The History of Laser Cutting

By Robert Morgan

Updated January 09, 2018

Laser Light Show
i laser battle image by Yali Shi from

In 1917, physicist Albert Einstein theorized the principle of a laser, when he described his theory of stimulated emission. During the late 1940's Einstein's theories were finally begun to be utilized by many engineers working to harness energy using the principal of stimulated emissions. At the University of Columbia was Charles Townes, at the University of Maryland was Joseph Weber and at the Lebedev Laboratories in Moscow were Alexander Prokhorov and Nikolai G Basov.

World's Life Changing Scientific Breakthrough

Don't look directly into a laser beam.
i danger image by Wolszczak from

Bell Laboratories was one of the first companies to find ways to utilize a technology that had no purpose. Shortly thereafter, many humanitarian uses for the laser were discovered through technology. During the 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, and even the 1990's, one discovery after another was found to utilize the laser. A couple of developments was a laser weapons sighting system, and more importantly, uses were found for the powerful lasers in surgery and other areas where a moderately powerful, pinpoint source of heat was needed.

Industry Discovers the Laser

In 1960, the first working laser was described as “a solution looking for a problem.” It was in short order, and with some creative thinking, the laser's distinctive qualities were being found to have numerous applications. The laser's power to produce an intense, very narrow beam of light from a single orientation was being captured for science, technology, and medicine. Today, lasers are everywhere--from research laboratories at the cutting edge of quantum physics to medical clinics, supermarket checkouts and even the telephone network.

Special Commercial Utilizations

With the correct laser power settings, the industrial laser can cut cleanly through mild steel to 0.75 inch, 0.5 inch of stainless, as well as aluminum, bronze, and titanium. Industrial laser cutting machines are the fastest machining process for flat sheet and plate materials. With the utilization of high intensity light surrounded by a high-pressure gas, many geometric complex contours can be manufactured without the need of hard tooling. A by-product of these laser cutting procedures, edge quality rarely needs secondary processing.

What Are the Benefits of Laser Cutting?

The manufacturing industry claims the edge finish is far superior when compared to a punched product. The requirement of complex shapes can be produced without expensive tooling. There is a much larger range of materials that can be cut. But most importantly, the speed is normally faster than other profile cutting methods.

Newspaper Type Set

The method of setting type has not changed very much over the last 500 years. Now with the laser, a computer, and the proper desktop software, an article in the newspaper can be done at the reporter's desk. The information is loaded up, and the laser will produce the printer's plate.