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Laser Cutter

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Today, we're testing the myth that Rock Beats Laser.note 
One of the best-known uses of the modern laser is as a high-precision metal cutting tool. Whether by using a very powerful laser capable of vaporizing metal or by using a low-power laser to guide a tungsten cutter, the laser was quickly adopted in metalworking for its ability to cut with micrometric precision. At a smaller scale, surgeons will sometimes 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. Smaller lasers are also used by artists, architects, and engineers to cut plastic, fabric, or cardboard for dioramas, fine projects, and printed circuit boards.

As a result of all these cutting-related applications, 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 — despite the fact that lasers are also used to reshape surfaces, close wounds, irradiate cells, pointing out areas without intending to affect them, or even to just calibrate measuring tools or for measuring distance and speed.

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 to 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.

Contrast Weld the Lock, for when lasers and similar things are used to seal doors shut. Can be used as Energy Weapon.


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  • "To the Sky...", antepenultimate episode of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, saw the Gratan, previously outfitted by the N-Nautilus crew, using their laser cutters to cut their way through the Red Noah. The high power use of such devises is also recognised, with the near depletion of the battery due to reckless use driving their decision to sacrifice their tank to prevent the Tower of Babel from being used.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman carries a laser cutter in his Utility Belt.
  • Mega Man (Archie Comics): Splash Woman uses her Laser Trident to patch up holes in ships.
  • 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.
  • Superman:
    • In an issue, 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. 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.
    • Supergirl has also used her heat vision as a kind of scalpel. In Who is Superwoman?, she used her heat vision to cut a fabric sample off Superwoman's cowl in order to get it analyzed. In New 52 story arc Crucible, Kara combines her Eye Beams with her microscopic vision to perform surgery on Kon-El on a cellular level. More mundane uses include shaving her legs and cutting her hair off.
    • In Strangers at the Heart's Core, Kara uses her heat vision to slice with pinpoint accuracy the circuits in the helmet of Klax-Ar which allow him to read minds.
    • The Untold Story of Argo City:
      • Kara uses her heat vision to slice, polish and weld together with pinpoint accuracy the required pieces to build an ionic ray that will release her parents from the Zone.
      • When Zor-El and Allura are getting killed by a stash of Kryptonite rocks, Supergirl cannot approach to them, so she uses her heat vision to cut the rock around the Kryptonite, which proceeds to plunge down into the mountainside.
    • In The Last Days of Superman, Superman uses his heat vision to carve a message into the Moon's surface.
    • In Day of the Dollmaker, Supergirl uses her heat vision as a very precise knife to cut the ropes tying Catherine Grant to a chair.
    • Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom: When Stompa hurls a car at her, Supergirl uses her heat vision to bisect the incoming projectile.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 2: The "Purple Healing Ray" has its limitations so Epione and Carrisa have used a laser scalpel during surgeries where needed, such as the one to attempt to save Vanessa Kapatelis.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • Titan A.E. shows the use of lasers in place of saws.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The laser arc wielded by Abigail Whistler in Blade: Trinity emits UV rays to kill vampires and is described as slicing through them.
  • In Derailed (2002), Classy Cat-Burglar Galina uses a laser cutter to cut her way into the safe holding the bio-agent she is stealing.
  • In Dune (1984), one of the Fremen watching Paul Atreides' demonstration of the weirding way tries to cut a stone obelisk with a laser cutter.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Trillian has a laser knife that toasts bread as it slices.
  • Iceman (1984) features an industrial laser that carves off sections of the ice block that Charlie is frozen in.
  • In Iron Man 2, Tony's do-it-yourself particle accelerator emits a laser beam that slices through his lab wall and some shelving and cabinets as he's aligning it. 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.
  • James Bond:
    • In The Living Daylights, Bond's Aston Martin V8 Vantage has laser cutters as Spiked Wheels equivalents.
    • Die Another Day went the extra mile with multiple laser cutters, one of which is used to try cutting Jinx as homage to Goldfinger. The multiple lasers activate during a fight between Bond and a henchman and one of them is used to gruesomely kill said henchman through the back of his head and his mouth.
    • In No Time to Die, a SPECTRE team invades a secret lab in London to steal a revolutionary weapon in it. They use laser cutters to silently enter the lab through a window.
  • At the end of Jigsaw, the last two survivors are Logan and Halloran. They have laser collars placed around their necks, forced to confess their sins. Logan is spared due to admitting he was wrong for accidentally mislabeling Kramer's x-rays for his operation, but Halloran refuses to confess all of his sins, including that he was wrong for murdering the victims Logan operated on, and he forces Logan to die first. So as Logan escapes, it sets off Halloran's laser trap, slicing his head in eighths.
  • While raiding the Vinciguerra's factory in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), Napoleon Solo produces a pair of boron shears that were sharpened by a CO2 laser and uses them to snip through the outer fence. Then Ilya Kuryakin calmly produces a CO2 laser which cuts through the fence links as quickly as he can move his arm.
  • The Sentinels (AKA Squiddies, Calamari) in The Matrix films use lasers to cut through things, such as hovercraft hulls.
  • Resident Evil (2002) shows the use of a slow sweeping cutting laser, on people.
  • Shin Godzilla portrays the iconic kaiju's Atomic Breath as practically functioning like a biological Wave-Motion Gun: after belching out some nuclear flames, Godzilla focuses its breath into a highly concentrated bright purple beam that can slice through buildings and bombers like a hot knife through butter. It also fires photon beams from its dorsal fins, knocking several drones out of the sky and practically cutting Tokyo's skyline in twain.
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, lasers are used to mine dilithium. Given that dilithium can withstand being sprayed with antimatter, cutting away the rocks around it with lasers doesn't pose much risk of damage.

