9 Best Laser Cutters & Engravers 2022 (Every Price Range!)

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If you’re looking for the best laser engraver, you’re in the right place. I’ve tested and reviewed almost every popular laser engraver and laser cutter that I can afford, and I’ve included pictures of each test in each laser product review.

I’ve summarized my favorites at the top – I think the xTool D1 Pro is the best laser engraver under $1000 right now, but I’ve also included sections for best laser engraver under $500, best CO2 laser, and the best lasers for starting up a small business on Etsy or similar stores.

At the end of this article I’ve deep-dived into everything you should consider when buying a laser engraver, as well as some FAQs, a software and materials guide, and more. But feel free to email if you want me to add anything else, or test a new laser to review!

BUDGET OPTION

xTool D1 Pro

The best diode laser around – and best under $1000
High-quality steel build for smooth laser movement
10W power (with 5W and 20W options) and 400mm/s speed

Available at:

PREMIUM PICK

Glowforge Pro

The crème de la crème of laser engraving & cutting
Innovative “proofgrade” materials
Handles large-scale projects

Available at:

Having tested many of the best laser cutters and engravers, we created our recommendations for the best laser cutting machines in each price range, for each use, and more. We also link to some of our detailed reviews, such as machines like the Snapmaker 2.0, Ortur Laser Master 2 Pro, and more.

Laser CutterPriceWhere to buy
Atomstack A5$209Amazon here
xTool D1 Pro 10W$699xTool here
Ortur Laser Master 3$699Ortur here
Orion Motor Tech 40W$499Amazon here
Snapmaker 2.0$1,100+Snapmaker
Flux Beamo$2,299Matterhackers here
FSL Muse Core$3,499Matterhackers here
Glowforge Pro$5,995Glowforge here

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The Best Laser Cutters & Laser Engravers 2022 – Reviews

Atomstack A5 — cheapest home laser cutter

atomstack a5

Most CNC laser machines in the lower price ranges don’t come with a laser protector on the laser head (another that does is the Ortur Laser Master 2 Pro), which filters the large majority of UV light away to protect your eyes. Atomstack says this allows you and your friends to be in proximity to the laser engraver while it works without goggles, making it perhaps the best home laser cutter if you’re on a budget.

For the low price, it’s an effective laser engraving machine — with a high-performance 20W laser head that engraves, as well as cutting up to 1/8th of an inch wood and acrylic depths. 

It’s super easy to build, with a sturdy metal frame that you can fully assemble in just 10-20 minutes, and features auto focus modes to save you hassle or human error. The 50% smaller focal spot makes for precise engraving (up to 0.01mm precision) as well as relatively powerful cutting — though if you want to cut thicker woods, or generally tougher materials, go with a more powerful laser cutter.

It’s versatile and you can use it with many of the popular laser software such as LaserGRBL and Lightburn, and overall it’s one of the most popular and best value low-cost laser engravers around.

Cheapest Laser (Under $300!)
ATOMSTACK A5 M30 Laser Engraver
$282.99

We recommend spending a bit more to get the xTool or more reliable and premium pick, but if you're on a $300 budget, this is a great choice.

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01/31/2023 02:05 am GMT

xTool D1 Pro 10W – Best Diode Laser & Best Laser Under $1000

xTool D1 Pro 10W best laser under $1000

The xTool D1 Pro 10W is the best diode laser in our opinion, along with the new Ortur Laser Master 3. Depending on your priorities, they basically go head to head, with a better-quality steel frame on the xTool, versus a cheap rotary roller and better safety and connectivity on the Ortur.

The xTool D1 Pro 10W uses dual 5W lasers to create the end result of 10W power, in the same way that the Ortur LM3, and Snapmaker’s 10W laser add-on, also do.

But with the xTool you get more choice: if you don’t need 10W power, you can buy a 5W version for $200 less and stick to mostly engraving, or get the souped-up 20W version for cutting 0.6mm or thicker basswood or acrylic sheets in a single pass. We personally bought the 20W one (full hands-on review coming very soon!) but 10Q is still more than enough for home projects.

