What Does the Term "Laser" Mean?
Between espionage movies and concerts, lasers are a part of our society that is mostly deemed as being cool. Laser is technically an acronym that stands for, "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation."
However, a laser is really a compressed light beam. As a laser engraver, I thought defining this term would be especially interesting. Lasers are a tool that can be used to etch, shape, and permanently cut surfaces and materials with precision. Understanding how and what a laser can do is important because lasers are fundamental to the manufacturing of goods and services. Lasers play an important role in the creation of a healthy world economy because they help with efficient and effective production techniques.
In order to understand the word "laser," and how a laser can etch an object, you need to understand the definition of the word "light." A traditional definition of the word "light" can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary, " that natural agent or influence which (emanating from the sun, bodies intensely heated or burning, and various other sources) evokes the functional activity of the organ of sight."
However, unlike this definition of light, which is defined as a "natural agent," a laser is not a "natural agent."
Actually, a laser cannot be seen by the human eye. According to the website SpacePlace-NASA Science for Kids, "lasers do not occur in nature." Instead, a laser has similar wavelengths; these wavelengths peak at the same time, which is also known as being in phase. This phasing allows the laser to produce an artificial "light" that is quite narrow and has the ability to be focused and extremely precise. Understanding the difference between the light created by a laser versus a natural light source helps one to better understand why, scientifically, laser technology can create goods and services with precision. This precision allows lasers to etch detailed designs in different materials like wood or slate that would be nearly impossible to do by hand.
Lasers can shape a variety of facets inside of items such as crystal, which is known as a bubblegram. According to Paul Borke, Professor and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia, "crystal engraving employs a laser beam that can be focused at a precise 3D position within a crystal block. The heat at this focal point causes a small crack or bubble to form. The accuracy at which these bubbles can be formed is very precise (in the order of tens of microns) and the diameter of the bubbles is typically tenths of a mm."
This type of technology is known as Sub Surface Laser Engraving or (SSLE). Through the use of pinpricks or laser pulses the fractures are able to shape a graphic in 3D form that is forever encapsulated into the crystal. This technology is more often seen in souvenirs and awards, but it is another way to define what a laser is and how it can function. We do not have a SSLE laser, but we hope to one day!
Lasers can cut through thick and dense materials, which is helpful in manufacturing. The light in a laser stays focused and pointed; it does not spread out. Lasers can cut through wood, rock, metal, titanium, and even the world's strongest material, graphene. This is pretty awesome. It is easy to see why a machine that can cut through the world's strongest material would be beneficial in manufacturing. The power that a laser possesses is important component to acknowledge when defining the term laser and essentially what it encompasses.
In summation, a laser is a powerful tool that is useful in the manufacturing of goods and services. A laser is an artificially created light source that cannot be seen by the human eye. It is a compressed light beam that can travel long distances and performs at a high power that can permanently etch various materials. An SSLE laser can shape images permanently into crystal. Lasers are strong enough to permanently cut through the strongest material in the world which is graphene. In order to understand the definition of the word "laser" it is necessary for one to understand the various ways that a laser can perform and function.
The unlimited ways that a laser can perform and function are why we are in this business. We admire the fact that we literally have unlimited possibilities when it comes to what we can produce. I hope you feel like you have a better grasp of what a laser is and what it can do.
Borke, Paul. "Presenting Scientific Visualization Results as 3D Crystal Engravings". University of Western Australia. http://paulbourke.net/miscellaneous/crystalengraving/posterA3.pdf.
20 June 2020
Dumont, Mario. Laser Machining of Graphene. University of Colorado Boulder. 1 January 2014. https://scholar.colorado.edu/concern/undergraduate_honors_theses/br86b405f.
"light, n1." Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press. 2020 https://www-oed
com.siskiyous.idm.oclc.org/view/Entry/108172?rskey=16w4On&result=1&isAdvanced= false#eid. 20 June 2020
"What is a Laser?" NASA Science SpacePlace, NASA, 17 June 2020,