Cutting Method Comparison

Cutting Method Comparison

Last modified: 2019-05-28
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Estimated reading time: 3 min

Complement Your Existing Manufacturing Process

Re-think Your Cutting Solution

Waterjet cutting compares favorably with other cutting methods, offering good accuracy, fast set-up time and fast cutting, while also cutting a wide range of materials with no Heat Affected Zone (HAZ) or change in material properties.

Accuracy Average of ±0.003″
(±0.08 mm) and up to
0.001” (±25 μ) 1
±0.0001″ (±2.5 μ) ±0.001″ (±25 μ) 2 2 ±0.030 to ±0.060″
(±0.75 to ±1.55 mm)
±0.0003″ (±8 μ) Fair
THICKNESS 3″ (75mm) or more
for some
12″ (30 cm) Generally less than
Cuts less than 1.25″ Able to work on
3D parts
Works well with
thin sheets
CUTTING SPEED 5-10 times faster
than EDM when
thickness is under 1″
5-10 times slower
than waterjet
Very fast cutting in
thin, non-reflective
Fast with thin sheets Fair Fast batch production
when initial programming
and setup are done
Edge Quality Good Excellent Excellent Fair Excellent Fair
MATERIAL DISTORTION No Distortion 3 No Possible Possible No Some
None Some Yes Yes None None
MATERIAL LIMITATION Works in virtually
all materials except
really hard ceramics
Only works in
conductive materials
Only non-reflective
metals 4
Generally works in
Not ideal for very
large parts
Not good for brittle or
hardened materials
PROCESS Cold supersonic
abrasive used to
cut material
Spark erosion used to
remove material from
electrically conductive materials
Thermal process Thermal process Mechanical cutting tool Shearing process
SETUP Fast and easy
Relatively easy
Relatively easy set-up
but may have to tune
laser for different materials
Relatively easy
Time consuming
set-up and
Time consuming
set-up and


  1. Better result can be achieved with advanced software
  2. Better result with thin material
  3. May have hazing near cut. No internal stress built up
  4. May need different gas for cutting different materials


Manufacturers from small job shops to large OEMs are finding that the OMAX abrasive waterjet cutting process is an ideal complement to their other manufacturing processes. In many cases the OMAX can quickly produce a complete final part, ready to go. However it can also produce a semi-finished or near-net-shape blank part suitable for secondary processing by conventional means. The abrasive waterjet process does not affect material properties, so the efficiency of conventional processes is not degraded. The close nesting capability of the OMAX maximizes material utilization. In addition, the OMAX is effective in many advanced and non-traditional materials where conventional processing may be a challenge.


MillingShops often use OMAX systems as a complement to their traditional mills and vertical machining centers. The OMAX is ideal for making short-run two-dimensional parts on a quick-turnaround basis and does not required a skilled machinist or specialized programmer. In addition the OMAX can save material by quickly making closely-nested near-net-shape blanks in preparation for final machining. The fact that the OMAX abrasive waterjet process does not change material properties means that secondary machining can be carried out efficiently with conventional cutting tools.

Wire EDM

Wire EDMAn OMAX system should not be viewed as a replacement for wire EDM, but rather as a complement. It is generally used by wire EDM shops to provide faster production where the ultra-high accuracy of wire EDM is not needed and to permit a shop to work with non-conductive materials such as composites and glass. It is also common to use an OMAX to produce a part to a general tolerance in the range of ±0.003″ to 0.005” (±75μ to 125μ) and then use wire EDM to finish off areas where greater accuracy is required. The OMAX can also be used to quickly pierce starting holes for the wire EDM process.


LaserThe key reason that laser shops and potential laser users buy an OMAX system is because it can work in a much wider variety of material and thicknesses. Advanced materials such as composites and laminates are easily cut on an OMAX, as are materials such as titanium or tool steel where the heat affected zone of a laser can be a problem. Thicker metals, such as aluminum, steel or stainless steel are also well-suited to the OMAX. It is common for laser specialty shops to purchase an OMAX simply to broaden their material capability. In addition an OMAX is typically one-third or less of the capital cost of a laser cutting system. This means that a shop that has been farming out work to a laser house can afford to buy an OMAX to bring the work in-house, thus saving money and improving scheduling and flexibility. It also means that a laser house can afford to purchase an OMAX to supplement their laser capability.

Plasma Cutting

Plasma CuttingAs in the case of lasers, the key reason that plasma users buy an OMAX is because it can work in a much wider variety of materials and thicknesses. Plasma cutting generally results in a relatively large heat affected zone and is limited in the materials it can cut. The OMAX, on the other hand, can cut virtually any material over a wide range of thickness without any heat affected zone. Advanced materials such as composites and laminates are easily cut on an OMAX, as are heat-sensitive materials such as titanium or tool steel. It is becoming common to use a plasma for rapid cutting of large blanks and then to use an OMAX Waterjet for precision cutting of holes and features,as the waterjet is more accurate.

Punch Press

Shops generally purchase an OMAX to complement their traditional punch press when they need to work in a wider variety of material and thicknesses or need to make intricate shapes or closely-nested parts. Because of its very fast programming and set-up time, the OMAX is great for creating prototype parts and for short-run production.

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