Nice round-up by Joseph Flaherty at Wired of some great examples of laser cutting. The table (above, top) is my favorite. He writes:
3-D printers are an exciting technology, but another hot new tool may have just as significant of an impact in real-world projects.
Laser cutters were invented almost 50 years ago, but only became part of the home workshop in the past few years. In that short time, however, the maker community has embraced the machines with creative enthusiasm. While these 2-D cutters don’t produce sweet 3-D Yoda heads at the push of a button, they do bring impressive versatility to a wide range of applications.
If makers want to experiment with creative ideas that need to be produced with engineering-grade plastics, wood, leather, metal, or even food, laser cutters are often the only appropriate tool. Most laser cutters, and their beefy plasma cutter brethren, can produce objects much larger than standard 3-D prints in a much shorter time, and usually for a significantly lower cost. One forward-thinking cafe in Japan has even installed a cutting system so makers can laser cut parts while sipping a latte — whereas waiting for a 3-D printout would require a seven-course meal.