Differences and Comparison among Laser Cutting, Water Cutting, Plasma Cutting and Wire Cutting

With the development of science and technology, there are more and more cutting methods, such as laser cutting, water cutting, plasma cutting and wire cutting … What’s the difference between them?

Laser cutting processing
Laser cutting is to irradiate the workpiece with a focused high-power density laser beam, so that the irradiated material can be melted, vaporized, ablated or reach the ignition point quickly, and at the same time, the molten substance can be blown away by means of high-speed airflow coaxial with the beam, thus cutting the workpiece. At present, CO2 pulse laser is generally used, and laser cutting is one of the thermal cutting methods.

Waterjet cutting

Water cutting, also known as water knife, that is, high-pressure water jet cutting technology, is a machine that uses high-pressure water flow to cut. Under the control of computer, the workpiece can be carved at will, and it is little affected by the material texture. Water cutting is divided into two ways: sand-free cutting and sand-added cutting.

Plasma cutting machining

Plasma arc cutting is a machining method that uses the heat of high temperature plasma arc to locally melt (and evaporate) the metal at the workpiece notch, and uses the momentum of high-speed plasma to remove the molten metal to form the notch.


Wire electrical discharge machining (WEDM) belongs to the field of electrical machining, and WEDM is sometimes called wire cutting. WEDM can be divided into WEDM, WEDM and wire cut WEDM. The wire speed of WEDM is 6 ~ 12 m/s, and the electrode wire moves back and forth at high speed, so the cutting accuracy is poor. WEDM is a new technology developed in recent years, which realizes the function of frequency conversion and multiple cutting on the basis of fast wire cutting. The wire speed of WEDM in wire cut is 0.2m/s, and the electrode wire moves in one direction at low speed, so the cutting accuracy is very high.

Comparison of application scope

Laser cutting machine has a wide range of applications, both metal and nonmetal can be cut, and nonmetal, such as cloth and leather, can be cut by CO2 laser cutting machine, and metal can be cut by fiber laser cutting machine. The deformation of the plate is small.

Water cutting belongs to cold cutting, no thermal deformation, good cutting surface quality, no need for secondary processing, and it is easy to carry out secondary processing if necessary. Water cutting can punch and cut any material, with fast cutting speed and flexible processing size.

Plasma cutting machine can be used for cutting various metal materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, copper, cast iron, carbon steel, etc. Plasma cutting has obvious thermal effect and low precision, and the cutting surface is not easy to be processed again.

Wire cutting can only cut conductive substances, and cutting coolant is needed in the cutting process, so materials such as paper and leather that are not conductive, afraid of water and afraid of cutting coolant pollution cannot be cut.

Comparison of cutting thickness

The application of laser cutting carbon steel in industry is generally less than 20 mm. Cutting capacity is generally below 40 mm. The industrial application of stainless steel is generally below 16mm, and the cutting capacity is generally below 25 mm. Moreover, with the increase of workpiece thickness, the cutting speed decreases obviously.

Fiber laser cutting sheet with a breakthrough of 30mm

The thickness of water cutting can be very thick, 0.8-100mm, or even thicker materials.

The plasma cutting thickness is 0-120mm, and the plasma system with the best cutting quality range of about 20mm has the highest cost performance.

The thickness of wire cutting is generally 40 ~ 600mm, and the maximum thickness can reach 600 mm.

Cutting speed comparison

The cutting speed of 2mm thick low-carbon steel plate can reach 600 cm/min by using 1200W laser. The cutting speed of 5mm thick polypropylene resin plate can reach 1200cm/min. The cutting efficiency that WEDM can achieve is generally 20 ~ 60 mm2/min, and the highest can reach 300 mm2/min. Obviously, the laser cutting speed is fast and can be used for mass production.

The water cutting speed is quite slow, which is not suitable for mass production.

Plasma cutting is more suitable for cutting thick plates because of its slow cutting speed and low relative accuracy, but its end face is inclined.

For metal processing, wire cutting has higher accuracy, but the speed is very slow, and sometimes it is necessary to use other methods to punch holes and thread wires to cut, and the cutting size is greatly limited.

Comparison of cutting accuracy

The laser cutting incision is narrow, the two sides of the incision are parallel and perpendicular to the surface, and the dimensional accuracy of the cut parts can reach 0.2 mm.

The plasma energy can reach within 1 mm.

Water cutting will not produce thermal deformation, and the accuracy is 0.1 mm. If dynamic water cutting machine is used, the cutting accuracy can be improved, the cutting accuracy can reach ±0.02mm, and the cutting inclination can be eliminated.

The precision of WEDM is generally ±0.01~±0.02mm, and the highest is 0.004 mm.

Comparison of slit width

Compared with plasma cutting, laser cutting is more precise and the slit is small, about 0.5 mm.

The slit of plasma cutting is larger than that of laser cutting, which is about 1-2mm.

The slit of water cutting is about 10% larger than the diameter of the knife tube, generally 0.8-1.2 mm. With the diameter of the sand knife tube expanding, the incision becomes larger.

The slit width of wire cutting is the smallest, generally about 0.1-0.2 mm.

Comparison of cutting surface quality

The surface roughness of laser cutting is not as good as that of water cutting, and the thicker the material, the more obvious it is.

Water cutting will not change the texture of the material around the cutting seam (laser belongs to thermal cutting, which will change the texture around the cutting area).

Comparison of production input cost

1) Different models of laser cutting machines have different prices. The cheap ones such as carbon dioxide laser cutting machines only cost 20,000 to 30,000 yuan, and the expensive ones such as 1,000 W fiber laser cutting machines now cost more than one million yuan. Laser cutting has no consumables, but the equipment investment cost is the highest among all cutting methods, and it is not a little higher, and the use and maintenance cost is also quite high.

2) Compared with the laser cutting machine, the plasma cutting machine is much cheaper. According to the power and brand of the plasma cutting machine, the price varies, and the use cost is higher. Basically, as long as it can conduct electricity, it can cut materials.

3) The cost of water cutting equipment is second only to that of laser cutting, with high energy consumption, higher maintenance cost and lower cutting speed than that of plasma, because all abrasives are disposable, and once used, they are discharged into the nature, thus causing serious environmental pollution.

4) Wire cutting is generally in the tens of thousands. But wire cutting has consumables, such as molybdenum wire and cutting coolant. There are two kinds of wires commonly used in wire cutting, one is molybdenum wire (molybdenum is precious), which is used in fast wire cutting equipment. The advantage is that molybdenum wire can be reused many times; The other is to use copper wire (which is much cheaper than molybdenum wire anyway) for wire cut equipment, but the disadvantage is that copper wire can only be used once. In addition, the fast wire-cutting machine is far cheaper than the wire cut machine, and the price of a wire cut is equal to 5 or 6 fast wire-cutting machines.


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