Laser Cutting Vs Plasma Cutting Vs Water Jet - What are the Differences?

Many people look for a variety of cutting machines to own, however, not everyone has adequate knowledge when it comes to making comparisons and choosing the best cutting machine. There are tons of differences to consider and other factors at play to pick a stable winner in the battle of laser cutting Vs plasma cutting Vs water Jet.

Laser cutters, plasma cutters, and waterjets differ in terms of price, quality of cuts, speed of cutting, number of cuts, materials they can cut, etc. Their core differences can vary, and thus, which one you end up choosing entirely depends on your priorities.

If you still have questions and are actively seeking answers, then you are in the right place! In this article, we went out of our way to deliver the best information available on the web regarding this topic! We hope you get to learn tons and finally make the decision to choose the best machine for you! Best of luck!

Difference Between Laser Cutting Vs Plasma Cutting Vs Water Jets

The most noticeable differences between laser cutters, plasma cutters, and water jets are seen in their initial and operational costs, quality of cuts, and what they can cut. These are the primary characteristics that distinguish each of these cutters from one another.

We are not going to do the homework for you when it comes to explaining how plasma cutters, water jets, and laser cutters work. We would very much recommend you to do your own preliminary research in this field.

In this section, we will cover the most basic differences applicable to all three sorts of cutters!

Waterjet, Laser And Plasma Cutting Costs

Compared to waterjet and laser cutters, plasma cutters are the cheapest to buy. A plasma cutter can cost anything from $15K to $300K. However, most plasma cutters are around $100K. A waterjet cutter costs between $100K and $350K.

Laser cutters are the priciest. A modern laser cutter might cost up to a million dollars, depending on its features. However, a second hand costs around $250K-300K operating costs include electricity, gas, consumables, abrasives, and routine maintenance. In this case, as well, plasma running costs are estimated at around $10-15/hour. Lasers are significantly more expensive, averaging approximately $15-20/per hour. Thus, making waterjets the costliest, at around $25-30/hour.

Waterjet, Laser, And Plasma Cutting Quality

Waterjet takes the crown hands down when it comes to cutting-edge quality. Waterjets provide the best quality cut. The laser cutter comes as the runner-up. It produces piercing splatter and dross when cutting large metal objects, yet provides a relatively square cut.

The plasma cutter is the worst in terms of cut quality and delivery.

Precision compares the finished component size to the CNC software's preset size. Waterjet is also the most precise. The laser cutter comes in second because it produces heat distortion, especially when cutting heavy metal.

Due to excessive heat distortion, plasma cutters are relegated to the last position. But cutting underwater considerably reduces distortion.

Different Applications Of Each Type Of Cutting Device

Waterjet cutters can cut practically anything from wood to titanium. The waterjet cutter can also cut soft materials like rubber or wood. Abrasives are often used to augment their capability of cutting stronger materials like steel and aluminum.

Laser cutters can cut plastic, rubber, wood, ceramics, glass, and most metals. It can also carve or engrave intricate designs on sheets, cartons, or tubes. That is one of their most popular applications as precise and safe engravings are used to make patterns or serial numbers on materials.

Plasma cutters won't cut wood, paper, plastic, or other heat-sensitive materials. Aluminum, Copper, and Brass are some of the limited materials that can be safely and economically cut with plasma.

Which Will Be The Best Option For You?

Depending on your budget, material cutting quality, production rate, and flexibility, you should opt for the machine that meets your needs. These are crucial factors to consider as they help you make an informed decision when it comes to choosing one of the three!

To answer this question, you should understand what you are looking for in the first place. What is the best "value" in a machine according to your preferences and needs? That is the first step toward identifying the best cutting machine for you. What you prioritize may vary.

You may value initial purchase price, operating cost, cut quality, flexibility, or production rate. Hence, we are here to evaluate the differences between these three cutting procedures and find out what truly defines the best option for you!

Initial Buying Costs And Maintenance

Whether you have a high budget or a low one is a game-changer. If you opt for CNC advanced machines, then you will definitely have to buy more expensive machines. However, what you buy depends on the purpose you are planning to use it for!

Hence, although there is a clear difference in price between the machines, you should always consider your needs first. In terms of maintenance, none of the machines will come easy. So, do keep an eye out for hefty maintenance bills.

Quality Of Cuts

Cut edge quality relates to the completed edge's squareness and how much dross sticks to the cut's bottom. Waterjet provides the highest quality cut, with no dross or piercing splatter. However, this may vary from material to material. Obviously, the quality of cuts can be compromised when cutting materials that can get wet!

A laser is a close second in terms of making quality cuts. However, on thicker mild steel or stainless steel, it can leave dross and create piercing splatter.

Compared to the two machines, plasma cutting has the poorest cut quality. Plasma always has an edge bevel angle, causing dross. Due to the higher kerf width, it produces more piercing splatter than a laser.

Materials Allowed To Be Cut

This is a very crucial factor. These machines are built differently and were not manufactured to do the same job the same way! However, this criterion is not as simple as defining budget or cutting quality, but it is a vital factor as what you are planning to cut with these machines is an important consideration.

Waterjets can cut practically any material, making them the most versatile of the three cutting methods. Laser cutters can only cut metals, fabric, various polymers, fiberglass, etc. Plasma has the least applications when it comes to cutting. Mild steel, stainless steel, and aluminum are the few practical options available.


Plasma is the fastest cutting method here comparatively as it can cover 60-250 Inches Per minute (IPM). Laser covers about 20-70 IPM on average thickness levels of materials.

Then comes the waterjets, which have the slowest production rate as they are only able to cover 15 IPM on basic metal plates.


That just about covers all that we had to say about the battle between Laser Cutting Vs Plasma Cutting Vs Water Jets. We now leave it upon you to make an informed decision regarding which you would personally choose to buy in accordance with your demands!  

We hope you had a good time reading this article. Thanks for stopping by!

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