  • Artemis Fowl:
    • In the second book, Commander Root and Mulch Diggums recall a diamond cutter Mulch used in one of his previous escapades. Notably he almost took Root's head off with it at one point.
    • It's also mentioned that laser weapons are illegal to own. Mining lasers aren't, and wouldn't you know it, somebody performed the obvious modifications and started selling them.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Diper Överlöde: Drew doesn't want to do a laser light show for the band, because he is afraid that he will get cut in half by a laser.
  • 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.
  • Jack Ryan: 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.
  • 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 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 starts cutting the circular opening slowly, then the scoutship's AI realizes how weak the outer hull is and swiftly completes the circle.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Shadows' Battlecrabs in Babylon 5 destroy enemy ships by slicing them into pieces with their energy beams.
  • In Bones episode "Male In The Mail" Hodgens uses a laser to cut through a box containing the victim's Bones.
  • Charge-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.
  • Doctor Who
    • K-9 has a retractable laser cutter built into his snout. Also, the Fifth Doctor carried one in the "TARDIS Toolbox," which sadly didn't survive past his tenure.
    • The "Laser Screwdriver" sounds like it should be one of these, but it isn't: Since the Master carries it, it's a deadly weapon whose lasers can either kill or rapidly age a target.
  • The new Redwing drone model seen in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has a laser cutter among the many armaments crammed into it. The laser is capable of cutting through aircraft metal.
  • In Lois & Clark, Superman regularly uses his heat vision in a mirror in order to shave.
  • 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.
  • 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).
    • In their introductory episode, the Borg core out a sample of the Enterprise saucer section and haul it free of the ship with a Tractor Beam, along with the poor crewmen inside.
    • 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).
  • Thunderbirds: Laser cutters are used in these episodes:
    • "City of Fire", to cut through the steel fire doors to rescue the family trapped underneath a burning building.
    • "Vault of Death": the lasers are not powerful enough to get through the very thick door of the Bank of England vault, in the very limited time.
    • "Operation Crash Dive": Gordon uses a laser to cut the engines off the sunken Fireflash aircraft, to make it float to the surface.
    • "Thirty Minutes after Noon": Lasers are used to rescue Southern from behind three steel doors.
    • "Cry Wolf": The Hood uses one to burn through the door to the tracking laboratory.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: Laser cutters are mentioned as existing in the setting, often mounted on Industrialmechs for precision work. They differ from the laser weapons used by Battlemechs by having a lower intensity but longer burn time, but this is apparently a matter of just changing some controls in the cockpit, at which point they function like a regular laser.
  • Digimon: Susanoomon's card fluff describes the Zero Arms Orochi laser it uses as slashing and stabbing everything in the world.
  • 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.
  • In Myriad Song laser torches are one of several power tools that can be used as weapons.
  • Shadowrun. The Laser Crescent Axe used a welding laser mounted in its blade to cut through anything it hit.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 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

  • Some LEGO sets have featured these:
    • 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).
    • Rock Raiders features these as mining equipment (capable of doubling as defense turrets in the video game), in both stationary and vehicle-mounted forms. The latter are outright referred to as "Laser Cutters".

