Cutting vs Engraving vs Marking – Elena

Generally, a laser cutting machine should also be able to engrave and mark. In fact, the only difference between cutting, engraving, and marking is how deep the laser goes and how it changes the overall appearance of the material. In laser cutting, the heat from the laser will cut all the way through the material. But that is not the case with laser marking and laser engraving.

Laser marking discolors the surface of the material being lasered, while laser engraving and etching remove a portion of the material. The main difference between engraving and etching is the depth to which the laser penetrates.

Here’s the difference between marking and engraving:

  • Laser Marking: In laser marking, the laser does not go all the way through the material but instead only alters the properties or the appearance of the material. The laser creates high-contrast marks because the heat of the laser redistributes the carbon in the material in question.
  • Laser Engraving: In laser engraving, the beam physically removes the surface of the material to leave a cavity that reveals your design. The laser heats the material to very high temperatures, causing it to vaporize and to create a cavity.

Pros and Cons


Here are the reasons why laser cutting is preferred compared to other cutting technologies, such as CNC milling:

  • High precision and accuracy
  • High production speed
  • More affordable than CNC machines of the same caliber
  • Wide material compatibility
  • No risk of contamination (since it’s a contactless process)
  • Narrower kerf widths


  • High energy consumption
  • Risk of toxic emissions release (from plastics)
  • Thicker materials can be difficult to cut
  • Risk of burnt edges at cuts


Key considerations when shopping for a laser cutter:

  • Support: Several vendors stock cheap laser cutters, but are they reliable enough to provide you with the necessary support when your machine breaks down? How easy is it to find replacement parts?
  • Size: The bed size puts a limit on the size of the material you can work with. A bigger bed will let you cut multiple pieces at once while a smaller bed will only allow you to work on one material at a time
  • Power: The more the wattage, the more powerful your machine is. And remember, more power means you will cut faster and more reliably. A less powerful laser will slow you down.
  • Compatible Materials: You can’t just pick any material and start blasting it with a laser. The composition of the material should guide you when selecting the right laser cutter. Also, note that some materials catch fire while others produce toxic fumes.

There are other concerns like the mechanics of the laser machine and the component parts, both of which can significantly determine how smooth and clean your cut will be.

Here are two of our favorite machines: