In difficult surgeries, operators often turn to lasers for their cutting rather than a "knife" or scalpel. In this case, the laser is usually vaporizing watery tissue or disrupting molecular bonds more than "cutting" but the appearance is the same. Lasers are also used to reshape surfaces, close wounds, irradiate cells or simply point out areas without intending to affect them but the cutting aspect has really caught on in fiction where lasers go beyond scalpels and take the place of pickaxes, drills, saws, or razor wire.
Laser cutters have become common in industry and are beginning to come down in price enough for schools and hobbyists (as have plasma cutters, which often get lumped in). They have a long way to go from the easy portability or versatility seen in fiction however. The laser blade
took on a life of its own, becoming a subtrope.
The part about going beyond knives and scalpels is Truth in Television
too, we now have a laser drill on frikkin' Mars.
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- In an issue of Superman (or perhaps Action Comics) Superman is called upon to use his heat vision as a laser beam to perform surgery on Supergirl - since she's Kryptonian, no Earth scalpel can cut her.
- Superman is also regularly seen using his heat vision in a mirror in order to shave. (Also used in Lois and Clark.) At least once when he gets depowered he's shown with several razor cuts on his face because he isn't used to shaving the old-fashioned way. (Again also used in Lois and Clark.)
- In Strikeforce: Morituri, Shear could project a "razor force" from his hands that could cut nearby objects on a molecular level. The villainous Tiger had a similar ability.
- James Bond traditionally has a laser cutter in his watch, primarily used for locks. Goldfinger famously sets him up to be cut in half by one.
- Resident Evil shows the use of a slow sweeping cutting laser, on people.
- In Dune, one of the Fremen watching Paul Atreides' demonstration of the weirding way tries to cut a stone obelisk with a laser cutter.
- The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy has one of these with Trillian having a laser knife that toasts bread as it slices.
- The Iron Man armour has two from the second film onwards. They prove Awesome but Impractical, as the suits cannot produce enough power to run even one of them very long - but when they do hit, they tend to be pretty damn effective.
- The Sentinels (AKA Squiddies, Calamari) in The Matrix films use lasers to cut through things, such as hovercraft hulls.
- The laser arc wielded by Abigail Whistler in Blade: Trinity emits UV rays to kill vampires and is described as slicing through them.
- In Frank Herbert's Dune universe, the cutterray is a short-range version of a lasgun used mostly as a cutting tool and surgeon's scalpel.
- In Larry Niven's Known Space universe flashlight lasers are officially tools, unofficially they can bisect someone at 10 meters. Similarly disintegration beams are "mining tools".
- In Ringworld Louis Wu uses a flashlight laser in a similar matter to a bladed weapon, albeit one that has a very long reach and cuts deeper when slashing more slowly, a sort of realistic version of a laser sword.
- Orson Scott Card's Enderís Game prequel novel Earth Unaware has asteroid mining ships using laser drills to cut through asteroid crust to get to the valuable minerals. When the drill is working, the ship is using thrusters firing opposite the laser to counteract the push of the laser on the ship. When the laser hits a pocket of ice, it burns through it very quickly, causing the ship to pitch forward (unfortunately, this means that Card doesn't understand the difference between firing an energy beam and pushing at an object with a stick; it's the firing that causes the push on the ship, not the impact of that laser beam on something else).
- One of the inventions being tested at the time is a so-called "gravity laser" (or "glaser"), which isn't really a laser at all but something completely different.
- In Sergey Lukyanenko The Stars Are Cold Toys duology, Geometer ships don't have any weapons per se, but have a multitude of tools that can be easily adapted as weapons in a pinch. In fact, these "tools" are so advanced that one of the most powerful Alari fleets gets nearly destroyed when engaging a single Geometer scoutship. Later, when escaping The Mothership, the scoutship uses its laser probe to slice open the huge warship's hull. In fact, it stars cutting the circular opening slowly, then the scoutship's AI realizes how weak the outer hull is and swiftly completes the circle.
- Cathy Ryan, Jack Ryan's wife in Tom Clancy's Ryanverse, is a doctor specializing in laser surgery of the eye. She is so concerned about her hands shaking during an operation that she refuses to drink coffee before a scheduled surgery.
Live action TV
- "Laser probes" in Blake's 7, though their function is always sort of nebulous, probably work like this, based on various peoples' reactions to the threat of being tortured with one.
- In an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Bashir uses some kind of laser medical cutting tool as a weapon against the Monster of the Week ( actually, Odo, under the influence of the newly discovered chemical element of the week).
- In Bones episode "Male In The Mail" Hodgens uses a laser to cut through a box containing the victim's Bones.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Epideme", a laser cutter is used to amputate Lister's arm.
