What’s the difference between CNC cutting and laser cutting?

You have probably heard of the CNC cutting and the laser cutting machines, right? Chances are that you have also been wondering just which of the two may be better suited for your cutting needs. If you nodded to either or both questions, you landed on the right page.

What's the difference between CNC cutting and laser cutting? In a nutshell, these two methods of cutting items differ mainly in the way the actual cutting is done. CNC makes use of a sharp-pointed edge or blade to do the cutting. Laser on the other hand relies on high heat to ‘burn’ through mostly metallic materials to cut them.

Comparing and contrasting CNC cutting and laser cutting

  • Cutting Methodology

This refers to the way in which the actual cutting is done. As hinted above, CNC makes use of a sharp-pointed blade to do the cutting. Laser on the other hand utilizes the high heat to burn the materials and set the constituent parts apart from each other.

  • Cutting Speed

When all factors are put into consideration, the laser takes a comparatively shorter duration of time to do the actual cutting. CNC does tarry considerably due to the need to pierce the surfaces using the cutting materials’ sharp-pointed blades. This explains why most hobbists prefer laser cutting to CNC cutting.

  • Intensity

Cutting intensity is the degree of strength and overall efficacy that the cutting item exudes when piercing through the surfaces. Due to its use of extremely high heat, the laser cutting machines are more intense than their CNC counterparts. They are hence more likely to pierce the thicker and heavier materials with absolute ease.

  • Spot size

Spot size is the width of space of the material that is being cut that may be impacted or covered at any given time. A laser cutter has a smaller spot size on the whole compared to the CNC machine. It is hence more likely to deliver excellent and more precise cutting outcomes.

  • Materials/applicability

With a laser cutting machine, you are generally able to impact all kinds of materials, be they metallic or non-metallic. These include but are not limited to leather, textiles, acrylic, paper, and wood. A CNC cutter on the other hand is exclusively intended for metallic materials. CNC cutters are, therefore, more suited for industrial use where only one material is being processed. laser cutters are however perfect for starting a home-based laser cutting business as it gives you flexibility on material choice.

  • Precision

The beam of high heat that a laser machine uses to pierce through items is generally smaller, narrower, and very precise. It is also easier to channel and direct to the desired cutting area with absolute ease. That makes laser cutters more precise and capable of delivering truly precise cutting outcomes.

  • Operational expertise

A laser cutter is generally more sophisticated than a CNC cutting machine. You require a fairly high degree of operational expertise to handle and manage it. A CNC machine though is a little bit more straightforward and manual. You need not be too experienced to handle it. That said, most laser cutters come with easy-to-follow user guides with lots of how-to videos to help you get aquinted with the machine.

  • Power consumption

Even though both cutting machines require some electrical power to operate, the laser machine demands higher levels of electrical energy. This of course leads to higher utility expenses that work to drive up the costs of the cutting altogether. )

  • Costs implications

The total cost of acquiring, operating, and maintaining a laser cutting machine is higher than that of the CNC cutters. You should hence prepare yourself to dig deeper into your pocket if you must use it. Check out our buying guide on the best laser cutters under $5,000 on this link


Which is better CNC or laser cutter?

It all depends on what type of cutting you want. Go for laser if the material is thin and light. A CNC cutter on the other hand comes in handy when the material is thicker and stronger. Bear in mind also that CNC does not handle non-metallic substances.

Is a CNC machine the same as a laser cutter?

Not at all. CNC cutting machines rely on sharp-pointed blades and physical contacts to do the cutting. Laser cutters on the other hand rely on high heat to achieve the same objective.

What is the difference between a laser cutter and a laser engraver?

A laser cutter separates two portions of the same material using high heat from a laser. An engraver imprints patterns, pictures, and logos on the surface of a given material using high heat from a laser beam. So even though the results are different, the technique is somewhat similar. IN fact, some laser cutters can also double as laser engravers.

Can a laser engraver cut wood?

A laser engraver by its design is not meant to cut through materials, be it wood or metal. Laser engravers are designed to imprint designs, pictures, and other patterns, on surfaces. Check out this article for more info on the best laser engraver for wood

How thick can a 100-watt laser cut?

A 100-watt laser machine can cut a material with a thickness of 3 mm to 12 mm. However, it is a good idea to use transfer tape to guard against any forms of scorching that may arise in the course of inflicting cuts on the surfaces.

Final thoughts

So in a nutshell, laser cutters are more versatile and practical owing to their flexibility with material use, speed, and the other advantages we have identified. if you are looking to start a home-based laser cutting business, laser cutters would be the way to go.