its versatility. You can cut virtually ANYTHING on a waterjet, all without changing any tooling. This is what makes it so attractive to companies all over the world. One minute you can be cutting 1/4" mild steel, and then switch over to 10" thick titanium. When you're done with that, you can cut plywood, glass, plastic, get the idea. No other machining technology can make that claim. A waterjet will quickly become the most used piece of equipment in your shop - guaranteed!

Depending on which criteria are most valued by your business, the chart below will help guide you in making an informed decision when it comes time to make a choice on which type of cutting system to purchase. It is also advisable to request a test cut from each manufacturer when you are considering different cutting systems. Every application is different. Because of this, most capital equipment manufacturers will perform test cuts on your exact material and provide you with information like edge finish, speed of cut and cost per part. With this information in hand, you can make the most informed decision possible and ensure that no matter what system you end up with, you will be confident in knowing that it is the best system for you.

If you're looking for information on what it costs to run a waterjet, check out our cost to run a waterjet cutting machine page. For other questions, check out our waterjet cutting FAQ. If you think that we've left anything out, please leave us a comment below! We'd love to hear from you...

Waterjet Cutter Laser Plasma Wire EDM
Buy this equipment if...
  • You will be cutting a variety of materials and thicknesses
  • Accuracy is important
  • Material is thin
  • Speed is key
  • You are cutting metals
  • Accuracy is important
  • Material is thick
  • Speed is key
  • You are cutting metals
  • Accuracy is not as important
  • Ultra high accuracy required
  • Speed is not critical
Material Virtually any material Primarily metals Primarily metals Conductive material only
Average Cost $100k - $300k+ $300k - $1,000,000+ $60k - $300k+ $100k - $400k+
Heat Affected Zone None Yes Yes Yes
Cutting Speed Rank 3 1 2 4
Maximum Material Thickness Approximately 18” Approximately 1” Approximately 6" Approximately 36"
Noxious Fumes None Yes Yes None
Process Accuracy +/- 0.005”, potentially tighter +/- 0.003” +/- 0.010” +/- 0.0001”
Machine Setup Two main setups: water-only or abrasive cutting head Different gases and parameters for different jobs Different setup for different jobs Different wire types used for different jobs
Estimated Operating Costs per hour excluding capital and labor $20 – 40 $10 – 20 $5 - 10 $8 - 12
* Laser image courtesy of flickr user Pete
* Plamsa image courtesy of flickr user i3Detroit Bluecam

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