Other variations available include:

I bought the higher power 20W version, and it cuts through even 0.5-inch thick wood with ease. Here’s some projects I tried it out on:

Fan exhaust fan thick wood laser cut by the xTool D1 Pro
Exhaust fan vent laser cut
Thick wood cut and engraving (this wood is around 12.5mm thick) laser cut by the xTool D1 Pro.
Thick wood cut and engraving (this wood is around 12.5mm thick) laser cut by the xTool D1 Pro.

Read our full review: xTool D1 Pro laser cutter review

The work area is larger than the Ortur too, but only by around 5%. But, you can buy an extension kit 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 software that comes with the xTool is also really user-friendly, and better than the likes of Snapmaker Luban in our opinion, but you can also use it with LightBurn instead. There’s the Laserbox iOS app for connecting via iPad or similar device.

In our opinion, this is a top buy for a diode laser under $1,000, and ideal for fun projects, cutting acrylic or wood, and for running a small Etsy business engraving signs or images, as well as cutting coasters, jewelry, or other fun projects.

Best Diode Laser
xTool D1 Pro 10W: Higher Accuracy Diode DIY Laser Engraving & Cutting
$629.99

And if you need even more power, go for the 20W version (we did!)

xTool Store here Our Review
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Ortur Laser Master 3

Ortur Laser Master 3

We’ve tested all 3 of the recent Ortur lasers: the LM2, 2 Pro, and now the Ortur Laser Master 3 — and they’ve all been great.

The xTool D1 has been released since the Ortur LM2 Pro however, with a more powerful 10W laser and better build quality, so the pressure was on Ortur to leapfrog xTool with the Laser Master 3. 

Ortur LM3 test laser cutting and engraving an Arsenal FC logo on a 0.3mm basswood coaster
A quick cut and engraving of an Arsenal FC coaster on 0.3mm basswood.

To this end, Ortur have done well. Both products are very similar and have slight advantages over each other: the xTool has a slightly larger build volume and an extension kit option, but the Ortur has a cheaper rotary kit (though it’s a roller vs the higher-quality chuck on the xTool D1) and can reach 20,000mm/min speeds, whereas the xTool only reaches 10,000mm/min – though the xTool D1 Pro can reach 24,000mm/min.

If you have around $700 to spend (and it could reach $1000 with accessories for air assist, enclosures, aluminum honeycomb tables, and rotary add-ons) then these two are your top picks.

The rotary YRR 2.0 roller works great, but I’d opt for the xTool if you’re newer, as it is more complex to build and get it set up with your laser software. But, it’s far cheaper, so if you’re on a budget, it’s great!

Ortur LM3 air assist and aluminum honeycomb table to protect your workbench
The LM3 air assist accessory (left) and aluminum honeycomb table (right) add-on to protect your workspace from being damaged by the laser when cutting.
Ortur Laser Master 3 rotary RA2 roller
The rotary kit for engraving beakers, bottles and other rounded objects costs under $100, a real bargain. But you have to build it yourself.

Whether you prefer the cheaper rotary add-on, slightly larger work area, slightly better build quality of the xTool, or more accessible emergency stop button on the Ortur, both will be able to fulfill all your basic diode laser engraving needs. I have also written a full standalone Ortur Laser Master 3 review, as well as a comparison between the xTool D1 Pro 10W vs Ortur LM3.

And while it is being phased out and no longer competitive with the best laser engravers featuring the latest technology, you can still buy the Ortur LM2 Pro instead, if you’re looking to save money. It’s less powerful, doesn’t feature the same sturdy metal chassis, but notably cheaper.

Ortur Laser Master 2 Pro laser chassis and laser head, from our product test
Here’s a picture of my Ortur LM2 Pro during testing. You can see the difference in build quality between the OLM3 and the OLM2 Pro.
Great Budget Laser w/ Low-Cost Rotary
Ortur Laser Master 3 10W Laser Engraver
$599.99

Ortur's YRR Roller add-on is under $100 for low-cost beaker or glass engraving, and the laser itself is great value for 10W power.