- Sarah Jane Smith in The Sarah Jane Adventures (and pretty much every other related franchise) uses a Sonic Lipstick, which (unlike the Doctor's sonic screwdriver) can cut via laser.
- In Doctor Who K-9 has a retractable laser cutter built into his snout.
- The Star Trek series uses lasers it calls drills.
- A few scattered incidents indicate that phasers can be set to a cutting setting (this includes ship phasers, in what is probably one of the largest-scale uses of this trope in fiction).
- And there's also the infamous Borg cutter beam
- In the Warehouse 13 crossover with Eureka, Fargo arrives to the Warehouse to upgrade its systems. For this purpose, he uses a Eureka-made laser cutter. Later on, when fighting off little robots, he uses Benjamin Franklin's ring from the Warehouse to turn the cutter into a fully-functional (complete with sound effects) lightsaber.
- In the final season of Fringe, Walter and Astrid use one to excise videotapes containing a plan to defeat the Observers from synthetic amber.
- Force-blades in Defiance were developed by the Indogenes as surgical tools, and Doc Yewll has one that looks like a broad glowing blue scalpel, naturally their Castithan neighbors adapted them into weapons.
- Dungeons & Dragons module S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. The laser pistol and laser rifle can be used to cut through any kind of metal, including the ship's hull metal.
- Shadowrun. The Laser Crescent Axe used a welding laser mounted in its blade to cut through anything it hit.
- Susanoomon's Digimon card fluff describes the Zero Arms Orochi laser it uses as slashing and stabbing everything in the world.
- In the WH 40 K gaiden game Necromunda, one of the black market items an outlawed gang can buy is a cutter beam. This is a laser that starts off weak but slowly builds in strength the longer it's held on a target until it packs more energy in its beam than a lascannon. You can't use it in battle though as its build-up time is too slow
- In Myriad Song laser torches are one of several power tools that can be used as weapons.
- One LEGO space set featured laser saws. One mounted on a vehicle and another hand held (Instructed to be used that way, you can change them up).
- In the early 90s Amiga game Turrican, the intro shows a laser or heat ray cutting a rectangle from the black background. The piece falls out, and the developer's logo (Rainbow Arts) becomes visible. This is a reference to a special ability the in-game character has. See it here.
- The Protoss Colossi of Starcraft II attack like this, waving two laser back and forth into clustered enemies.
- Void Ray attacks get stronger the longer the beam stays on target.
- One one mission of the campaign you use a big industrial laser to bore through the door to a Xel'naga vault. It can also be used to destroy enemy Colossi in half a second.
- In Final Fantasy X, Valefor's secret Overdrive fires a laser beam into the ground around the target, which explodes.
- The Tactical Laser System from Ace Combat is swept around to cut targets up, rather than a stereotypical laser cannon.
- In the first Mass Effect game, when trying to free Liara from a Prothean shield, the only way to get behind the shield is to dig a tunnel using a giant mining laser. Unfortunately, doing so results in the ancient ruins crumbling down, for which the Council chews you out later.
- In Conquest Frontier Wars, the most powerful warship in the Celareon fleet, the Monolith, fires blue lasers that move back and forth over the enemy hull, seeming cutting it. The lasers on other ships act in a typical sci-fi manner.
- In the Dead Space series, the Plasma Cutter is the signature weapon of engineer Isaac Clarke, since its precision cutting ability makes it perfect for severing the limbs of the Necromorphs. In the second game it's shown that most surgical tables in the 26th century use this technology, which allows Isaac to quickly fashion a makeshift cutter together using salvaged components.
- Used by the third boss of Out Zone to cut away the floor and make parts of it fall into the lava.
- The Tick: The Tick once had to contend with a laser that was in the process of cutting the Earth in two.
- Batman: The Animated Series: A criminal once tried to use a surgical laser on Batman. It proved not to be a very effective weapon and he was punched out.
- Titan A.E. shows the use of lasers in place of saws.
- Green Lantern from the Super Friends has an expensive looking nuclear laser he can pull out of Hammer Space with his ring. He uses it to cut a pair of chains.
- In Superman: The Animated Series, Clark uses his heat vision to shave himself (by reflecting laser beams off the bathroom mirror).
- In Adventure Time, Princess Bubblegum uses these to... slice bread.
- Much mayhem is caused by a surgical laser in the Roger Rabbit Short "Tummy Trouble", especially after it malfunctions and turns into a rocket.
- Laser cutters are common in Futurama. In one episode Leela raises what looks like an ordinary axe, and then uses the laser on the handle to cut down a tree.
- A laser lipstick is one of the key gadgets used by Kim Possible, even being key to her escape in the Season 3 movie length finale So the Drama.