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Laser Cutting: What is Laser Cutting?

How to use the library's laser cutters.

What is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting uses a focused laser beam to cut and etch away materials like wood and acrylic. It is simple, fast, and relatively inexpensive, making it a great choice for prototyping.

There are several different types of laser cutters with different capabilities. For information on the BYU Library's laser cutter, see the "Our Laser" tab.

Why BYU?

The BYU Library provides laser cutting as part of its objective to develop services and spaces that facilitate experimentation, discovery, and creation. Our laser cutter has been used for class projects, research groups, student business prototypes and personal projects.

Further Learning

Recommended Read:

"Laser Cutting Basics"

by printeraction on Instructables


Recommended Video:

"How does laser cutting work? Basics explained"

by Trotec Laser on YouTube


Recommended Read:

"What Is a Laser Cutter? - Simply Explained"

by Ian Mitchell and Brian Obudho on All3DP

Laser Cutting Modes


There are three main ways to use the laser cutter.

  • Raster engraving sweeps the laser head back and forth, quickly turning the laser on and off. This creates a soft, filled look, but can take quite a while.
  • Vector engraving traces the lines with the laser on, much like a pen would. This results in a crisp outline and is faster than raster engraving.
  • Vector cutting is very similar to vector engraving, but uses a higher power to actually cut all the way through the material. You can see that the higher power can leave burn marks on your material.

The laser can do all three types of cutting in one project. To learn more about how to denote which lines are which type of cut, see the File Preparation tab.