Ortur here Amazon here
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Snapmaker 2.0 AT with 10W laser cutter add-on, or Snapmaker Artisan – best 3-in-1 laser cutters

4-axis laser engraving snapmaker 2.0
4-axis laser engraving on a cylindrical gift box.

I previously tested and reviewed the Snapmaker 2.0 A350T along with the 4-axis rotary module, and have since tested the 10W high-power laser module. It’s a fantasitc laser engraver that also lets you CNC cut and 3D print, and Snapmaker definitely make the best laser engraver and 3D printer combos.

But now you have the option to spend more and buy the new Snapmaker Artisan. The main upgrades between the Artisan and the Snapmaker 2.0 are:

  • 400 x 400 x 400 mm working area is larger than even the largest A350T model of the 2.0
  • Comes with the 10W high-power laser module by default, it’s a paid add-on with the 2.0
  • Offers 300C dual extrusion 3D printing, whereas the 2.0 has a single extruder
  • More powerful 200W CNC carving

So, if you’re looking for a more powerful 3-in-1 machine and have the extra money, it’s definitely a great machine. I can vouch for how reliable and well-built the Snapmaker 2.0 was — it was honestly a delight to build and use.

Another massive benefit of the Snapmaker machines is they have the best rotary engraver module in my opinion. The chuck style design is extremely well built, and makes it extremely easy to either laser engrave, or CNC carve, onto curved surfaces.

Snapmaker Luban makes this easier than any other software I’ve used like Lightburn or LaserGRBL, so even a beginner could do it. But, you pay for this convenience as Snapmaker’s 4-axis rotary module is a lot more expensive than xTool’s or Ortur’s.

Both Snapmaker laser engravers area great for engraving and cutting, especially with the 10W high-power laser, and you get access to 3D printing and CNC in one machine, so if you want a more versatile machine, this could be ideal for you.

laser cutting wood with the Snapmaker 2.0
It can also laser cut thin, softer materials like wood.

We used the 4-axis rotary module add-on, turning the laser engraver and CNC carving modules into a 4-axis turning lathe, and managed to carve out some beautiful looking pieces, as well as engraving a cylindrical gift box.

3D printer part prints standard filaments like PLA, ABS and TPU. You can print remotely via WiFi as well as using the USB port, and the touchscreen makes the Snapmaker 2.0 easy and efficient to navigate and print with. If you run out of filament mid-print, the filament detector will automatically pause your print so it doesn’t get ruined, so you can then insert another spool and keep going.

Overall, it’s a great all-in-one laser cutter option that can handle all your basic CNC and 3D printing needs in one versatile package, and we highly recommend it.

CNC carved knight chess piece with the Snapmaker 2.0.
Top 3 in 1 Pick
Snapmaker 2.0 Modular 3 in 1 3D Printer A350T/A250T
$1199 ($600 off!)

Want to 3D print, CNC cut, and laser cut and engrave all in 1? Snapmaker machines are the best 3-in-1 machines around.

Snapmaker here Our Review
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OMTech K40 40W – Cheapest CO2 Laser Engraver & Cutter

orion motor tech 40w laser cutter engraver

A highly rated and low-cost laser engraver, the Orion Motor Tech 40W laser cutter offers a decent 300 x 200 mm engraving area for the price, and can cut between 2-3mm depth, depending on the material.

It’s a versatile yet cheap laser cutter, able to cut and engrave plastic, leather, and rubber as well as wood, and has a number of optional upgrades to improve its cutting performance.

Compared to other cutters like the VEVOR 40W it’s very fast for the price, with up to 80mm/s cutting speed. This makes it perfect for beginners and hobbyists looking for a lower cost entry-level laser engraving machine, as well as a specialist laser cutter for casual woodworking projects that makers of all skill levels will enjoy.

Other OMTech options include:

OMTech 40W CO2 Laser Engraver, 8x12 Desktop Laser Marking Etching Engraving Machine with Digital Controls Red Dot Exhaust Fan & Wheels for Wood, Acrylic, and More

This machine is likely the most sought-after entry-level CO2 laser cutter on the market, and because of its 40 W laser tube, it's also a popular entry-level glass engraver. 

