what is a laser cutter used for

What Is a Laser Cutter Used for? A Detailed Guide

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

Originally, a laser cutter was used to drill holes in diamond dies. With advancements, laser cutting has found its space within the manufacturing industry, and various types of laser cutting machines are becoming increasingly popular. Lasers can cut different types of materials, metals and non-metals alike. But with its evolution and versatility, what is a laser cutter used for?

What Is a Laser Cutter?

A laser cutter is a form of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine that uses a focused laser beam or pulsed laser beam to mark, cut, or engrave materials to form intricate custom shapes.

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Laser cutting, a non-contact, thermal-based fabrication process, is ideal for numerous materials, including wood, glass, paper, metal, and plastic.

There are 3 types of laser cutters; gas lasers/CO2 laser cutters suitable for cutting wood, leather, rubber, and glass; crystal lasers for plastics, metals, and some ceramics and fiber laser cutters for cutting plastics and metals.

Laser Cutting Process

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Laser cutting uses a high-powered laser beam through optics and computer numerical control (CNC) to direct the beam. Typically, the process uses a motion control system to follow the G-code of the pattern that is to be cut onto the material. The laser beam then burns, melts, and blows away the pattern leaving a high-quality surface finished edge.

Laser Cutter Projects

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As an entrepreneur or hobbyist looking into a new idea, here are some of the profitable projects you can make out of the laser cutter machine

1. Award Engraving

Laser cutters are so versatile and user-friendly. In 1988, epilog laser got into the award industry and allowed the production of stunning recognition products. From personalizing pre-made trophies to custom acrylic awards to adding nameplates to perpetual plaques and creating the one-off custom award, laser machines easily and quickly create nearly any award you need.

You can engrave custom awards and recognition products from acrylic, marble, brass, crystal, and other materials. A good example is the coveted Grammy Award, the highest achievement in music

2. Wood Cutting and Engraving

Wood cutting and engraving is the most popular application of laser machines because of their ability to encompass complex projects. In addition, the laser system can work with almost every woodworking category you’ll come across. So whether you are working with MDF, alder, walnut, inlays, hardwoods, plywood, veneers, or cherry, you can engrave stunning images using a laser cutter.

Whether a hobbyist or a small-scale business person, a laser system can help you create faster, high-quality images. Some of the creativities you can make with a laser cutter using wood materials include photo engraving, inlays, prototyping, and personalization. Examples of products include cabinetry, photo frames, knife handles, and more.

3. Glass Engraving and Etching

Glass etching and engraving with a Carbon dioxide (CO2) laser machine produces a beautiful frosty effect. It allows you to customize all kinds of glass with logos and designs of your choice. Epilog’s rotary attachment option easily sets up glassware for engraving.

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The rotary turns the piece while the laser etches your pattern with no special measurements required. The creativity of an epilog laser for glass engraving projects is limited to your imagination.

The most common creative options include branded glassware and personalized gifts. For example, you can etch and engrave beer mugs, vases, wine bottles, coffee mugs, and different sizes of glasses to produce an elegant look.

4. Acrylic Engraving and Cutting

Another popular application for laser machines is acrylic cutting and engraving. The projects are always of high quality. Achieve smooth flame-polished edges by cutting extruded acrylic and bright white frosty images by engraving cast acrylic.

Some beautiful projects you can work on using a laser machine and acrylic include signage, jewelry, containers, custom awards, cake toppers, ornaments, and much more.

5. Leather Cutting and Engraving

You can cut and engrave leather for multiple purposes. Leather is a durable material with high perceived value, especially when customized with a laser machine. There are various leather materials you can work on using a laser machine, including full grain, top grain, genuine leather, and bonded leather.

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A combination of epilog laser machine with this versatile material leads to various creative ideas from fashion accessories to promotional products. Some of the lasered leather beautiful creations include:

  • Bookmarks and journals
  • Bracelets
  • Briefcases & portfolios
  • Guitar straps
  • Hat patches
  • Headbands
  • Ornaments
  • Pet collars
  • Photographs
  • Purses & Handbags
  • Shoes
  • Sports memorabilia
  • Wallets

6. Laser Marking Plastic

Fiber lasers are the perfect choice for marking engineered plastic parts with serial numbers, logos, and barcodes for a high-quality plastic mark. A laser creates a permanent mark by reacting with the plastic chemicals to create a colored mark on the plastic.

7. Fabric and Textile Engraving

Customizing textiles and apparel using a laser machine is exceptionally popular. Laser machines are ideal for various fashion, fabric, and apparel applications.

For example, whether you are customizing leather wallets, cutting heat-transfer materials for personalized t-shirts, or etching fleece pullovers, laser cutting and the engraving has great precision and can create the most intricate patterns in a variety of fabric.

8. Electronic Device Engraving

Whether for security reasons or branding your accessories, you can customize your electronic devices with a laser machine. The laser engraving system can custom etch your phone, iPad, tablet, or laptop with a photo, logo, or any design to show your style.

9. CO2 Laser Metal Marking

Using metal sprays, CO2 laser machines can directly mark various coated metals, such as anodized aluminum or powder-coated stainless steel. You can make various creations, including customized jewelry and pendants, personalized stainless steel tumblers, and serializing metal components.

10. Barcode ID Laser Etching and Marking

With a fiber laser system, you can engrave barcodes, serial numbers, and logos on any material, including stainless steel, brass, aluminum, tool steel, plastics, and more.

Whether you do one piece at a time or a full table of components, laser machines set up with precise marking capabilities are the ideal choice for barcode engraving.

Benefits of Using a Laser Cutter

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A laser cutter is a CNC machine-driven tool with numerous advantages over alternative cutting methods, providing the precision and ability to help businesses produce results on an unprecedented scale!

  • Cuts non-ferrous material easily
  • Reliable and fast
  • Compatible with many materials
  • More affordable compared to other CNC machines
  • Cut intricate shapes with precise detail
  • Non-wearing for a smooth edge finish

Conclusion

Laser cutting can be used in various applications involving prototyping and manufacturing to create projects easily and precisely. In addition, it can be used with multiple materials, from hard to soft. As a result, you can use laser technology to improve the productivity of your business at a low cost.

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Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.