    Video Games 
  • The Tactical Laser System from Ace Combat is swept around to cut targets up, rather than a stereotypical laser cannon.
  • In Axiom Verge, one of the player weapons is the Laser Drill. On enemies, it works like a slow-burning Laser Blade, but it's also useful for clearing away soft blocks.
  • Colossatron: Massive World Threat has a weapon for Colossatron's green power core which fires high damage, penetrating energy sawblades in a straight path.
  • 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, seemingly 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 using salvaged components.
  • In Final Fantasy X, Valefor's secret Overdrive fires a laser beam into the ground around the target, which explodes.
  • In FreeSpace 2, capital ships have been outfitted with a number of new weapons in the 30 years since the first game. The older ship types still have their original laser turrets, but now field the new massive Beam Cannons as their main guns. When these things fire, they illuminate nearby ships and cause a massive noise. Most larger ships carry between two to four of them, which will instantly vaporize any fighters getting in their path and can cut straight through other large ships. And also an even larger number of only slightly smaller anti-fighter beam turrets that are incredibly difficult to dodge.
  • In FTL: Faster Than Light, you can come across a Space Pirate ship stuck between two rocks, transmitting a Distress Call. If you have a laser beam weapon, you can use it to get them out safely and get a nice reward from them.
  • Hardspace: Shipbreaker: One of your main and most important tools is a laser cutter. In Stinger mode, it just heats up a given object until vaporization, but Splitsaw mode is a bit closer to the typical laser cutter in just directly slicing the object with opposite beams. Just be careful, the laser keeps going and can well slice into or evaporate valuables if you don't watch where you point the thing. And some things are flammable or even explosive and will go off with even brief exposure.
  • In the Henry Stickmin Series, the title character can use a laser to cut a hole in a bank's wall in Breaking the Bank. He can also use one to open the diamond's display case in Stealing the Diamond, and one of the options for escaping his cell in Fleeing the Complex is a hovering gadget that projects a laser to slice through the floor.
  • In Mass Effect, 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 No Man's Sky, the mining laser is a standard accessory for multitools, firing a laser beam that extracts minerals from rocks and plants. It can also be used as a very weak weapon.
  • Starcraft II:
    • The Protoss Colossi attack by waving two lasers back and forth into clustered enemies.
    • Void Ray attacks get stronger the longer the beam stays on target.
    • On 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.
  • One essential piece of equipment in Subnautica is a handheld laser cutter. It's only used to cut through sealed doors in undersea wrecks, so don't bother using it to defend yourself against wildlife.
  • Terraria has two examples, both from the late game.
    • The Laser Drill is a Martian tool that is technically a drill but works by cutting blocks apart with a laser beam. It's the farthest-reaching mining tool in the game, though far from the fastest. It's also terrible as a weapon, dealing very low damage for its point in the game.
    • The Drill Containment Unit (DCU) is a post-endgame flying mount that uses a number of lasers similar to the Laser Drill's to break and cut blocks. It works extremely quickly, to the point of being the fastest tunneling tool in the entire game, at the cost of precision — similar to mining with Smart Cursor active, you can't mine blocks behind other blocks. You're also completely unable to attack while riding the DCU, as it stops you from using any weapons and the lasers themselves are harmless.
  • Tiny and Big: By using the laser to slice objects, Tiny is able to use the pieces as makeshift platforms that can then be moved around with a rope or rocket attachments.
  • 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.
  • Laser in Warframe is commonly used in mining and construction:
    • The Tenno can purchase handheld laser pistols which can extract minerals by heating them up to exact temperatures. These lasers also have sensors that help in finding those minerals.
    • The Spectra and Quanta are Corpus laser tools designed respectively for deep space construction and asteroid mining that have been repurposed into weapons. The cephalon-designed Gammacor laser was made for vaporizing minerals "for content analysis" but similarly repurposed into a sidearm.
    • The Grineer industrial facilities feature laser cannons mounted on mechanical arms used in construction. They can be damaged during combat, causing them to fire lasers in hap-hazard directions until they are disabled completely.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Laser cutters are common in Futurama. In one episode Leela raises what looks like an ordinary axe, and then a laser shoots out of 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.
  • Much mayhem is caused by a surgical laser in the Roger Rabbit Short "Tummy Trouble", especially after it malfunctions and turns into a rocket.
  • Green Lantern from the Super Friends has an expensive-looking nuclear laser he can pull out of Hammerspace 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).
  • The Tick: The Tick once had to contend with a laser that was in the process of cutting the Earth in two.

    Real Life 
  • The carbon dioxide (CO2) laser is commonly used for industrial works for cutting and welding, although the beam itself is invisible.
  • A blue laser can also burn and cut objects, which can be used for engraving.
  • A well-focused and coherent class IV laser can cut/burn through less durable objects like those made of soft plastics, paper, and similar materials. You can find YouTube videos of class IV lasers being used to pop balloons, burn through optical discs, and set flammable objects alight. As is standard laser safety, professional advice holds that wearing safety goggles and avoiding contact with the beam are a must to avoid serious injury.


Video Example(s):


Duncan Idaho's Last Stand

Duncan Idaho, the last surviving knight of House Atreides, plants himself between his lord and lady, Paul and Jessica Atreides, and the Padishah Emperor's elite Sardaukar, fighting to the death to buy them the time to escape -- even once pulling out a Sardaukar sword he's been impaled with to resume the fight.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / YouShallNotPass

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