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Flux Beamo

The Flux Beamo

As the fun-sized budget option in Flux’s range of laser cutters and engravers, the Beamo is one of the most portable yet feature-heavy machines on this list.

Flux sacrificed nothing to bring you this sleek and compact design, continuing to provide high-end features like autofocusing, an HD camera, and software integration with the top names in the game like Autodesk, Adobe, and CorelDraw.

The Beamo is also compatible with versatile upgrades like a rotary module and hybrid laser technology which lets you cut and engrave even faster and deeper. Smart integrations like the drag-and-drop feature in Beam Studio and wireless connectivity truly give this machine a unique experience.

This machine was definitely built for the creative geniuses at heart, that want a portable but versatile option to bring their designs to light.

Budget 30W CO2 Laser
FLUX Beamo 30W CO2 Desktop Laser Cutter & Engraver
$2299

Cheaper than the FSL Muse, but you lose 10W laser power. A great mid-range and versatile pick.

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FSL Muse Core

The FSL Muse Core

The FSL Muse Core is a DIYer’s delight because of its fantastic customizability.

The standard version comes with a 40w laser tube that cuts up to ¼ inch of material, a removable honeycomb bed, modern LCD touchscreen control, and the powerful and user-friendly RetinaEngrave v3.0 software.

However, it’s the upgradable accessories that make this machine a beast. With an optional 45w laser tube, Intel RealSense 3D camera, and motorized autofocus, this mid-range hobbyist laser cutter suddenly becomes a top-of-line model packed with automated features that promise to streamline your workflow.

These upgrades don’t come cheap, so this is only for serious hobbyists or small businesses that will really take advantage of all the high-level specs this machine has to offer.

3D Wood Laser Cutter
FSL Muse Core 40W Laser Cutter and Engraver
$3499

Powerful 40W laser matches the Glowforge - but at a more affordable price point and with more upgradeability.

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Glowforge Pro — Best Professional Laser Cutter For Small Business & Selling Your Designs

glowforge pro

Glowforge’s most remarkable machine, the Glowforge Pro, sells itself as a 3D laser printer as it can print out enormous, cut objects perfect for furniture, signage and a host of other uses. All Glowforge lasers are fully Mac-compatible, super easy to use (it’s literally their selling point – they’re ready to go out the box!), and with a 40-45W CO2 laser, pretty powerful too!

Featuring a “passthrough slot”, you can potentially cut unlimited length parts on the Pro. Several-meter-long wooden parts can be created, as they can keep passing through the laser cutter as it cuts or engraves. Rather than having to cut dozens of smaller pieces for a large wooden or other project, the Glowforge Pro laser cutter does it all in one!

You can cut in excess of 10-12mm thick materials, and cut and engrave wood, leather, acrylic, glass, and easily laser mark anodized aluminum and titanium.

Additionally, the Pro engraves up to 3x faster than the Basic, and cuts 20% faster for a more efficient workflow. The camera can live preview your project, and the Pro also features improved cooling systems so you won’t have any issues with overheating no matter how much you use it.

There’s also a mid-range option, the Glowforge Plus, which is $2,000 less but doesn’t have features such as the unlimited length passthrough slot. But, if you prefer a more powerful machine than Glowforge for the price, we have written on the best Glowforge alternatives.

Most User-Friendly Pick For Home Businesses
Glowforge Pro

Glowforge are the easiest to use lasers for home business owners looking to create cool projects and sell them on Etsy or other stores and make money.

Glowforge here Dynamism here
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Ten-High CO2 40W 110V laser engraving cutting machine

ten-high 40w co2

A powerful and specialized machine, the Ten-high 40W laser engraver and cutter is one of the best laser cutters for the price. Featuring a large 300 x 400 mm laser engraving area it can handle even larger projects, and engraves quickly at up to 500mm/s, cutting at up to 30mm/s.

This new laser cutter model by Ten-High features upgraded rotary axis for better engraving on rounded and circular workpieces and less size restrictions, as well as an improved double door.

