Laser cutters, or engravers, were once reserved for big businesses that could afford them but now they have become more accessible. That means you can take advantage of the laser level accuracy of engraving machines that can cut into all sorts of materials from leather and wood to glass, plastic and even metal.
Whether you're a hobbyist who wants to engrave beautiful calligraphy fonts onto jewellery or a small business imprinting a logo design there is a lot to think about before you take the plunge. Our handy buying guide should help you to make that final decision.
Factors to consider
Firstly, you'll need to set yourself a budget. Remember that if you're going to be monetising this skill then pushing your budget as high as possible makes sense to get the best end product in the fastest time, and with the lowest usage costs. It is vital to consider the cost of replacement parts – you don't want to find yourself unable to keep the machine running. Another is speed – especially if your aim is to mass produce a product to sell within a limited time. Accuracy is also important so you may want to focus on that when narrowing down your perfect laser cutter options.
Size, weight and power usage are further considerations, since you may have a space that simply won't fit one of these beasts, or they may be too power hungry for you to run. That said, if you want speed you may need to use more power for a more powerful cutting laser that gets your final result faster. You will need to check the cutting plate size to make sure it's big enough to suit whatever it is that you're cutting.
Also consider the environmental impact of your new machine. Companies like Trotec are favoured, as its manufacturing process avoids harmful materials like lead, PVC and zinc.
With all that in mind, here are some of the best laser cutters out there right now for you to buy.
The High-Ten Upgraded Version CO2 is a really capable laser cutter for those on a budget. Thanks to a handy USB port, it's easy to get projects onto this machine that can cut at a rate of 3600mm per minute on its 400 x 600 mm cutting plate. On that platform you can cut all sorts, apart from metal, meaning acrylic, plywood, density board, leather, wood, double colour plate, glass, cloth, bamboo, paper to name a few. A red light positioning system makes cutting easy to line up while a cooling system keeps it safe too.
The Dremel LC40-01 is a super powerful and highly capable cutter that pushes the price point with good reason. The result is one of the best looking laser cutters out there which comes with full customer support and the world's first UL certification for a device of this kind, says Dremel. That means it's a super safe 40W CO2 laser system. It's also easy to use with touchscreen and Windows compatibility, it works for PDF, JPG, PNG, or SVG files. Software is built-in meaning internet-free instant cutting. Yup, it's that easy – hence the price.
The Meterk 1500mW Laser Cutter is a super affordable way to try this art at home, making it ideal for hobbyists. The 42 x 42 x 78 mm cutting area might not be the biggest but this works with lots of different materials, including thick wood, and has wireless support as well as a back-up battery in case of power cuts. Parts replacement is simple in this open design build making it a future-proof option.
The Triumph Fiber Laser Cutting Machine is made for cutting metal, making it ideal for engraving. This isn't cheap but as a result you get a very capable system able to cut on a work area up to 200 x 200 mm and at a rate of 9,000 mm. The interface is relatively simple to use with a touch screen and support for .CAD, .JPG, .PLT and plenty more. You can cut aluminium, stainless steel, copper, gold and silver without shadowing thanks to a high-speed galvanometer.
For laser engraving on wood the Bannab is a great option that won't cost you much yet still offers 5,550 mW of power. You don't get a Z axis on this engraver so it's more about simple text and image designs. The 0.5mm accuracy isn't the best out there but this will be ideal for fast coarse work where you want a reliable bit of kit to just get the job smashed out. Software is simple and, like this machine, basic as a way to keep things simple and focused on getting the job done.
The Glowforge Plus sits between the Basic and Pro models offering some of the best specs for the price. It uses a super safe and certified Class 1 laser with 45W of power and features dual cameras capable of ensuring a 1/100th accuracy. Software is easy to use and you can even draw on your design and the laser will recognise and cut it out for you. It also looks great and has a decent cutting area size of 280 x 495 mm. Most image files work on this and it will cut most materials too.
While the MooMax is a great laser cutter for paper it also works on a host of other materials like ceramics, metal and glass. We love the way this can be sat down on any surface to cut making it's reach near unlimited and even the 500 x 650 mm cutting area is huge space to start with. You get a one year guarantee, customer support and included software with free updates for life. This is shipped as parts for you to put together but that's all part of the craft fun, right?