Distinguishing Between CNC Cutting and Laser Cutting

Chances are, you’ve encountered the terms CNC cutting (or routing) and laser cutting before, and you may have a general understanding of their functions. However, delving deeper into the specifics of what these machines do and discerning their differences and advantages can be a challenging task. These two pieces of machinery play a pivotal role in Eastern’s daily operations, which motivated us to provide a comprehensive overview of CNC and laser cutting and elucidate the distinctions between them.

Decoding CNC Cutting and Laser Cutting

CNC Machine To comprehend the disparities, let’s begin by examining the fundamental nature of each of these machines. A CNC cutting machine’s most distinctive feature is that it accomplishes cutting through direct physical contact. However, unlike many other manual cutting tools, a CNC machine operates automatically, guided by a predefined path programmed through computer numerical control.

Laser Cutting In contrast, laser cutters also follow a pre-programmed path but differ significantly when it comes to the actual cutting process. Instead of a physical method, laser cutting utilises a laser, as the name implies, to cut through plywood. This process directs a high-powered laser’s output (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) through optics. Explaining what each cutting machine does leads us to the primary difference: CNC cutting relies on friction, whereas laser cutting operates via heat. This fundamental dissimilarity sets them apart and grants each machine distinct advantages in various applications.

CNC Cost-Efficiency One of the primary benefits of CNC cutting is its cost-effectiveness, particularly when compared to laser cutting. CNC machining has enjoyed popularity across multiple industries for an extended period, primarily due to its affordability. While the initial cost of a laser cutter is higher, its power consumption also contributes to its overall expense, making it pricier than CNC.

As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for,” and this certainly applies to laser cutting. Laser cutting provides an unparalleled level of precision and intricacy that friction-based methods cannot match. With a laser cutter, you gain an exceptional degree of control, allowing you to explore intricate cuts and adjust the beam’s radius to as small as 0.1mm.

Exquisite Plywood Results Laser cutters employ a burning technique that results in cleaner edges. Additionally, burning seals the edges automatically, preventing Plywood from expanding and contracting. While laser cutting may come with a higher initial investment, it undeniably offers substantial returns in various aspects.

However, despite the myriad features and advantages of laser cutters, there are still domains where the tried-and-true CNC machine excels.

The most significant advantage of using a CNC cutting machine is its ease in executing diagonal, curved, and straight-line cuts. By programming the machine to execute these cuts, you eliminate virtually all chances of human error, a common issue in woodworking. The CNC machine ensures precision in these cuts, which is invaluable.

In summary, on paper, laser cutters may appear to be the frontrunner. Nevertheless, the choice ultimately hinges on your specific requirements. Laser cutters offer numerous advanced features but come at a higher cost. A CNC cutter may not enable the intricate and creative designs associated with laser cutting but excels at delivering flawless, straightforward cuts at a more budget-friendly price, which may be precisely what you need.


Our laser cutter cuts or etches almost any material, these dioramas were cut from layers of card.

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