The machine’s digital display makes monitoring progress and temperature easy and convenient, and it comes with their software for a full cutting and engraving workflow.

The powerful 40W CO2 laser can cut depths up to 4mm in acrylic, 3mm in software woods like cork, and up to 2mm in hardwoods. However, it can’t engrave metal, requiring a far more powerful and industrial laser cutter.

Overall, it’s a very good laser cutter and engraver, suited to all but metal cutting needs.

TEN-HIGH CO2 Engrave Machine 40W 300x400mm Laser Engraving Machine with Exhaust Fan USB Port
$1,919.00

Ten High forgoes the extras and focuses only on the crucial elements, such as accuracy, stability, and power, solidifying its position as one of the top industrial glass laser engravers. 

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01/31/2023 04:59 am GMT

What is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is the process of intensifying light beams using optical amplification to create high-powered lasers, which are then used to cut or engrave the desired materials. Controlled by a motor system in the machine, the laser will cut and engrave your desired design or pattern. The machine knows how to manipulate the laser because it’s instructed by the design software you use to create the image.

The results are sharp and precise and are created in the nth of the time it would take using traditional methods.

As far as what laser cutting and engraving can be used for, the possibilities are endless. Personalize leather wallets, streamline furniture constructions, and even engrave your own logo onto a cup! Laser cutters work on dozens of materials, giving you plenty of ideas to accomplish.

Buying Guide – How To Choose The Best Laser Engraver or Cutter For You

Price – what’s your budget?

You can get passable laser engraving machines for just under $300 nowadays. It doesn’t mean you should, though, as they’re often built from worse-quality parts and aren’t as accurate and reliable as you want. Our top pick, the xTool D1 Pro, starts at $600+.

Remember: there’s a difference between a great budget laser engraver, and a great laser engraver for your budget. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with opting for a more affordable laser engraving machine if you both want to save money, and don’t need all the extra power.

But, think carefully about your current AND future needs. For example, you might get more ambitious as you go, or want to cut larger.

If you’re on a budget, get a low-cost machine like the Atomstack A5, and if you’re not quite ready to get the xTool D1 Pro, save a few bucks and get the Ortur Laser Master 3. On the other hand, if you want a CO2 laser and are strapped for cash, the OMTech K40 is passable but not user-friendly.

Laser power – what material do you want to cut or engrave?

The more power a laser has, the faster you can set it and still cut in one (or fewer passes). So a powerful laser saves time and cuts more quickly.

However, don’t just buy a laser engraver because of raw laser machine power numbers. There’s more nuance, and some companies are also not forthcoming about the actual power of their lasers.

The xTool D1 Pro and Ortur Laser Master 3 are actually 10W diode lasers (with a 20W option for the xTool), but I’ve seen some companies claim 20W and more when they’re in fact 5.5W lasers.

A 10W laser can cut fairly thick wood, and engrave coated metals. A 40W CO2 laser can do much of the same, but far better (and engrave far more metals). Only very powerful fiber laser cutters can begin to cut metals, and these are industrial machines.

Speed: laser cutting and engraving speed

Engraving speeds are essential, especially if you’re selling laser cut or engraved wares and want to hammer out each project as quickly as possible. Don’t confuse speed with laser power, though, as speed is just the maximum speed your laser will move across each axis — it doesn’t mean it’ll be able to cut right through the material.

Different laser engravers have different optimal speeds, and you can test your laser engraving machine with test cuts.

Go slower for cutting thicker materials (it may also require more passes), but go faster if you want to engrave and don’t want a too-dark contrast.

Precision and quality

Engraving accuracy is crucial to high-quality engraving. Engraving precision is formed of a combination of focal point and depth of cut, and factors like the stepper motors.

The more precise your engraving and cutting, the more defined, crisp, and high-quality your projects will look.

However, these specs don’t tell the whole story. Laser engravers are very accurate – even cheap ones. But it’s all for nothing if you don’t optimize your settings and laser beam focal length. Moreover, speed, percentage power (relative to the cut materials), whether you have air assist, and many more factors affect your end project’s final quality.

