There are two types of lasers used in the embroidery industry. However, not all embroidery lasers are created equal!
The first uses plotter type movement with a sharp, singular laser beam from a close range. The beam burns as the embroidery machine plots through a design. The second is a galvanometric laser, which tends to sit high above the working plane and showers its beam down, in a pyramid-like fashion from afar.
Galvanometric lasers work at high speeds and are preferred for etching because they have a naturally more full laser beam, which is more forgiving when burning fabrics. However, they are so accurate they can etch a portrait in a flash. Decorators can etch on fabrics like cotton and poly twills, denim, polar fleece, performance wear, leather, neoprene, as well as, a whole assortment of hard goods including but not limited to, wood, balsa, plastics, acrylics, and other synthetic materials.
On the other hand, plotter type embroidery lasers work at the speed of your embroidery machine and can only etch hooped items. You can etch apparel like shirts, pants, jackets, vests, aprons, and other work uniforms. You can also etch and cut patches. Leather is a great option for this, especially when applying to hats. Decorators can etch canvas bags, straps, and keychains to advance their company further into the promotional industry. The simple rule is you have to be able to hoop it and clear the needles.