Cutting Acrylic: Should I Use a Laser Cutter or Waterjet Cutter?

Acrylic is a versatile, durable material with a wide range of uses. If you are anticipating using acrylic for an upcoming project, you may be wondering which cutting machine will be best for you to use. In today’s post, our Apex fabrication equipment vendor shares the benefits of the two most popular acrylic cutting techniques, laser cutting and water jetting, so you can select the process that will have the best results for your project.

Cut Depth

One of the main differences between laser cutting and water jetting is the depth of the cuts they can produce. Laser cutting offers greater control over cut depth, allowing you to either completely slice through the material, or create a shallower etching. Water jetting, on the other hand, cannot offer control over cut depth. If you think that you might like to cut, score, and/or etch your acrylic material, laser cutting is the better choice for you.

Cut Quality

Another consideration that must be made before you choose between laser cutting and water jetting for your acrylic project is part integrity. While laser cutters are very efficient at making even very small and precise cuts, the heat applied to the material can create scorch marks along the edges of each cut. Since water jetting utilizes a high-pressure stream of water to cut through raw acrylic, burn marks are not an issue. However, the water pressure can cause small parts or thin material to warp or become otherwise deformed.

Long story short, if you need your finished acrylic part to be clear and free from any charring or burns, water jetting is a better option; however, you will also need to consider the ability of your material to withstand pressure.

Material Restrictions

Both laser cutters and waterjet cutters can cut through acrylic with ease, but laser cutters are more limited in the thickness they can handle. Laser cutting is best suited to acrylic or metal materials that are up to 20 mm thick; waterjet cutting, on the other hand, can handle a much wider range, all the way up to 10-inch-thick stainless steel (depending, of course, on the cutter being used). Therefore, if your material is extremely thick, waterjet cutting will likely offer the most consistent results.

Need Fabrication Equipment in Apex NC?

We hope that this article has helped equip you to make the right decision for your acrylic or metal fabrication project. If you need any help purchasing or renting a laser cutting machine in Apex, or a waterjet cutter in Apex, please check out our project inventory page or give us a call here. We also serve Cary, Durham, Raleigh, Holly Springs, Garner, Fuquay Varina, and nearby areas.