Size – work area

The best laser engravers can engrave larger images and other designs – the last thing you want is to be restricted to small projects.

There are professional laser engraver options with enormous working areas, but also remember that an enclosure restricts the laser working area slightly.

Cheap laser engraving machines under $1000 usually have open-air systems (rather than enclosures) and can offer good sizes for the price. For example, the cheapest lasers might only have 150 x 150 mm working areas, but lasers like the Ortur and xTool picks have in excess of 400 x 400 mm. This is more than enough for most hobbyist projects and large engravings.

Ease of use

If you’re a beginner to laser cutting, the last thing you want is a complex machine with complex laser software that you can’t understand.

In fact, the Glowforge laser cutter brand is built on being super user-friendly — there are far more powerful lasers for the price, but makers love Glowforge’s convenience.

I have owned 3 Ortur lasers (LM2, LM2 Pro, and LM3), the xTool D1 Pro 20W, and a host of other lasers by TwoTrees, Longer, and other brands, and my recommendations for beginners are the xTool, followed by the Ortur.

For a more professional laser cutter, Glowforge Pro is the easiest to use, but if you’re more technical, you’ll be fine with more complex lasers with less intuitive workflows by OMTech and other brands.

Accessories and rotary attachments

Rotary attachment add-ons mean you can engrave cylindrical objects like beakers, yeti cups (and similar objects with coated metal surfaces), glasses, mugs, and more.

If you’re business-minded and want to set up your own store, or start up on Etsy, then here’s a very badly kept secret: these are the items that print money. You can make far more per hour of laser use engraving on curved surfaces than on most other projects.

A rotary attachment also transforms your laser module into a far more versatile laser cutter, capable of taking on more different projects. If you’re a home maker, this exponentially increases the projects at your disposal.

Other attachments include:

  • Extension kits (both Ortur and xTool offer these).
  • Enclosures (essential for keeping fumes away).
  • Air assist.
  • Honeycomb laser beds.
  • More powerful laser heads for cutting thicker materials (for example, you can upgrade to a 20W laser head on an xTool laser – and I did this for my xTool). With a 20W diode laser, you can cut most non-metal materials, including thicker and tougher wood (up to 10mm basswood).

What Materials Can Laser Machines Cut?

The real question is what can’t these machines cut, and this all depends on how powerful your machine is.

Most low-cost laser cutters and engravers will only work with soft materials like leather, softwood, paper, fabric, and rubber, while more expensive options will also handle harder materials like glass, stone, acrylic, and metal.

In general, here is an overview of what common materials can be cut and engraved (though this depends on your laser cutting machine):

MaterialCan it cut?Can it engrave?
Leather
Acrylic/Plexiglass
Paper
Cork
Fabric
Cardboard
Wood
Aluminum
Glass
Stainless Steel
Stone
Ceramic
Bone
The materials that laser machines can engrave, and cut.

Types of Laser Cutters & Engravers

There are three main types of laser engraving machine: diode lasers, CO2 lasers, and fiber lasers, though sometimes they’re called different names.

Diode Lasers

Diode lasers contain a small compound semiconductor material within them, and work by applying electricity to that compound to produce the laser beam. Diode lasers are the cheapest, most portable, and most user-friendly lasers – so if you’re a beginner, they’re probably best for you.

Weaker 5W diode lasers are mostly just for engraving: you’ll struggle to cut through acrylic, or wood of any significant thickness. But more powerful 10W lasers, or even the 20W version of the xTool D1 Pro, can begin to cut much thicker wood and acrylic. 

Some say you can’t cut acrylic well on diode laser cutters, but I have personally cut acrylic on both my Snapmaker’s 10W laser, and on the xTool D1 Pro 20W, and while it may not be as quick and easy as a CO2 laser, it’s definitely doable.

Advantages of diode lasers include:

  • Light and portable: They’re the most portable lasers, as the diode laser just includes the cuboid laser head.
  • Large size for the price: They can very cheaply be expanded using extension kits to create very large engraving artwork.
  • Beginner-friendly: you only work with the laser head, and gantry system, and the laser control software (Lightburn or LaserGRBL) is easy to use.

