When it comes to buying a laser cutter, many people prefer DIY options rather than preassembled machines. This is often because DIY machines are cheaper, but many CNC enthusiasts also enjoy the challenge of building their own machine. But how do you find the best DIY laser cutter kit for you?
We’ve tested a number of laser cutters and engravers, and have collated our findings to form our top recommendations for you. We’ll explain the different types, their benefits, and how they work.
We first let you know how you can build your own laser cutter or engraver, with links to some DIY projects, and then we’ll review the best DIY laser engraver kits on the market.
Ortur Laser Master 2 Pro
xTool D1 Pro
How to Build Your Own Homemade Laser Cutter or Engraver
As the name suggests, a DIY laser cutter is a CNC machine that you build yourself, rather than buying a preassembled, ready-to-use machine. DIY laser cutters can be unassembled kits that you order online and then put together yourself, or they can be built completely from scratch by sourcing each individual part separately.
DIY laser kits you can buy
For DIY laser engraver kits, there’s a variety available online that contain all the parts you need — you just need to assemble the machine for yourself. The main reason that people go with these DIY cutters is that they’re generally cheaper than buying a desktop laser cutter that’s ready to go, as it obviously saves the manufacturers time and the parts can be transported more compactly.
Completely homemade laser cutters and engravers
On the other hand, there are DIY laser cutters that serious CNC hobbyists build completely from scratch by buying each part from different places and then putting them all together. This is a pretty complex task and requires a lot of knowledge of how laser cutters work — and a lot of experience using them.
With this type of DIY cutter, it’s often as much a passion project as it is a way of saving money. Not only do lots of hobbyists enjoy the challenge of building a machine from scratch, but it also means you choose your part quality.
These cutters are obviously a lot more customizable, which is another reason why DIY machines are so popular in the CNC community. Want to make an enormous laser cutter? As long as you’ve got the skills and you can afford the parts, you’re all set!
There are many examples of built-from-scratch laser cutters available on the web. For example, a hobbyist under the username MichielD99 has posted on Instructables a detailed guide of how they created a DIY CO2 laser cutter as a cheap alternative to preassembled machines, while there’s a vast collection of homemade DIY cutters showcased on OpenBuilds.
Whether you’re doing DIY metal engraving or DIY wood engraving, you need to use a laser software package to control your DIY laser cutter. Luckily, there are several good open source options you can use for free, the most popular being LaserGRBL. This is widely used for both DIY laser engraver kits and by people assembling machines completely from scratch.
Alternatively, LightBurn and Mach3 are popular paid software that most DIY laser etching machines are compatible with. Some DIY laser engraver kits also come with offline controllers that enable you to use them without having to connect to a computer.
The Best DIY Laser Cutters to Buy
Now, let’s review the best DIY CNC laser cutter kits that you can buy online and then assemble and customize at home.
MathRose A5 Laser Engraver – Budget DIY Laser Cutter
- Price: $289 — Available on Amazon here
Starting with the most affordable option, the MathRose A5 is a budget and user-friendly DIY laser engraver kit that’s a good choice for beginners looking to get into building CNC machines.
One of the main reasons is due to the modular design which makes it very easy to assemble, repair, replace and update the various parts. In fact, you can build this machine in just 10 to 20 minutes.
The MathRose uses a powerful A5 laser module to provide accurate engraving of a variety of materials, from wood and leather to glass and plastics. The laser has a life span of 10,000 hours, so it’s very long-lasting even if you’re using it continuously on demanding projects.
It’s also an auto-focusing laser, so there’s no need to manually focus and risk making it less precise. The working area is large, measuring 410x400mm, and there are precise line scales on the X and Y axes so you can easily measure your workpieces.
This DIY laser cutting machine has a 4-star rating on Amazon, which is decent despite not being the highest. Many users have praised the good packaging and clear instructions that make it easy to assemble the machine, even if you’re inexperienced.
Ortur Master Laser 2 Pro — Great Value for Money
If you’re looking for an affordable but durable, safe. versatile and high-quality DIY laser engraver, the Ortur Master Laser 2 is a great choice.
We were impressed with how quick and easy it was to assemble, and you’ll likely be able to get it going in under an hour. You just need to assemble the 4 sides, attach the front panel, laser head and plug in the electronics, and you’ll be ready to cut and engrave.
This machine is particularly well suited to beginners as the laser head cover keeps the bright laser away from your eyes. You should still wear the glasses that come with this laser cutter kit, but the triple safety protection system makes it a great beginner laser kit.
Read our full review: Ortur Laser Master 2 Pro review
These include active position protection where the machine shuts down if it gets bumped, a laser beam safety guard where the laser turns off if the USB connection fails, and an exposure duration detection limitation that stops the laser beam if there’s no movement on the stepper motors.
This DIY laser engraver kit uses advanced 32bits Ortur firmware which is extremely precise and easy to use. It also provides a power range of S0 to S1000; much larger than the S0 to S255 range of 8-bit desktop engravers.
The high power and accuracy of this machine make it suitable for a wide range of different projects, from acrylic engraving and leather cutting to intricate paper cutting. You can also use it to engrave hard metals like stainless steel, as well as a wide range of other materials like MDF, plywood, and silicone.
We used it to engrave and cut softer woods, so we can’t personally vouch for its metal engraving prowess, but as a wood laser engraver and cutter, we were very impressed once we found our optimum settings with Lightburn.
