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Downside of Buying a Cheap Waterjet

The adage “You get what you pay for” applies to most major purchases. You pay more for a high-end car or a house with a proven history of appreciating well. The adage is even truer for machine tools. When you invest in a well-made tool, you can expect years of accurate and repeatable use.

OMAX waterjets typically are not the cheapest options on the market – with good reason. OMAX brand abrasive waterjets employ rigid construction coupled with cutting-edge technology (both at the pump and in the software controller). On top of that, OMAX devotes an almost fanatical dedication to after-sales support in the form of training and customer service.

When you compare a cheap waterjet to the OMAX waterjet brands, you instantly see the discrepancies in accuracy, software control, and maintenance. These discrepancies more than make up for the difference in initial investment.


A major reasons fabricators and machine shops choose to purchase an abrasive waterjet is because waterjets are capable of extreme precision and accuracy with a variety of material. However, not all waterjets offer are the same standards of performance.

For example, the ProtoMAX (the first personal waterjet) is accurate up to 0.005”. A cheaper personal waterjet doesn’t even list its accuracy.

OMAX’s MAXIEM line offers an accuracy of 0.003”. A cheaper, similarly-sized machine, from another waterjet manufacturer show an accuracy of 0.005”. These mere fractions of an inch can make a costly difference in finished parts.

OMAX posts the accuracy of all its products, including the following:

OMAX Product Accuracy Repeatability
MicroMAX 0.0005" 0.0001"
OMAX 160X-3 0.001" 0.001"
MAXIEM 1530 0.003" 0.001"
GlobalMAX 1508 0.003" 0.001"

Software Control

OMAX machines gain much of their accuracy through the software controller and linear drives for their X and Y axes. Some other waterjet manufactures use generic CNC software that was not written for waterjets and can’t compensate for the way a waterjet behaves.

The controller for a router will not work as efficiently on a waterjet because the two types of machines represent completely different cutting methods. Operators using a generic waterjet controllers ends up with material that isn’t completely cut through or is so inaccurate that it’s of no use.

All OMAX machines use IntelliMAX software to control their waterjet cutting action. IntelliMAX allows for fast, precise cutting of nearly any material because OMAX programmers and engineers developed the software to support the physics of the waterjet. With the right controller software, machine operators gets exactly what they programmed without wasting material on redundant test cuts.

IntelliMAX regulates the use of consumables more accurately than other machine controllers can. OMAX abrasive waterjet cutting software regulates optimal garnet flow to ensure that you do not waste money on extra abrasive, mixing tubes, or nozzle bodies.  

comparis chart for pumps


What about maintenance and support? Machine tools can stay in operation for 20 to 30 years. Over a lifetime of use, how much will a waterjet cost to operate? How much will it cost you when your waterjet isn’t running?

Cheap waterjets can require constant costly repairs. To minimize that price shock, very few waterjet manufacturers (other than OMAX) list expected maintenance intervals.

Regular maintenance on a waterjet pump ranks among the most common routines involved in waterjet care. OMAX lists their preventive maintenance intervals on their EnduroMAX pumps at 1,000 hours of use. All OMAX-built pumps are direct-drive, making them simpler to operate and maintain over intensifier pumps which require an additional hydraulic system.

So remember when pricing out an abrasive waterjet, “you get what you pay for.” A cheap waterjet may seem like an initially benefit, but, over the life of the machine, you’ll be paying for it in other ways.

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