Updated: Jan 3, 2022
Laser cutting is a technology that uses a laser to vaporize materials, resulting in a cut edge. While typically used for industrial manufacturing applications, it is now used by schools, small businesses, architecture, and hobbyists. Laser cutting works by directing the output of a high-power laser most commonly through optics. The laser optics and CNC (computer numerical control) are used to direct the material or the laser beam generated. A commercial laser for cutting materials uses a motion control system to follow a CNC or G-code of the pattern to be cut onto the material. The focused laser beam is directed at the material, which then either melts, burns, vaporizes away, or is blown away by a jet of gas, leaving an edge with a high-quality surface finish.
Laser engraving is the practice of using lasers to engrave an object. Laser marking, on the other hand, is a broader category of methods to leave marks on an object, which also includes color change due to chemical/molecular alteration, charring, foaming, melting, ablation, and more. The technique does not involve the use of inks, nor does it involve tool bits which contact the engraving surface and wear out, giving it an advantage over alternative engraving or marking technologies where inks or bit heads have to be replaced regularly.
The impact of laser marking has been more pronounced for specially designed "laserable" materials and also for some paints. These include laser-sensitive polymers and novel metal alloys.
The term laser marking is also used as a generic term covering a broad spectrum of surfacing techniques including printing, hot-branding and laser bonding. The machines for laser engraving and laser marking are the same, so that the two terms are sometimes confused by those without knowledge or experience in the practice.
We use laser cutting and engraving for bespoke signs particularly in wood and acrylic.