Plasma Cutter Vs Waterjet: Which Is Better?

Weighing the options between plasma cutters and waterjets? It can be a daunting task to determine the right method of cutting for your projects. With that said, plasma cutters and waterjets offer several benefits and drawbacks, depending on what project you’re working on. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between plasma cutters and waterjets, including their costs, delivery times, applications, as well as repairs and maintenance. Before we dive in, it’s essential to understand what exactly a plasma cutter and waterjet are, and what their defining features are.

Introduction to Plasma Cutters and Waterjets

Plasma cutters and waterjets are powerful tools found in many industrial settings, from automotive manufacturing to food processing. They provide tremendous accuracy, speed, and durability for cutting through materials ranging from light metals to fiberglass and stone. In this section, we’ll explore the key differences between plasma cutters and waterjets and how each tool can offer unique benefits in certain applications. We’ll also provide an overview of costs and delivery times, as well as insights on repairs and maintenance. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have a better understanding of which tool is best suited for your project.

What is a Plasma Cutter?

A plasma cutter is a tool used to cut various materials using a focused stream of hot plasma. This beam of hot plasma is created by heating and accelerating a gas, typically air, with an electrical arc. The plasma cutter is often used to cut metal, but it can also be used to cut other materials such as marble or glass. The metal is cut when the high-speed moving plasma heats it up to the point of melting, vaporizing it on contact. This process is often faster and more effective than other cutting tools, such as laser cutters. Plasma cutters also offer a more precise cut than traditional methods such as sawing or cutting.

Plasma cutters come in different sizes and configurations, making them versatile and suitable for various uses. For example, a small desktop plasma cutter may be used to cut small parts and intricate designs, while larger models are suitable for cutting sheet metal. Additionally, some plasma cutters come with an internal guide, allowing the operator to cut in a perfectly straight line for maximum accuracy. Plasma cutters also provide a cleaner finish to the cut material than other methods, as the molten metal is quickly blown away. This reduces the need for post-manufacturing cleaning and sanding.

What is a Waterjet?

A waterjet is a cutting tool that works by blasting a high-pressure stream of water mixed with an abrasive material. As the stream of water and abrasive cuts through the material, it erodes the particles away and creates a precisely cut edge. Waterjets can be used to cut through a variety of materials, from metal to stone, and even just a few inches thick. They can cut in any direction and have superior accuracy compared to other cutting tools. The power of the cutting stream is adjusted for different materials and thicknesses, making waterjet cutting an ideal choice for an array of manufacturing requirements.

The main advantage of using a waterjet is its capability to cut a range of materials that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to cut using other tools. This includes materials such as ceramic, titanium, and composites. Waterjet cutting offers minimal material deformation and requires minimal post-manufacturing clean-up compared to other cutting techniques. Waterjet cutting machines require regular maintenance, however, to keep the water and abrasive components in optimal condition, which can be done in a timely and inexpensive manner.

Comparing Plasma Cutters and Waterjets

When deciding between a plasma cutter and waterjet, it is important to understand the similarities and differences between them. Both are powerful tools that can be used in many applications, but they also have some distinct differences when it comes to costs, delivery times, repair and maintenance, and advantages. In this section, we will take a look at these factors in order to better understand how to decide which one is best for you.

Costs of Plasma Cutters and Waterjets

The cost of plasma cutters and waterjets can vary widely depending on their size, capabilities, and features. Much like cars and their various models, the cost will vary depending on what you need for your project.

Plasma cutters tend to be cheaper than waterjets, with prices for basic models ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. For more professional grade models, you can expect prices to range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.

Waterjet cutting machines are generally more expensive, with models priced between a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the size and capabilities.

Here is a short list of some typical costs for plasma cutters and waterjets:

  • Small plasma cutter: a few hundred dollars
  • Large plasma cutter: a few thousand dollars
  • Small waterjet: a few thousand dollars
  • Large waterjet: tens of thousands of dollars

These costs also don’t include additional factors such as power consumption, repair and maintenance, and tooling costs. Therefore, it’s important to keep all these factors in mind when deciding which tool is best for your project.

Delivery Times for Plasma Cutters and Waterjets

Delivery times for both plasma cutters and waterjets can vary depending on size and complexity of the job. Generally, plasma cutters can cut faster than waterjets and can be used to cut multiple pieces in short amounts of time. Waterjets may take longer to cut materials, but the cutting is more precise and detailed.

For short-run jobs, where time is of the essence, a plasma cutter may be a better choice. For longer production runs, or very precise shapes and details, waterjet cutting might be the better choice. Ultimately, the type of job must be evaluated to decide which tool is more suitable.

When it comes to delivery times, here are a few things to consider:

• Complexity of the job: It takes more time to program the machine and produce a more complex item. However, waterjet machines are often more precise, which can help to reduce errors.

• Size of the job: If the job involves a very large part or several parts to be cut, the delivery time may be longer as the machine will need more time to complete the job.

• Material type: Some materials are more difficult to cut than others. Metals, for example, require a longer delivery time than plastics.

• Quantity: If you need to order a large batch of parts or items, the delivery time will be longer as the machine has to produce a larger quantity of products.

By assessing the complexity, size, material type, and quantity of a job, you can get a better idea of the delivery time for a project. Being aware of these factors can help you to ensure that the job is delivered on time.

