Growing up, everyone remembers how lasers were depicted in science fiction: deadly beam weapons which could burn though anything in their path. However, cutting lasers are indeed a reality. In our contemporary world, they are used for very fine etching and decorative work which make scroll saws seem clumsy by comparison.
A wide variety of materials can be processed by modern laser machines. The beam can be controlled to a very high degree of precision which isn’t possible with any standard mechanical cutting apparatus. The end result easily rivals any work produced by the most skilled artisan employing more conventional equipment. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) lasers will work very well on acrylics, anodized aluminum, cardboard, ceramics, treated metals, glass, granite, leather, marble, rubber, silver, stainless steel, paper, wood and other organic or polymer materials.
The second type of laser used for detailed cutting applications is the fiberoptic laser. Unlike the CO2 laser, these fire a nearly invisible beam in the infrared (IR) end of the spectrum. As a result, fiber lasers are ideal for cutting and engraving materials with reflective surfaces. Fiber lasers are best used for projects involving stainless steel, chrome steel, magnesium, molybdenum, nickel-chromium alloys, and other metallic or polycarbonate surface.
As seen in these laser cutter reviews, CO2 lasers have proven ideal for glass etching, sign carving and model-making, and letter cutting on acrylic and plastic materials. Wood engraving can also be successfully executed and on a range of various woods, from balsa and veneer to maple, cherry, red oak and certain exotic hardwoods such as teak. Interfaced with a CAD-capable control computer, there is almost no limit as to what can be accomplished with these modern technological tools. Even metal etching and photo engraving with precision laser is feasible.
Finally, lasers make ideal educational tools. Using relatively simple laser cutters, shop teachers can instruct their students in a variety of precision design and production applications. Students can learn how lasers are being utilized in a number of industries as well as how the lasers themselves function. And the best news is that the prices of laser machines are falling as the technology becomes more widely introduced. The latest models are designed to work with simple control systems which do not require elaborate programing knowledge.