With the best laser cutters, you can transfer intricate designs to all sorts of materials, from wood and plastic to metal, glass and even leather. While they used to be solely heavy industrial equipment, these days laser cutters are small, portable and user-friendly enough to be used by pretty much anyone, and there are loads of them out there.
What might you use a laser cutter for? It varies, but the precision with which they can make cuts in material lend them all sorts of functions. Working with digital drawing software, you can transfer the most meticulous designs to a material of your choice, whether you want to engrave calligraphy fonts into a piece of jewellery, or imprint a logo design onto a plastic sign. A laser cutter can make it the work of moments.
While laser cutters are much cheaper and more accessible than they used to be, they still represent a significant financial investment, so it pays to do your research and land on the right one. Availability of laser cutters can also vary between countries, so we've split our guide up into two sections. We've started with the best laser cutters you can get in the US, and then moved on to the best laser cutters in the UK (click that link to jump straight to the section).
If you're looking for more tools to transfer your digital creations to physical media, you mind find some use in our guides to the best printers and the best 3D printers. If you're kitting out an office or a studio, meanwhile, check out our rundown of the best desks,
The best laser cutters: US
Highly capable and relatively straightforward to use, the Ten-High Upgraded Version CO2 is going to be the best laser cutter for the majority of users – in the US, at least. It can slice through a wide variety of materials, including wood, leather, plywood, acrylic, density board, bamboo, cloth, double colour plate and glass. Note that it won't cut through metal, so if you're aiming to do some metal laser cutting, you'll want to skip down to the Triumph Fiber Laser Cutting Machine at #3, which is specifically designed for that purpose.
Lining up your materials for cutting is made easier with the Ten-High Upgraded Version CO2 thanks to a clever red light positioning system, and for safety, there's a suspension system that immediately shuts off the laser the moment the doors are opened. With a generous amount of space for your engravings, and a ventilation fan to keep the exhaust smoke moving, the Ten-High Upgraded Version CO2 has been comprehensively equipped. It's also compatible with CorelDRAW, and connection is easily achieved via the USB port.
Want to see the Ten-High Upgraded Version CO2 in action? Check out this video (opens in new tab) for a quick demo.
Fair warning, this is not a laser cutter to choose if you working in a small space. The 130W Reci W4 Co2 is a big beast with an engraving area of 1300 x 900mm, offering engraving speeds of up to 600 mm/sec and cutting speeds of up to 300 mm/s. If you have a feeling you're going to be tearing through a lot of laser cutting projects, and have plenty of space to be doing it, this may be the machine for you.
It'll cut just about anything except for metal, so if you're working with wood, plastic, plexiglass, crystal, leather, rubber, marble, ceramics or whatever else, you should be fine. It's also got wide digital compatibility, accepting a range of file formats and working with AutoCAD and CorelDRAW. Again, though we really can't stress enough, this thing is big. Its footprint is about 1829 x 1422 x 1041mm, so you're not going to be tucking it into the corner of a cupboard.
Need to work with metal? The Triumph Fiber Laser Cutting Machine is made for it, making it the ideal choice for engraving. You can cut aluminium, stainless steel, copper, gold and silver without shadowing thanks to a high-speed galvanometer.
It's not cheap, but overall, this is a very capable system that allows you to cut on a work area up to 200 x 200mm and at a rate of 9,000mm/s. The interface is relatively simple to use with a touchscreen and support for CorelDraw, AutoCad, and Photoshop format files. And best of all, it comes with software pre-installed, so you can get right to work.
This cheap laser cutter may seem like a bit of an intimidating prospect at first, arriving as a pile of parts that may have you wondering what on earth you've got yourself into. However, once you get through the easy assembly process, you'll quickly discover you have a solidly capable cutter on your hands, and a great one for the price you paid.
The ORTUR Laser Master 2 has no interface to speak of, so needs to be wired up to computer at all times for programming in your cuts. You may find you want to have some excess of your materials available, as there can sometimes be some fine-tuning and trial/error involved in getting the settings right for your particular designs – though once you manage it, the results are reliably pretty good across the board. There are also some handy safety features that will ease any worries about how open and exposed the design is – the Laser Master will cut out if knocked or moved, or if the USB cable is knocked out.
There is an ORTUR Laser Master 3 available, however it is considerably more expensive, and we love the affordable versatility of the Laser Master 2, so are sticking with it as our recommendation for now.
If you're a beginner or hobbyist, you're probably looking for something cheap and lower powered than the laser cutters we've mentioned so far. In which case, let us point you to the AtomStack Portable Mini Laser Engraver. While it's nice and portable, its 5W laser power can cut cardboard, non-woven fabric, veneer, acrylic, some thin plastic board, sponge, MDF and leather, and engrave materials like wood, bamboo, cardboard, plastic, leather, MDF, slate, lacquered metal and stainless steel.
A great little machine for home projects, this machine comes 85% assembled, which may sound like a strange brag but it's actually very welcome when dealing with laser cutters. Its all-aluminum alloy anodized structure design makes it impressively durable, and it can cut and engrave most small items you'd want to use it with, from glasses to leather bags and picture frames.
