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Laser cut paper is paper that has been cut to a precise measurement by a tight beam of light, or laser. By focusing the light into a compact beam, laser cutting equipment can be precisely controlled to cut a variety of materials, including paper and cardstock. Although the equipment is expensive, the speed with which laser cut products can be produced has kept prices for the finished goods at a reasonable level. It is possible to obtain intricate laser cut designs through the use of computer software that makes the process simpler and more accurate.
Using a computer to control the path of the laser means that laser cut designs can be changed quickly and easily. In the past, such designs required manufacturers to have metal dies made for each design, and every change required a new die. These dies have definite life spans, quickly becoming dull or damaged and requiring frequent replacement. Laser cut paper, however, does not require dies; instead, the software contains the plan for the design and guides the cutting beam. When a change to the design is needed, it often takes only a few minutes to make the alteration in the computer, allowing production to continue with little or no interruption.
Another disadvantage of metal dies was that their precision became less as they dulled. Extremely intricate designs could not be produced in great quantities at a reasonable price. This problem does not exist with laser cut paper, and because the beam is so concentrated, laser cut designs can be much more involved and delicate.
Laser cut paper has smoother edges than paper produced with metal cutters. The crispness that is obtained means that it is possible to cut a variety of detailed geometric figures that would have been extremely difficult for a die maker to replicate. Placing such images in close proximity would have been challenging at best, as corners and angles would quickly become ragged and uneven as the blades dulled.
Other techniques can be used in conjunction with laser cut paper to produce dramatic results. Foil inks can be used to enhance the design, or multiple layers of paper in different colors can be stacked and then cut to reveal what lies beneath. Three-dimensional images can be built up on a flat surface or folded into freestanding designs.
In addition to card designers, marketers often use laser cut paper to create visually attractive marketing pieces, such as magazine inserts and mailers. Laser cut paper is also a staple for scrapbookers, who appreciate the vast selection of readily available designs. Model makers can use laser cut materials and paper as well to construct buildings, machines and animals quickly and easily.