This was a birthday present for a friend of mine. He's in Biochemistry, so I thought this gift was very fitting for him! Fortunately his name could be spelled using the elements from the periodic table, but this will not be true for every name or phrase because there are only so many one letter and two letter combinations in the periodic table.
Unfortunately, not all names or phrases can be spelled using the periodic table of elements. There are workarounds if you can't spell a name outright, like de-emphasizing letters in elements (if an element has two letters, making the second one smaller), or using fake elements (like Mythril if you need just an M). But having a name that can be spelled outright is the simplest. You can search on the internet for websites that will help you find out if a name can be spelled using the periodic table of elements, and you can also find tricks for getting a name to work.
Designing the Name Tag:
I won't go into too much detail about programs, file types, or line colors for laser cutters, but this article does a good job going over the basics. Just make sure the software you are using can save to a file type that your laser cutter can read, and the line colors you use in the drawing are correct. A couple examples of programs that work are Rhino 3D (which I used) and Adobe Illustrator.
I originally made each "element box" of my name tag 4 inches in height and 3.5 inches in width (but later scaled all my dimensions to about 80% what I designed them at). For the font, I used Arial, and the font sizes (relative to my original element box height) are:
I outlined the name tag in red (to cut it), filled all of the letter shapes (black for raster etching), and outlined all of the letters in blue (for vector etching) to provide a slightly crisper result. I also made the line dividing each periodic element blue so it would engrave but not completely cut (which red would do).
Note: If you plan on adding wood stain to this, I found that a single blue line becomes hard to see after staining. I would recommend making that thicker if you want the line to come through in the end.