Laser cutting may sound like something from science fiction, but in reality it’s a very common processing method that’s widely used in the manufacturing industry. As its name implies, laser cutting mainly involves a high-powered, high-precision laser being used to cut through raw material, which can be anything from plastic and wood to metal and composites.

Typically, a motion solution such as an XY stage for laser processing is involved in laser machining processes to add even more precision to the cutting process by accurately moving workpieces on the X and Y planes—and sometimes, even on the Z plane.  An XY stage may also be used to ensure that the material isn’t moving while the cutting is taking place. Both of these processes reduce or thoroughly eliminate manufacturing errors.

The laser cutting process takes advantage of laser’s inherent properties to ensure that each cut is made with 100% accuracy, while also eliminating the costs usually incurred through traditional cutting solutions, such as the frequent replacement of contacting parts, i.e. a scalpel or a saw blade. As a laser is essentially just magnified light, there is no blade to maintain, sharpen, or replace in case of damage. There are also fewer moving parts in the cutting mechanism that would need repairs or replacement.

Laser cutting’s high precision also minimizes the wastage of raw material being cut, as precise cutting leaves the unused material intact and easily usable for other projects or products. Finally, modern developments in laser cutting has made the procedure itself more energy efficient, lessening its impact on the environment and helping manufacturing organizations save on energy costs.

From its description, it sounds like laser cutting is confined mainly to heavy industrial use. For the most part, that’s true. However, just because it’s used more commonly in industrial processes doesn’t mean it can’t be used in more surprising and creative ways. Here are just a few examples:

Sculpting

While laser cutting may not be able to upstage 3D printing when it comes to creating accurate replicas of artistic and intricate designs, it does give sculptors and other artists a reliable and easy-to-use tool when it comes to making sculptures out of metal and other materials. This allows them to create striking, creative, and durable art installations that will stand the test of time.

Food preparation

Forget about using knives to prepare food, use lasers instead! Many avant-garde chefs looking to increase the aesthetic presentation of their creations have begun to use super-precise lasers combined with motion solutions in their food preparation. The result? Sushi rolls with geometrically-perfect patterns cut from their seaweed wrappers; bacon that’s perfectly cut in the thinnest, crispiest strips; and spirograph pancakes that boggle the mind as well as tickle the taste buds. Best of all, since the laser doing the cutting is essentially just heat and light, you won’t have to worry about nasty chemicals or germs getting on the food as it’s being meticulously prepared.

Fashion

Speaking of avant-garde, fashion designers have also begun to see how the exactingly precise nature of laser cutting can give their new creations the pleasing, elaborate symmetry they desire—and all without driving their seamstresses insane with the complicated designs! A trend that was started by the late Alexander McQueen, laser-cut fashion quickly became a fixture in many runway shows, with big-name fashion luminaries such as John Galliano and John Paul Gaultier headlining the effort. Burberry, a brand known for more humble and down-to-earth fashion offerings, have also begun to adopt laser cutting to enhance the aesthetics of its clothing line.

Jewelry

When it comes to creative ventures that require the highest degree in precision, nothing comes close to the art of jewelry making. From sculpting intricate and perfectly-symmetrical designs using delicate metals to cutting diamond roughs into the brilliant and precious gemstones that they are, laser cutting has transformed nearly every aspect of this expensive and lucrative industry. In fact, many of the more ornate and elaborate designs you see nowadays are only possible with laser cutting

Business cards

For the professional who really wants to make a sharp impression, laser cutting has also allowed business card makers to create a new kind of card: one that’s completely made out of metal. These cards are just as thin and light as actual paper business cards, except they’re a lot sturdier, guaranteed to stay intact even with reasonable amounts of abuse. There’s also the fact that they just look a lot more appealing and attention-grabbing.

Laser cutting may be perfect for the manufacturing industry due to being resource-efficient as well as being effective in what it does, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be applied to more creative and enriching pursuits besides mass production. Just like with many other technologies, it can be used as a tool to bring out superior artistry and craftsmanship from talented individuals.