Laser etching is the process of using a laser beam to permanently cut an image or pattern into a hard material, such as glass, wood or metal. For large projects, the size, depth and location of the pattern is typically programmed into a computer that controls the laser. The strength of the laser is based on the material used and the level of heat required.
This type of etching is typically found in a manufacturing setting. There are two types of lasers, hand-held and machine-operated. The hand-held units are used by a production technician to correct minor errors or quality issues with the product at the end of the work flow. Artisans or engravers who need to create a very precise work product can also use laser etching as a tool.
The machine-operated unit is programmed to mass-produce a specific pattern, by etching it into the final material. Common uses of laser etching include circuit boards, engraving metal or carving hard plastic. Lasers are rarely used for wood, as they tend to leave burn marks on the surface of the wood.