Choosing a cutting process

Every cutting process has particular benefits and shortcomings that you should take into account before deciding on a cutting method. Also keep in mind that a combination of processes may be best for a particular application.

 
Plasma cutting

Plasma

Oxyfuel cutting

Oxyfuel

Laser cutting

Laser

Waterjet cutting

Waterjet

Other mechanical tools

Other mechanical tools

Common attributes
Industrial cutting category Thermal

Thermal

Compare to plasma

Thermal

Compare to plasma

Erosive Mechanical
Types of materials Most metals Carbon steel Range of materials Nearly anything Metal, wood, plastic
Material thickness Up to 50 mm (2″) 50 mm (2″) and above Typically 6 mm (1/4”) and below Up to 75 mm (3″) Typically up to 25 mm (1″)
Cut quality Very good Very good Excellent Exceptional Good
Speed when cutting ideal thickness 
Fast Fast (though requires pre-heat time) Fast Slow Slow
Operating costs $ - $$ $$ $$
(Higher for CO2 lasers)
$$$ $$$$
Capital equipment cost $ - $$$ $ $$$$ $$$ $ - $$$$
Portability  
(air plasma only)
  - -    
Heat affected zone       - Maybe
  Learn about plasma  Learn about oxyfuel  Learn about laser  Learn about waterjet