Comparing Four CNC Cutting Technologies

What are the similarities between plasma cutting, water jet cutting, and oxy fuel and laser cutting? That is right; these are processes used to cut through metal. More importantly, these processes use CNC cutting machines, meaning they are computer operated. This gives the user maximum control and precision.

Cutting Precision

  • Plasma Cutting: Although CNC operated, the gases that are expelled don’t allow tight tolerances to be followed.
  • Water Jet Cutting: It offers brilliant precision. Small and complicated designs can easily be accommodated into any inlay. This process is also used to cut metal for decorative processes like figurines, sheet metal art, etc.
  • Laser Cutting: Tight precisions can be followed when using this machine. It is also used to create art and designs using sheet metal.
  • Oxy Fuel Cutting: These machines have slow cutting and piercing speeds when compared to other CNC cutting methods.

Material Compatibility

What materials can and cannot be cut with the help of these processes?

  • Plasma Cutting: Capable of cutting through a variety of conductive materials like aluminum, brass, copper, etc. The gas that is expelled from the machine needs to be changed according to the metal being cut.
  • Water Jet Cutting: Since water is used, it is compatible with most materials. It cannot cut through very tough materials like diamonds, tempered glass, etc.
  • Laser Cutting: Although compatible with a variety of woods, metals, glass, stone, etc. It is not compatible with fiberglass, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), artificial leather, and many other materials.
  • Oxy Fuel Cutting: This process cannot be used to cut stainless steel, high-carbon steels, graphite, cast iron etc.

Medium of Cutting

What materials are used to enable the cutting process?

  • Plasma Cutting: Inert gases like nitrogen or compressed air are used to cut through the metal.
  • Water Jet Cutting: This process makes use of water for cutting the material. Sometimes, water and an abrasive material like sand or garnet is used to provide a smooth finish.
  • Laser Cutting: Laser beams are used to cut through or engrave metal. This produces toxic gases, so a proper environment should be maintained when these machines are used.
  • Oxy Fuel Cutting: It uses a mix of a fuel gas and oxygen to create a flame at temperatures at and above 6,330°F. The fuel gases used are propylene, acetylene, propane, etc.

All four cutting methods have their advantages and disadvantages. You can decide on the right method of cutting depending on the product requirement, and the material being used for cutting.

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