Applications for Plasma Cutters and Waterjets

When compared to other materials cutting techniques, plasma cutters and waterjets present some advantages. Plasma cutters and waterjets have many applications and can be used to cut various materials, including:

  • Aluminum
  • Steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Copper
  • Brass
  • Plastics
  • Stone
  • Fiberglass

Plasma cutters and waterjets offer a precise and consistent cut, maximizing material use and reducing scrap material. The cuts yield sharp edges that do not require any additional finishing. Waterjets are great for precision cutting and can be used to cut any shape.

In addition to metals and other industrial materials, plasma cutters and waterjets can also be used to cut fabrics and thin non-metallic materials. This makes them especially useful for applications where cutting thin and intricate materials is necessary. Other materials that can be cut include Kevlar, rubber, and foam.

Repairs and Maintenance for Plasma Cutters and Waterjets

Plasma cutters and waterjets are powerful tools that require routine maintenance and repairs to ensure optimal performance. Plasma cutters and waterjets use high pressure, temperatures, and abrasives to cut materials, making them very wear and tear prone. Below is a list of the routine maintenance and repairs to keep the tools functioning properly.

  • Inspect for parts wearing, such as seals, O-rings and toroid cables
  • Replace consumables, such as cutting nozzles, O-rings and water filters
  • Renew air filters, if equipped
  • Check cutting table alignment
  • Verify accuracy of machine calibration
  • Check high-pressure tank for contamination
  • Check for leaks on the waterjet or plasma cutter
  • Be sure to document operation, maintenance and repairs

Repair costs depend on the age, type and manufacturer of the machine, but are generally relatively inexpensive and require little downtime. Regular maintenance and repairs are essential to keep the machine running properly and efficiently. Additionally, it is essential to document all operations, maintenance and repairs to ensure the machine is properly maintained and that any repairs are properly documented. Regular maintenance and repairs help ensure that the machine will last longer and function better.

Advantages of Plasma Cutters and Waterjets

Plasma cutters and waterjets both offer advantages when it comes to cutting materials. Plasma cutters are fast and efficient and can produce a higher quality finish with minimal post processing. They require less tooling than with traditional methods and have shorter delivery times. Additionally, they are low-maintenance, with minor periodic checks.

Whereas waterjets offer another advantage per their larger cutting area and precision. They produce small parts with excellent quality, consistently. They are able to cut materials without heat-affected or metallurgic changes and can cut a wide range of materials, including thick metal and several layers of different materials. Waterjets offer stellar clean crisp cuts with less than 1% of material waste.

Overall, both plasma cutters and waterjets offer a solid value in meeting the needs of different kinds of cutting projects. Here is a list of the key advantages that each tool offers:

• Plasma cutters:
– Fast and efficient
– High-quality finish
– Less tooling
– Shorter delivery times
– Low-maintenance

• Waterjets:
– Large cutting area
– Precision
– No heat-affected changes
– Cuts a wide range of materials
– Clean, crisp cuts
– Low material waste


Plasma cutters and waterjets are powerful tools for cutting that offer a variety of advantages. When deciding which tool to use for a project, it is important to consider all factors, including cost, delivery time, repairs and maintenance, and the materials being cut. Ultimately, the choice will depend on the individual needs of each project.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a water jet better than a plasma cutter?

The answer to this question depends on the specific job or project. Generally speaking, a water jet is more appropriate for softer materials, like plastic and rubber, whereas a plasma cutter is better suited for cutting harder materials, such as metal. Additionally, plasma cutters are often faster and more affordable than water jets, but water jets can produce more intricate cuts. Ultimately, the best tool to use depends on the job at hand.

What are the disadvantages of plasma cutting?

The disadvantages of plasma cutting include:

1. High operating costs: Plasma cutting technology requires large amounts of electricity and gas to generate the necessary plasma arc, resulting in higher operating costs than other cutting processes.

2. Limited cutting capacity: Plasma cutting systems typically have a maximum thickness of 4 inches, or 6 inches with special torch tips. This makes them less suited for thick pieces of metal than other cutting technologies.

3. Low precision: Plasma cutting is not suitable for achieving extremely high levels of precision. This means that it is best suited for cutting larger parts rather than intricate shapes.

4. High levels of heat: Plasma cutting produces high levels of heat which may be unsuitable for some materials. This can also create thermal stress and warping in the cutting material.

5. Health and safety risks: Plasma cutting systems generate a large amount of sparks, which can present health and safety risks. Operators must take extra precautions, such as wearing protective clothing and eye protection, to reduce the risks.

What is better than plasma cutter?

The answer to this question depends on what you will be using it for. If you are looking for a tool that can cut through different types of materials, then a waterjet cutter may be the better option. Waterjet cutters use a high-pressure stream of water mixed with an abrasive material to cut various types of materials. This technique is far more precise and accurate than plasma cutting. Additionally, it does not produce sparks and does not require additional process of programming due to its simple design and operation.

Is waterjet cutting cheaper than laser cutting?

It depends on the type of material, size of the material and the complexity of the shape. Generally speaking, waterjet cutting tends to be more cost-effective than laser cutting, especially for larger and thicker materials. However, the cost differences can be minimal when cutting small parts with intricate shapes due to the high precision of laser cutting technology.


In conclusion, plasma cutters and waterjets are different tools used to cut various materials with unique advantages. Whether you’re looking for precision and a cleaner finish than other cutting tools, speed and less post-manufacturing clean up, the capability of cutting through a variety of materials with minimal deformation, or various other advantages, both plasma cutters and waterjets have something to offer. The best option will ultimately depend on the individual needs of your project, such as costs, delivery times, repairs and maintenance, and material being cut. By weighing the pros and cons of each of these tools, you will be able to make a more informed decision as to which is best for your project.