This DIY cutter is easy to assemble and has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon, which indicates some very happy customers. Ortur also provides a very helpful presale and postsale service, as you can get presale consultations and technical support if you encounter any issues with putting the engraver together. Overall, we highly recommend it as a cheap laser engraver kit.
xTool D1 10W – Best DIY Laser Under $1000
- Price: $699 — Available at xTool here / Amazon here
- Work area: 432 x 406 mm
- Laser power: 10W (5W and 20W options also available)
The xTool D1 10W is the best diode laser in our opinion, and the best DIY laser engraver under $1000. If you pick it up for around $700-800 it currently sells on the xTool store for, you can even add the RA2 rotary attachment and have a 4-axis kit for engraving glasses and beakers for just under $1000!
You can save a few hundred dollars and get a standard xTool D1 or an Ortur Laser Master 2 Pro – both are great DIY lasers under $500 – but we advise spending a couple hundred dollars more and opting for the xTool D1 Pro, it’s a big upgrade.
The frame and parts are steel and high-quality, with protected belts and steel rods and wheels to ensure smooth movement and accurate precision. It only takes around 30-45 minutes to assemble, too, so you can get engraving quickly after you get it.
The xTool D1 10W uses dual 5W lasers to create the end result of 10W power, using the same tech as the Ortur LM3 and Snapmaker’s 10W laser add-on.
But if you don’t need 10W power, you can buy a 5W version for $200 less and stick to mostly engraving, or the upgraded 20W version for single-pass 0.6mm+ basswood or acrylic sheet cutting.
Other variations available include:
The work area is great for a DIY laser cutter — slightly larger than the Ortur, and much larger than many cheaper lasers. You can even buy an extension kit on xTool’s store that takes your work area up to an incredible 936 x 432 mm for enormous engravings.
It’s accurate (0.01mm precision, 0.08 x 0.06 mm spot size), reliable with the sturdy frame and steel wheels and rods and protected belts, and safe. The XCS software is really user-friendly and intuitive, but you can also use it with LightBurn instead, or via our smartphone with the Laserbox app.
In our opinion, this is a top buy for a DIY laser under $1,000.
BobsCNC Evo 4 – Add Customizable Laser Kits
- Price: $1,230 + $300-$700 for laser kit add-on — Available on Amazon here
BobsCNC is a well-known and popular CNC brand among hobbyists. It’s perhaps best known for its Evolution series of machines, distinguished by their laser-cut wooden frames and somewhat unconventional designs, with the Evo 4 being the best in the series.
The Evo 4 is designed as a CNC router and unlike the other machines on our list, there isn’t the option to purchase a laser module directly from BobsCNC. However, other companies have made compatible laser modules, such as J Tech Photonics.
J Tech Photonics offers well-made, all-in-one laser and mounting kits for the Evo 4 and Evo 3. The best thing is that you can customize the kit based on your requirements and budget.
There are three wattage levels to choose from — 2.8W, 4.2W, and 7W — with the higher wattage levels meaning more expense. You can also choose from three different routers: Dewalt D660, Dewalt DWP611, and Makita.
There’s the option to add a magnetic shroud for improved safety, as well as a high-resolution lens for more precise engraving. The kits range in price from $339.97 to $734.96 depending on the specs you want.
In terms of the Evo 4 itself, the main benefits are the large 24” x 24” cutting area and very well-designed structure that provides optimum stability. So if you’re looking for a robust machine that can act as both a router and engraver, it’s a great option.
As this combination of CNC router and DIY laser cutter module is provided by two different manufacturers, this solution can be more challenging for beginners and is best suited to more experienced hobbyists.
Snapmaker 2.0 – 3 in 1 DIY Laser Cutter, CNC Router & 3D Printer
The Snapmaker 2.0 is one of the most unique and versatile DIY laser cutters we’ve come across. This is because it’s a laser cutter, a 3D printer, and a CNC router all at the same time.
When we tested the Snapmaker 2.0 A350 (the largest version), we were very impressed with both the engraving precision, accuracy and image contrast quality, as well as with the power of the laser cutter.
We also used the 4-axis rotary module add-on, which lets you turn material blocks 360-degrees for engraving on rounded surfaces. We engraved our logo and a lion design on this cylinder gift box to test it out:
Read our full review: we tested the Snapmaker 2.0 CNC and laser toolheads
There’s also the fantastic camera capture feature which automatically takes and uploads a picture of the workpiece and uploads it to the Snapmaker Luban software as a canvas. You can then easily engrave the image shown in the software with just one click.
One aspect of this machine that will particularly attract DIY enthusiasts is its modular design. All the ports are standardized, meaning you can customize the machine as much as you like. We didn’t get to try it, but you can also buy a more powerful 10W high-power laser toolhead, to cut through cutter, tougher materials, and engrave much faster.
We were still able to cut through around 1.5mm-thick wood with the standard laser toolhead however, creating this wooden gift box shown below:
This is an extremely popular DIY CNC laser engraver, with a 4.5 star rating on Amazon from over 100 reviews. Don’t be put off if you’ve never worked with a 3 in 1 machine before – the assembly process takes only an hour and it’s a wonderful experience; you can feel the hours and hours of preparation the Snapmaker team have put into every element. The boxes and screws and all labeled, the modular screwdriver you screw parts in with is a fantastic design (you’ll understand when you use it!) and all the tools and parts feel high quality.
This DIY laser engraver kit is available in three different sizes – 160x160x145mm, 230x250x235mm, and 320x350x330 – so you can save some cash if you only need a small working area.