CO2 laser cutters are some of the most popular around, offering increased productivity, laser precision, and beautiful designs.
From homes to offices and hobbyists to professionals, CO2 laser cutters offer a powerful solution to cutting and engraving, not only by gliding through menial tasks but by helping people monetize and reap the benefits of automated work done with expert detail.
If you’re wondering where to start, then just keep reading here. In the following buyer’s guide, we’ll rank the best CO2 laser cutters on the market, including beginner and professional level machines, and provide an overview of what CO2 laser cutting is, as well as a few things to consider to help you buy the best laser cutter for you.
Read more: the complete laser cutter buyer’s guide (including non-CO2)
What Is a CO2 Laser Cutter?
A common misconception people have when entering into the world of laser cutting is that all laser cutters are CO2 lasers, however, there are actually 3 main types of laser cutters: CO2, Fiber, and Crystal.
CO2 lasers are gas lasers that run electricity through a tube filled with a gas mixture to produce invisible light beams. These beams are then amplified using mirrors to concentrate the beam, resulting in a powerful laser that can cut and engrave a variety of materials. The gas mixture is typically made up of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, nitrogen, and helium, and is perfect for cutting and engraving wood, paper, acrylics, leather, fabrics, and even food.
They aren’t best for strong metals or metallics, although some models handle sheets of aluminum and other non-ferrous metals. Some users try to increase the power of the CO2 laser cutter by increasing oxygen content, but this is only done on machines built to handle such enhancements, and should only be done by a professional.
Depending on your objective, these machines help engrave gorgeous portraits, wooden frames, marble keepsakes, as well as cut through acrylics, leather, and wood to create stunning artwork, wallets, and other functional products. The possibilities are truly endless with what you can do.
CO2 Laser Engraver Cutter Machine Advantages & Disadvantages
- Precise and accurate cutting and engraving
- Enhanced quality of work
- Faster production time
- Automated workflow
- Costly maintenance
- Steeper learning curve
- Some laser cutting machines are very large
The CO2 Laser Cutter Buyer’s Guide
OMTech 40 W – Best CO2 Laser Cutter for Beginners
- Price: $539 — Available on Amazon here
- Materials: Wood, leather, rubber, paper, cardboard, acrylic
- Cutting area: 320 x 200 mm
OMTech is the American branch of the China-based company Orion Motor Tech, which imports the laser cutters and completes quality assurance checks and warranties before selling them in the US. So, if you’re looking for the Orion Motor Tech 40 W CO2 laser engraver cutter, then what you really want is the OMTech 40 W.
This means US-based customer service and shipping, which is ideal if you’re in the country.
The 40 W is a budget-friendly option in the long line of OMTech CO2 laser cutters. It comes preassembled with a sturdy, compact build that sits comfortably on your desk or tabletop.
With a working area of 320 x 200 mm, you’re not going to be cutting and engraving wood planks or acrylic slabs anytime soon, but you will be intricately designing jewelry, leather wallets, and other small-scale projects with professional finesse.
Its cutting depth sits at around 2-3 mm, giving you confident single pass cutting, and has a laser pointer for pinpoint accuracy. Despite its size and price, the 40 W also comes with optimized ventilation, sporting a flexible tube and internal fan that help target smoke output away from your work area.
Overall, this is hands down one of the best entry-level CO2 laser cutters on the market, and nearly every list will say so. And when you want a bit more, there are popular upgrades like a tube laser, water pump, and better exhaust fan that allow you to adapt the machine to your growing needs.
Flux Beamo 30 W – Best Budget CO2 Laser Cutter
- Price: $1,995 — Available at Matterhackers here
- Materials: Metal, stone, tile, wood, cardboard, paper, glass acrylic, fabric, leather
- Cutting area: 300 x 210 mm
For our next laser cutting machine, we go up quite a bit in price, but also in power.
The Flux Beamo 30 W is listed as an entry-level laser cutter, and it absolutely is in terms of ease-of-use, however, with this price point, we recommend it as an entry-level cutter for small businesses rather than individual use.
What’s great about the Beamo is this pipeline of support offered by Flux with their own Beamo Studio software. Here you’ll draw in app designs, while still being able to import from popular software like AutoCAD and Adobe.
There are also excellent safety features like its ability to pause mid-job when opened, and its flexible exhaust pipe that allows you to direct potentially harmful smoke away from people and the work area. There’s even an upgrade, the BeamAir filtration unit, which filters the smoke and air coming from the machine, so you don’t have to rely on windows or doors to ventilate.
Other upgrades include automatic laser focusing, although manual focusing is still streamlined and easy.
From the software to the actual application of the machine, everything is simple, which makes it perfect for new users who don’t want to get bogged down by a huge learning curve but still want a machine with power.
