Common Stainless Steel Cutting Methods

Stainless steel cutting types are divided into laser cutting, waterjet cutting, and plasma cutting. Let’s have a look at the three cutting methods and their comparison.

Plasma cutting


The plasma cutting method was invented in the 1950s. It uses the heat of a high-temperature plasma arc to locally melt (and evaporate) the metal at the incision of the workpiece, and use the momentum of the high-speed plasma to remove the molten metal to form an incision.

The principle of plasma cutting machine: using compressed air as the working gas and high-temperature and high-speed plasma arc as the heat source, the cut metal is partially melted, and at the same time, the molten metal is blown away with high-speed airflow to form a narrow slit. This equipment can be used for cutting various metal materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, copper, cast iron, carbon steel, etc. It not only has fast cutting speed, narrow and flat kerf, small heat-affected zone, low workpiece deformation, simple operation, but also significant energy saving effect.

Plasma cutting speed is fast, especially when cutting ordinary carbon steel thin plates, the speed can reach 5-6 times that of oxygen cutting method, and the cutting surface is smooth, thermal deformation is small, and heat affected zone is less. Plasma cutting is not limited to carbon steel, but also for cutting stainless steel, copper, aluminum, and nickel titanium.

Plasma cutting is often used in fabrication shops, automotive repair and restoration, industrial construction, and salvage and scrapping operations. Due to the high speed and precision cuts combined with low cost, plasma cutting sees widespread use from large-scale industrial CNC applications down to small hobbyist shops.

Waterjet cutting


Waterjet cutting is simply an accelerated erosion process within a selected material. Highly pressurised water is fired through a ruby or diamond nozzle into a mixing chamber. This pressure creates a vacuum and draws garnet sand into the stream where it is then fired at the object in place for cutting. The sand particles eat away at the material causing the effect of erosion to take place at such a high speed it is deemed as cutting. This has allowed waterjet cutting to become an extremely powerful and versatile tool that is used in many industries around the world.

The waterjet cutting surface does not leave any HAZ or mechanical deformation. It is a truly versatile, high-efficiency cold cutting technology. A waterjet cutter is mainly composed of a high-pressure pump, a CNC machining platform and a jet cutting head.

In essence, there are two types of water jets: pure water jets and sand jets. The equipment is designed to only use pure water jets, only sand water jets, or both. Regardless of the form, the water must first be pressurized. Pure water jets can cut soft materials, while sanded water jets cut hard materials, such as steel, stone, composite materials and ceramics.

Waterjet cutting features:

1. Cold cutting, no thermal effect, no deformation, no slagging, no ablation, and does not change the physical and chemical properties of the material. In this regard, it makes up for the deficiencies of plasma or laser cutting.

2. Low incision temperature, especially in the fire-free environment, it will not cause hidden dangers of open flame.

3. Strong versatility, almost all materials (metal, ceramic, stone, etc.) can be cut.

4. Small kerf, coupled with the characteristics of cooling cutting, can improve material utilization; and can be repeated cutting in the same cutting area to compensate for errors caused by the complexity of the thickness or shape of the plate; the cutting quality is excellent.

5. Waterjet cutting media only has water and natural abrasives, no other substances are produced during the cutting process, and no physical or chemical attachment to the material being cut. It is a clean and environmentally friendly cutting process.

6. After cutting, the cutting surface is neat and smooth, without any damage to the object being cut during the cutting process, and can perform cutting operations that many cutting tools cannot achieve.

7. The high power of water cutting is especially suitable for medium and thick plates (thickness above 12mm), and it is especially suitable for processing with higher requirements for edge cutting.

Laser cutting


Laser cutting is the use of a high-energy laser beam to heat, partially melt, and vaporize metal to complete the cutting of materials. It is usually used for efficient and precise cutting of thinner steel plates or tubes.

Principle of laser cutting machine: The metal laser using xenon lamp as the excitation source outputs a high-energy density laser beam and focuses it on the surface of the workpiece, so that the area irradiated by the spot on the workpiece is melted and vaporized instantaneously, and the spot is moved by the computer controlled numerical control mechanical system to realize automatic cutting by irradiating position. It is a high-paying technical equipment integrating laser technology, numerical control technology and precision machinery technology.

The cutting quality of the laser is excellent, not only the cutting speed is fast, but the accuracy is also high (up to ±0.05mm), and because the laser beam acts on a very small area, the heat-affected zone is very small, and the workpiece is hardly deformed. In terms of cutting quality, laser is better than plasma; in terms of cutting speed, plasma is faster than laser.

Features of laser cutting:

1. Good cutting quality, small deformation, smooth and beautiful appearance;

2. Fast cutting speed, high efficiency, safe operation and stable performance;

3. Imported servo motor and oriented transmission mechanism are adopted, with high cutting precision;

4. Using professional software, you can design various graphics or texts for instant processing, flexible processing, simple and convenient operation;

5. The laser beam is easy to realize time or space splitting, and it can process multiple beams at the same time or multi-station sequential processing.

Cutting parameters comparison

Cutting method

Maximum cutting thickness(mm)

Dimension tolerance range(mm)

Plasma cutting



laser cutting



Waterjet cutting



Post time: Jan-07-2021
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