CO2 flatbed lasers can successfully be used for both laser engraving and cutting — and multiple materials, such as wood, acrylic, and steel can generally be processed and finished in this way. While both cutting and engraving rely on thermal, heat-based, processes, there are some key differences between the two.

In laser engraving, the operator first has to upload a suitable image to the machine, which then follows the pattern to scrape materials from the target surface. Working methodically, one pixel after the next, users can expect the engraving machine to take its time, especially for more complex designs.

While the engraving process does, essentially, “cut” materials from the surface, this is a different process than laser cutting, which instead entirely slices materials. Here, too, the process is computer-guided, using CNC technology. The type of laser required is more powerful, with a higher wattage, and as the laser beams erase small portions of the material to cut it, the final product will attain a smooth finishing.

To ensure a successful project, users will want to do some test runs before they are ready to engrave or cut the targeted material, as well as ensuring that their laser cutting or engraving machine is powerful enough and able to work with the chosen materials. One common practice is to use masking tape to protect the remainder of the surface while cutting or engraving is in process.