The best laser cutters: UK
The Ten-High Upgraded Version CO2 is the best laser cutter you can buy in the UK today for most purposes. Impressively, it can cut at a rate of 3600mm per minute on its 400 x 600mm cutting plate. And it works with all sorts of materials, including acrylic, plywood, density board, leather, wood, double colour plate, glass, cloth, bamboo and paper (although not metal).
A red light positioning system makes cutting easy to line up, while a cooling system keeps everything safe. There's a handy USB port, and the machine is compatible with CorelDRAW and image formats like JPG, BMP, PNG,CDR, DXF, PLT and TIF. Overall, unless you need to cut metal, you won't find finer.
If you're a hobbyist looking for a versatile laser cutter, we'd recommend the OMTech 40W. It works with a wide range of materials, including bamboo, acrylic, fabric, glass, ceramic, delrin, cloth, leather, marble, matte board, melamine, paper, mylar, pressboard, rubber, fibreglass, anodised aluminium, tile, plastic and Corian.
There's a decent-sized 300x200mm surface, with clamps to keep your cutting material in place and a level board to enable you to work with bulkier objects. A red dot pointer indicates the engraving point and path, to help you ensure you get the right position and scale for your object.
Elsewhere, the pre-installed exhaust fan keeps everything cool, with low noise. And there are four detachable wheels you can use to move this laser cutter around easily. On the downside, while this machine does come with software, it's not really worth bothering with, so we'd recommend downloading K40 Whisperer and Inkscape instead.
Need a laser cutter you can carry about easily from place to place? The LaserPecker 2 Laser Engraver is a great choice for a home crafter or DIYer. Compact in size (162.5 x 60 x 122mm), weighing just 2.2kg and with a useful handle, it's lovely and portable.
This machine can cut wood, paper, acrylic and leather that's 5mm thick or less, and offers a maximum engraving size of 100x2000mm. It's packed with safety features, too, including a protective shield, goggles, over-heating protection, password lock, motion detection, laser indicator and overheat shut down.
The Laserpecker Mini Desktop Laser Engraver is a miniature laser cutter you can fit right on your computer desk. It's also portable enough to bring with you should you want to do some creative work away from home. To make this possible it's quite stripped back and limited in its capabilities, but it's still a handy device to have.
Just connect the engraver to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth and you can transfer your designs to a range of light materials. It's capable of engraving most non-metal materials, including wood, leather, paper, bamboo, plastics, and cloth. A pair of safety goggles are included too. While it's not as robust or as feature-laden as number 3 on our list, this is still a solid entry-level engraver.
As the name suggests the Pergear LaserStorm S5 Laser Engraver's primary purpose is to etch and engrave your collectibles and craft items. While this can cut various materials, including thin plastic and leather, this isn't what the LaserStorm is made for; it's on our list as it's a great engraver.
The Pergear LaserStorm can carve into most materials you'll be using for craft projects, including wood, bamboo, cardboard, plastic and leather. It can even engrave onto slate, which is great news for anyone who wants to name their home. This is a well-designed product that's great for one thing – engraving – and okay at cutting.
What is a laser cutter?
A laser cutter is a device that creates patterns, shapes and designs in materials such as wood, glass, paper, metal and plastic, by cutting into them with a high-power laser. The precision of a laser makes for a clean cut and smooth finish. Laser cutting has been used for many decades in large-scale manufacturing, but more recently laser cutters have become more affordable and are increasingly used by hobbyists, schools and small businesses.
How do you choose the best laser cutter for your needs?
First, 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 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 also need to check the cutting plate size to make sure it's big enough to suit whatever it is that you're cutting.
What are the different types of laser cutter?
There are three main types of laser cutter. CO2 laser cutters use electrically-stimulated CO2, and are typically used for cutting, boring and engraving. This is the most common laser cutter to be used by hobbyists and makers. Crystal laser cutters use nd:YVO and nd:YAG, and are high powered, so they can cut through thicker materials. Fibre Laser Cutters use fibreglass and can work with both metal and non-metal materials.
What's the best laser cutter?
In our opinion, the best laser cutter you can buy today is the Ten-High Upgraded Version CO2 Laser Cutter (opens in new tab). It's suitable for engraving on most non-metal materials, including acrylic, plywood, density board, leather, wood, double colour plate, glass, cloth, bamboo and paper. You can cut materials of any length. There's a red light positioning system to help you line up your materials carefully. It connects to your laptop via USB, and it's compatible with CorelDRAW design software (not included).
Can you cut anything with a laser cutter?
There are certain materials that you should never cut with a laser cutter. These include PVC vinyl, pleather or faux leather, and ABS polymer, which is commonly used in 3D pens and 3D printers. Both emit chlorine gas when cut. You should also not laser-cut polystyrene foam, polyprylene foam or HDPE (a plastic used to make milk bottles), as these will all catch fire. There are many other materials that should not be laser-cut, so always read the instructions carefully.