What Materials Are Suitable For Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is widely used and has many advantages in comparison to other cutting methods. It is precise, flexible, fast, and cost-effective. It can also be used on a variety of different materials, including wood, stainless steel, and acrylic to name a few. This is one of the main reasons why it is such a popular method of cutting. To find out more about what materials a laser can cut, read on.


There are many different types of metals that lasers can cut, including stainless steel, mild steel, and brass. There are some limitations though and this method is not suitable to cut very thick plates.

The maximum thickness depends on the power of the machine being used and the skill of the operator controlling it but could be up to 20mm.

At Furnells we create high quality, professional laser cut lettering on internal and external metal signs. Presenting a professional image to customers and visitors.


Using a laser to cut different types of wood is cleaner and safer than using something like a saw, which can create quite a lot of mess. It allows you to be more accurate and both soft and hard woods are suitable materials, including plywood, MDF, walnut and pine.

With a laser wood-cutter, a craftsman can create tighter corners, smoother curves, and intricate cut-out designs. The possibilities are endless and unlike traditional wood cutting methods, a laser does not come into direct contact with the wood, meaning that it is possible to create a neater cut.


You might not think that plastics and lasers go together, but there is a wide range of plastics that can be laser cut including:

  • Acrylic –  Frosted, clear and tinted acrylics are all able to be cut by lasers, often producing superior edge quality.
  • Polyester Film – Polyester film is ideal for laser cutting as it is very strong, has a flat surface area and is tear-resistant. A coating can also be added to polyester film to allow multiple sheets to be cut without the film accidentally being welded.
  • Polypropylene – A strong but flexible material, polypropylene is quite similar to acrylic but it is much thicker and can be trickier to cut for complicated designs.

What Materials Aren’t Suitable For Laser Cutting?

Although lasers can cut many materials, there are some that aren’t suitable for this type of process, including:

  • PVC – This material should only be cut using mechanical methods as laser cutting would cause the emission of acids and toxic fumes. This would be very harmful to the operator of the machine.
  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) – A laser would melt ABS and leave a mess on your workbench!
  • Fibreglass – A mixture of glass and epoxy resin, fibreglass causes a fume inducing resin and so unsafe to use with a laser cutter.

Laser cutting is increasingly popular with business owners and the public to create anything from fascias, signage, and memorial plaques. Whatever your design ideas, Furnells is happy to discuss your requirements.

Laser etching and laser engraving create high-quality and permanent markings that add distinction to a product or part. Etching and engravings have increased in popularity as industrial and government regulations are very strict regarding clearly legible product and part identification.

These processes are used by many industries, including the automotive and medical industry for part identification and traceability, as well as to personalise items such as signs, memorial plaques, and corporate branding.

How Do You Choose Between Etching or Engraving?

The difference between laser engraving and laser etching is mainly to do with the marking process. For example, the engraving depth and how it changes the overall appearance of the surface of the material.

Laser etching and engraving both remove a portion of the surface material as they mark, however, the difference between them is the depth to which the laser penetrates the surface of the material. Laser etching is a chemical marking process while engraving is a cutting process. Etching uses chemicals to mark the material, while engraving physically cuts into the metal, leaving a deep indentation.

The nature of the job will determine which process is the best choice, as each has its own applications and attributes.

Laser Etching

Laser etching:

  • melts the surface of the material using the high heat of a laser beam.
  • creates a raised mark as the melted material expands
  • usually 0.001” or less of the surface of the material
  • alters the reflectivity and enhances contrast
  • can be performed on bare, plated, or anodised metal surfaces, polymers, and ceramics

Etching is more suitable for thin materials and small projects such as jewellery, as it is extremely precise, provides durability, and is cost-effective.

Laser Engraving

Laser engraving:

  • is the fastest way to mark with a laser and vaporises the surface of the material using the high heat of a laser
  • creates indentations in the surface that can be seen and felt
  • depth is usually 0.020″ in metals but can go as deep as 0.125″ in materials such as graphite
  • is a good option for parts or materials that need to be hard-wearing
  • can be performed on almost any kind of metal, plastic, wood, leather and glass surface.
  • is most commonly chosen by people who want to personalise or customise an item, such as desk or door plaques and house number signs.

Furnells has over forty years experience in specialist engraving and can engrave almost any material, including glass, crystal, gold, silver, non-precious metals and wood.

Which Industries Use Laser Etching And Laser Engraving?

All types of manufacturing must adhere to laws and regulations put in place regarding identification to reduce error and ensure part safety.

Lasers are used in almost every industry, including:

  • automotive
  • industrial and tooling
  • electronics
  • medical
  • aerospace

There are many ways to mark materials however, laser etching and engraving are excellent at providing quality and environmentally friendly markings.

Aside from manufacturing, engraving can also transform a gift to make it much more personal.

At Furnells, we pride ourselves on each and every customised piece. Get in touch to discuss your special item and requirements with us.

Categorised as Cutting Tagged