Laser Cutting vs. Laser Engraving: The Key Differences

Laser cutting and engraving use machines with lasers. Because of these features, laser ablation itself belongs to a procedure called laser marking methods. Because they are categorized as being one and the same, they can be mistaken for one another. Thus, the article will discuss how laser techniques vary from one another.

What is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is the technique that utilizes beams focused on material melting to cut through it. Thus, CNC (computer numeric control) machining is ideal for engaging in jobs that produce shapes and patterns of different attributes. Similar to any other laser marking method, it is a non-contact operation; hence, the machine does not touch the material during the operation. In contrast, the laser beam may perform the melting, vaporizing, or, finally, burning of the part itself.

The laser cutting process is quite versatile and can be used to precisely cut an extraordinarily wide range of materials, including metals. Polymers (e.g., ABS, Polycarbonate), ceramics, wood, and stone are among the most common materials used in contemporary urban design.

What is Laser Engraving?

Another method of laser marking is laser engraving, which, to draw pictures and designs through small pictures, barcodes, serial numbers, etc., the operator has to utilize laser beams as an image on an object. Laser engravers give a permanent imprint that is formed by vaporizing the detailed region onto the object. They fit wood, plastics, coated metals, and leather perfectly in case you want to treat your leather classics with them.

Distinction Between Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving

These methods are all classified under the laser marking practice itself. It is also because laser marking machines use beams that can evaporate certain parts or the whole product. Laser engraving and laser cutting are similar. However, there are a few key differences:

Principle of Cutting

Laser cutting is a technique in which a laser beam is used to melt or burn the material at its entire thickness through melting, burning, or vaporizing. Most cuts are perfect. And so, they don't need that second touch-up. In the opposite way, laser engraving involves cutting to the depth but without cutting in depth. Because of that, however, graving machines vaporize the surfaces of engraved material to the required depths.

Laser Power

The machinery utilized in the processes of laser cutting and laser engraving are among the most significant differences. However, over here, energy or the amount of power of the laser is the main factor. On the other hand, laser cutters have laser power demonstrated above 60W. Cutting power is a primary factor, but it may become less important with materials that are of different types and thicknesses. While compared with laser cutters, the laser engraver spots a comparatively low power (60W and below).

Along with the change in the laser power, the types of LCs accessible to this process are also restricted. Specifically, most laser-cutting machines emit fiber or CO2 laser markers. However, lasers can be combined with other types, like UV and green lasers, in addition to the ones we have mentioned.

Lens Focal Length

Nevertheless, the greatest variation between the two processes, writ large, is the lens used in the laser machines. The shaped focal length lens is the most important part of a laser cutting machine. On the other hand, they mean sharp or clean-cut edges can be rendered, which is appealing to the eye. Contrary to the lens of the laser engraving machine, it has a shorter focal length lens. As a result, the item is precisely positioned, and the engraving is more precise since it is narrowed down.

Cutting Speed

The laser-cutting process takes a long time to remove a material completely. However, the actual situation depends on the material you are cutting and its dimensional value. For example, a thin plastic will need less time than a thin metal; on the other hand, a thick plastic will require more time than a thin metal. Moreover, the slow-cutting ability guarantees that the face is well-sized and high-quality.

The laser engraving method is several times shorter than cutting because the cutting process is not here. Of course, it's also precise and cut in the contact time. Nevertheless, cutting faster than the optimal speed can sometimes result in inferior marking.

Design File Format

Laser-cutting machines demand vector design documents, unlike engraving machines that require vector and raster design files. In contrast, vector design software is suited for laser works that require thin lines. This is carried out by carving through the lines and curves of the design vector using the laser beams in vector or vector format. A vector design can be in EPS, AI, or CDR format.

Raster design format features graphics processing elements like wood lasers, rubber stamps, etc. It creates the design starting from pixels and engraving it line by line or point by point. Pixels can be represented as raster files in file extensions JPG or PNG.

Involve Assist Gas

It allows gases such as helium and oxygen to escape. As a result, we see the molten elements during laser cutting. So, this tool is highly recommended for cutting thick materials only. In addition, it produces a cool, smooth-looking, compact finish.

Unlike normal engraving, laser engraving does not need the flush of the gas, which could result in a burring effect that can influence the final look of the surface finish. Nevertheless, you can use it when the gas caused by engraving makes the smoke permeable, which may affect the quality of the marking processes.

Selecting the Suitable Device for the Task

Take a closer look at whether you need a laser engraver or a laser cutter for your project, depending on the requirements. Ask yourself the following questions:

What's the Purpose? Are you hand engraving (intricate designs on the surface) or cutting through the material (cutting)?

Material Matters: 

What materials are you going to build it from? Some can be engraved, and depending on the material selection, a laser cutter might be needed to make the cuts.

Depth of Work: 

Is cutting the material what you are concerned about, or do you only need the surface to fulfill your project objectives?


Consider the extent of project development. Laser engravers are more accurate for surface-level high-volume work, and the same applies to the laser cutter when dealing with large-scale cuts of complex shapes.


Both laser engravers and laser cutters are irreplaceable tools for creating masterpieces, each with its own strengths. Your project's demands and what materials you need to use are important considerations in making a choice, but the outcome will pave the way to success. Whether you are into painting as a hobby or design as your profession, high-class machines will enable you to make your ideas come true.

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