Laser cutters are powerful devices featuring a high-power laser beam that cuts through metal and other surfaces. Laser cutters are used in industrial, commercial, hobby-oriented settings. They’re used to cut, engrave, bore, and trim materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, plywood, gemstones, and epoxy. Other items often cut or trimmed by laser cutters include fabric, leather, ceramic, glass, paper, plastic, and semiconductors.
How laser cutters are used depends on the type of laser and its purpose. For example, the three main types of lasers used in cutting are CO2 lasers, neodymium (Nd) lasers, and neodymium yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Nd-YAG) lasers. CO2 lasers are primarily used for boring, cutting, and engraving; Nd lasers, which have high energy pulses and low repetition speeds are typically used for boring; and Nd-YAG lasers are used for boring, engraving, and trimming.
In industrial settings, laser cutters are often used to cut flat materials, structural items, and pipes. They’re also used to bore holes in items, engrave parts with serial numbers or branding, and finish surfaces. Artists often use lasers to cut metal and other materials as well as engrave artwork. Lasers speed laborious processes associated with artwork, metal sculptures, and architectural models (Source: Lasers from Coherent). Laser cutting is also used to cut the world’s hardest substances such as diamonds. Another common use for laser cutters, laser engraving, is available to consumers. For example, some pet stores have do-it-yourself pet tag engraving machines where consumers insert a dog tag and input contact information on a touchscreen.
Modern laser cutters are controlled by computers, CAD software, and human input devices. They are precision devices that do not come in physical contact with the item being cut. There’s also minimal heat and a small heat-affected zone. Because of their precision, versatility, and non-invasive attributes, laser cutters are widely used in industry, the art world, and retail environments alike.