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Chemical Etching vs. Water Jetting: What's the Difference?

Jun 12, 2018 7:00:00 AM By Hua Fan

Water Jetting is an industrial manufacturing process that use high pressure jet of water (or sometimes mixture of water and an abrasive substance) focused into a beam by a nozzle to cut a wide variety of materials. It can cut various materials including hard materials such as metal or granite or softer materials such as wood or rubber.Chemical Etching is a precisely reproducible process. Complicated, multi-level, multi-feature, high precision parts can be produced without the need for expensive tooling or machinery.


So, what's the difference of Water Jetting and Chemical Etching?

See below the detailed differences of Water Jetting and Chemical Etching in four aspects: Cost Efficiency, Lead Time, Flexibility, and Accuracy.

(1) Cost Efficiency.

Compared to Water Jetting which normally involves high operation costs, Chemical Etching requires no tooling or setting up costs. This makes it a more cost effective solution for both small volume prototype and large volume industrial production.

(2) Lead Time.

Similar to Laser Cutting, Water Jetting has to process every feature individually, one after another. This makes it a slower operation process than Chemical Etching, with which all features are etched simultaneously. Thus no matter for prototype or industrial production, Chemical Etching has shorter lead time than Water Jetting.

(3) Design Flexibility.

Both Chemical Etching and Water Jetting can work with wide range of materials. When it comes to design change/update, both can quickly adjust to new design without much extra costs and setting up.

(4) Quality/Precision.

Chemical Etching is at a higher level of precision than Water Jetting. Water jetting machine generates no distortion but may have hazing near the cut. Chemical Etching generates no distortion at all, and can achieve excellent sharp edges burr and stress free.

As material thickness increases, Water Jetting tends to become the preferred cutting method as it offers better tolerances on parts thicker than 12mm. For large volume production of thin sheet metal, especially when there’s a high demand of precision, Chemical Etching will be more preferable.

To learn more about Chemical Etching and how it can contribute to your next R&D project, download our free Whitepaper Chemical Etching here:


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