Until very recently, laser cutters were only available in sizes designed for business and industrial use. The type of machine purchased by large companies depends on the primary use and materials that will be cut. It also depends on the amount of total space can be taken up by the machine.
A Water Jet Cutter
A water jet cutter is ideal for smaller spaces because it does not run hot, or produce sparks. The cutting is done with high velocity water precisely targeted with the use of computer programming. This machine is used primarily for thin wood and plastics that would burn or melt under the heat of a plasma or laser cutter. These edges are cleaner and require little shaving or sanding.
The cutter is very cost-effective to use because there is minimal waste of materials. The thickness of materials the machine can successfully cut is less than the other two major types of cutters. Non-slip mats and proper drainage are recommended for dealing with spraying water. The table itself catches most of the water stream, but velocity splatter can be intense at higher speeds.
A Plasma Cutter
Ionized gas, or plasma, is perfect for metals up to four inches thick. Steel, stainless steel, copper, aluminum, and brass are common metals cut in this machine. This cutter is precise, produces clean edges, and is cost-effective to operate. Dealing with an electrical current requires eye protection and typically a heavy apron for protection from hot debris.
A Laser Cutter
This cutter is used for thinner materials. Paper, plywood, glass, metals, and plastics are examples. It has superior capabilities for cutting holes and creating intricate designs. Sizes of these cutters range from massive to desk top models. The smaller sizes are perfect for etching and engraving gifts, crafts, or decorations.
The only drawback to usage is the low energy efficiency in larger machines. High power consumption is needed to create and maintain the laser. Depending on the frequency of use, the cutter can be expensive to operate. Desk top models for small businesses and hobbyists, for example, will not require much power and are well worth any increases in utilities.