However, be wary as many manufacturers claim their lasers are 30W or 50W diode lasers, when in fact they are 5.5W or 10W. This is because they add the power supply and present it as the power, and I’m personally not a fan of this practice and find it misleading.

I personally recommend the following diode lasers, in this order:

  • xTool D1 Pro
  • Ortur Laser Master 3
  • Atomstack A5 or X7

CO2 Lasers

CO2 lasers are more complex but more powerful laser cutters than diode lasers, and they’re able to cut through thicker wood and acrylic, and do so much faster. They’re preferred for small businesses who want to produce more items for sale in the quickest possible time. Other materials like glass, leather, and other textiles work great with CO2 lasers.

CO2 lasers work by running electricity through a gas-filled tube, which is usually a mixture of gases like CO2, nitrogen, and helium. There are mirrors on each end of the tube, one reflective and one partially reflective, that let light through for the beam.

Previously, CO2 lasers started at $2000+, but there’s now a 40W CO2 laser called the K40 which costs around just $500. So, whereas your only choice previously was a diode laser if you didn’t have 4 figures, now you can opt for the K40.

However, K40 lasers are typically 8” x 12” so you can’t cut large pieces, and you can’t create large projects for sale. More generally, CO2 lasers are more restricted in working area as they are enclosed, and feature a cooler, air pump, etc, which take up space.

Also, beyond K40 lasers, CO2 lasers are much more expensive. OMTech CO2 lasers start at around $2000, and then you have laser cutters by Glowforge, Dremel, Muse, Full Spectrum Laser, Epilog, and more that start in the $3000-$6000 range – and you’ll get a 40W to 60W laser for this price range.

Fiber Lasers

If you want to engrave or cut metals, use a fiber laser over a CO2 or diode laser (though I’ve engraved on anodized aluminum with diode lasers).

Fiber lasers have a “laser engine” which is connected to a galvo head, which is a set of mirrors, via a fiberoptic tube. To simplify the process, the laser engine sends power and light through the fiberoptic tube to the galvo laser head, where it is reflected on to the metal surface to engrave or cut it.

They are expensive – the cheapest fiber lasers start at around $3000. But, for metal laser engraving, they’re the best. They also don’t have consumable parts like CO2 lasers, which after a few thousand hours need replacing for a hundred dollars or so. So that can be nice to not feel the worry of the CO2 tube is wearing out here.

They also have small working areas. For example, a popular low-cost fiber laser engraver costing $3000 that I have used has a working area of just 6” x 6”, so you’re limited in the products you can create.

Laser Cutters vs Laser Engravers

Both techniques use custom models or designs to create accurate parts and models. Most laser cutting machines can do both, depending on the laser’s power and depths it can cut. There are however a few subtle differences between the two:

  • Laser Cutters: laser cutters use powerful lasers to cut entire pieces off your workpiece to create your final model. These cutters typically use vector files to accurately cut your chosen part, shaving chips off and smoothly separating these areas off in a process of subtractive manufacturing. Laser cutters typically use CO2 lasers, and even cheap laser cutters can cut quickly through acrylics, plastics and wood.
  • Laser Engravers: rather than cutting all the way through the material, laser engraving machines engrave an image, logo or graphic on top of your chosen material. Engraving is often used for branding products or signage, but can also be used to engrave entire greyscale artwork onto wood. This is done via image files such as jpg, svg, png or ai files, using methods such as grid engraving where the laser moves horizontally, line by line, removing certain depths of material to create a contrasting and readable image. Engravers use short focal length lasers with fine spot sizes for accurate engraving.

Laser marking is also a process wherein rather than engraving or cutting, physical contrasting marks are made on the material by heating it to separate elements that show up to the naked eye, without making any indentations.

Advantages of Laser Cutters vs CNC Mills

Laser cutters are very precise and accurate and can cut and engrave very quickly. For the same power, they’re usually cheaper than CNC routers, and can cut a variety of materials.

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