OMTech 70 W – Best OMTech Laser
- Price: $3,184 — Available on Amazon here
- Materials: Acrylic, plexiglass, stainless steel, fabrics, leather, marble, titanium
- Cutting area: 395 x 750 mm
Another cutter from the OMTech family, the 70 W is a more robust version of the 40 W. we see that clearly in the range of materials it cuts, as there are the additions of metals like stainless steel and titanium, and other hard surfaces like marble and stone.
The cutting depth also shoots up from 2-3 mm thick to 7 mm, significantly changing the level of achievable cutting and engraving, as well as demonstrating the immense increase in power.
Other upgrades with this model include autofocusing and a 4-way pass-through system. Now at a touch of a button, your machine is focused and ready to go and is open on four sides, working on objects larger than the machine itself. It also has an adjustable bed and is compatible with the ever-popular LightBurn laser control software.
The 70 W is definitely an investment and best for professionals that work on larger-scale projects. The machine itself is also quite big, so make sure there’s room for a 126 x 87 x 92 cm cutter.
We also argue this is a fair option in place of the Orion Motor Tech 80w CO2 laser engraver cutter, which is more expensive. The 70 W also has a lot of the same features advertised in the 80 W, like autofocusing and four-way pass-through.
Full Spectrum Laser Muse Core – Most Affordable High-end Laser Cutter
- Price: $3,500 — Available at Matterhackers here
- Materials: Wood, leather, paper, acrylic, fabric, rubber
- Cutting area: 508 x 305 mm
As we enter the high-end spectrum, you’ll start to see more optimized features like in the FSL Muse Core.
Now, the Muse may not be as versatile as its main competitor, Glowforge, when it comes to materials, but it’s a fierce Glowforge alternative, and what it does cut, it does incredibly well. It stems from a US-based company that’s renowned for its industrial cutters, so rest assured you’re getting a fantastic model.
As expected at this price, the cutter comes with a removal bed, so it works on projects larger than itself, autofocusing, and has a unique 3D camera option that works with curved surfaces and uses millions of 3D data points to create accurate work.
Other bonuses include its browser-based software, which doesn’t require an internet connection to work, and its ability to cut up to ¼ inch thick.
The big draw for this machine, though, is its attachments. Water cooling, air compressors, fume extractors, rotaries, lenses, and tube upgrades effectively let you build this machine to your desired standards and allow you to maximize on versatility and efficiency.
So, if you are working mainly with wood, acrylic, and leather materials, but want the functionality and performance of a high-end cutter, then this is the model for you.
Glowforge Pro – Best Professional CO2 Laser Cutter Overall
- Price: $5,995 — Available at Dynamism here
- Materials: Wood, paper, acrylic, rubber, leather, fabric, glass, ceramic, titanium
- Cutting area: 279 x 495 mm
The Glowforge Pro is an absolute beast of a desktop CO2 laser cutter, boasting a powerful 45w CO2 laser tube and a sturdy yet sleek design.
Unlike the cheaper Glowforge models, it has a pass-through system, so depth-wise the dimension could be endless. It cuts up to 0.5-inch thick of material, depending on its hardness, and comes with an auto-focused lens and unique cloud-based software that does require the internet to work.
It also has optimized features like water cooling and an air compressor, which not only means it works for longer, but it also means it’s safer and boasts the precision of up to 1/1000 of an inch.
Even though we’re highlighting the Glowforge Pro, the Basic and Plus are equally fantastic CO2 laser cutters if you’re dead set on the brand but prefer a cheaper model and fewer facilities. However, if you’re just concerned with price, then we suggest sticking to this list to get the best price-to-feature ratio.
Overall, the Glowforge Pro feels futuristic with its minimalist design and integration of cutting-edge technology like the cloud and Proofgrade materials, making it the perfect choice for precision-heavy, large-scale work. It’s also worth noting this is a class 4 laser, but the machine does come with all the necessary safety training materials.
How to Choose a CO2 Laser Cutter
Now that you’ve seen the models and know what they’re used for, it’s time to decide which CO2 laser cutter to buy.
The first thing to consider is your experience. If you’re new to the game of CNC machines, regardless of how experienced you are as an engraver or carver, then you’ll want an entry-level laser cutter. These will be the easiest to use and often the cheapest option available and ensure you’re not out of thousands if you make a mistake while learning.
Next, think about what you’re using the machine for. If you know you’re going to be cutting and engraving tougher materials, such as hardwood, stone, marble, titanium, then you’ll need a higher-end model that has the power to handle those materials. If you work mainly with softer materials, then save a few bucks by opting for the Flux Beamo or OMTech 70 W.
Finally, decide your budget. You want your investment in a CO2 laser cutter to be profitable, not a money pit. Set realistic expectations for your budget, as well as future monetary targets, before buying a laser cutter, and make sure it falls within those boundaries.
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