I have been cutting wooden jigsaw puzzles since 1986. I think it is high time to contrast waterjet cutting to hand cutting. Each has its advantages.
I think the most obvious advantage waterjet cutting has is price. Cutting a puzzle by hand takes skill and time. Good hand-cut puzzles are more expensive. The biggest advantage that a hand cutter has over a waterjet is the ability to relate the cut to the picture. I wish my machine had that ability but obviously it just does not see the picture. Almost all my puzzles are regular shapes, rectangles and ovals, that conform to the length and width of the picture. I cannot make a cut along a horizon or the outline of a tree.
Here are two pair of pieces pictured front and back. The hand-cut ones on the left are very smooth. The waterjet-cut ones are smooth only at the top where the jet enters the cut at the picture. The cut is progressively rougher toward the back. This is not a disadvantage. The rough edges hold the pieces together so the puzzle will stay together until it is taken apart. I think you can see that the waterjet cut is a bit thinner than the hand cut. I am amazed that the jigsaw cuts are as fine as they are. That’s a tribute to the skill of the cutter and the quality of the blade. But the hand-cut puzzle is a little looser, has more visible cuts and the pieces slide around because they are so smooth.
This is a picture of several pieces that make up a centaur weathervane. It is part of the design of many of my bigger puzzles. I show it here to illustrate the amount of detail I can put into my figure pieses. The jet stream is like a tiny round jigsaw blade, in this case .007 inches dia. It can cut in all directions. I take advantage of this to put a lot of figure pieces into a puzzle. Also this allows me more freedom to add drop-out letters and numbers to custom puzzles.