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Laser Cutter

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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.



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    Comic Books 
  • 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 combins her Eye Beams with her microscopic vision to perform surgery on Kon-El on a cellular level. More mundane uses include to shave her legs and cut her hair off.
  • Batman carries a laser cutter in his Utility Belt.
  • 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.
  • In Mega Man comics, Splash Woman's Laser Trident is used 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.

    Fan Works 

    Film— Live-Action 
  • 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 (1984), one of the Fremen watching Paul Atreides' demonstration of the weirding way tries to cut a stone obelisk with a laser cutter.
  • The Hitchhiker's 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 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.
  • 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, sombody performed the obvious modifications and started selling them.

    Live action TV 
  • The Shadows' Battlecrabs in Babylon 5 destroy enemy ships by slicing them into pieces with their energy beams.
  • "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 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. 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 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 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 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.
  • 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.
  • The same as in the original comics, Lois & Clark's Superman regularly uses his heat vision in a mirror in order to shave.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • Digimon: Susanoomon's card fluff describes the Zero Arms Orochi laser it uses as slashing and stabbing everything in the world.
  • 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
  • In Myriad Song laser torches are one of several power tools that can be used as weapons.

    Theme Parks 

  • 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).

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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 ship 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.
  • The Tactical Laser System from Ace Combat is swept around to cut targets up, rather than a stereotypical laser cannon.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • In Evolve the Support character Hank uses one of these as a weapon.
  • In FTL: Faster Than Light, you can come across a Space Pirate ship stuck between two rocks transmitting a Distress Call. Getting them out safely is not guaranteed unless you use a laser beam weapon, in which case they will reward you nicely.
  • In Tiny and Big, this is Tiny's way of manipulating the environment. By using the laser to slice objects, Tiny is able to use the pieces makeshift platforms that can then be moved around with a rope or rocket attachments.
  • 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.
  • Colossatron: Massive World Threat has a weapon of the same name for Colossatron's green power core, which fires high damage, penetrating energy sawblades in a straight path.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 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).
  • 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 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.

    Real Life 
  • The Carbon Dioxide (CO2) laser is commonly used for industrial works for cutting and welding, although the beam itself is invisible.
  • The 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.


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