In the following article, we’ll provide insight into the best laser cutters and laser engravers on the market, as well as hybrid 3D printer/laser cutting machines. We’ve also included a comprehensive guide to laser cutting and laser engraving, sharing everything you need to know about manufacturing this technology before you make an investment.
This article is split into three sections. The laser cutters/laser engravers in the first section are sorted by price. The all-in-one machines you will find in the second section. Learn more about laser cutting in the third section.
As laser cutters and laser engravers become more accessible and affordable, we’ve seen a major shift in the consumer market. What was once a tool strictly for industrial purposes, you can now find laser cutters in schools, maker spaces, small businesses, and even homes. Here are a few of the most popular desktop laser cutter manufacturers on the market.
Looking at the budget end of the laser cutting segment, you might notice a trend in the design of desktop laser engravers. The most affordable machines all share a minimalistic and compact black frame, and the Meterk Laser Engraver is no exception. If you want a powerful laser engraver that is easy to use and portable, this machine is a terrific starting point.
With a 1500mW laser, the Meterk Laser Engraver has a 42 x 42 x 78mm carving space, a built-in 600mAh polymer li-ion battery, and high-grade components that extends the life and durability of the hardware. The Bluetooth module allows for wireless connection, meaning you can complete your engraving work without being tethered to a computer. Compatible materials include plastic, wood, acrylic, bamboo, as well as consumer products like phone cases and wallets.
Priced at $70, the NEJE DK-8-KZ laser engraver is a great introductory machine to the world of laser cutting technology. With just 1,000 mW of laser power, there isn’t much power behind this machine, but it’s still capable of engraving designs into wood, plastic and other materials. The frame of this laser is comprised of black laser-cut acrylic and 108 screws.
Although the NEJE DK-8-KZ is definitely on the cheaper side of the market, it still offers some pretty impressive features, such as a magnetic panel to protect users from the laser beam, an emergency stop button and cooling control. It also has a tidy operating distance of 38 x 38mm. There are downfalls to this laser engraver, such as the inability to engrave in metal and acrylic materials, but for the price, it’s a great starter laser cutter/laser engraver.
Yet another desktop-sized machine, the QIILU Mini 1500mW Laser Engraver is ideal for beginners and makers that want easy and affordable access to laser engraving technology. This laser engraver has a carving space of 42 x 42 x 78 mm and offers high resolution for under $200.
What makes this laser engraver unique is that its can be utilized in almost any setting. It can be operated without being connected to a computer, featuring Bluetooth and USB ports as well. The frame positioning of the QIILU Mini 1500mW makes the image positioning easier, while weak light allows the image to be engraved without creating any excess residue. Although it has the same frame design as the NEJE DK-8-KZ, this version has a slightly more powerful laser and slightly higher price tag. It’s able to engrave wood, various plastics, acrylic, bamboo, rubber, leather, paper and others.
The SuperCarver K2 Laser Engraver is another affordable option for novices, particularly those who want an easy to use machine. This design comes available with a 500mW or 1000mW laser, the latter version costing a little bit extra. The aluminum alloy frame provides stability, and also makes the image positioning more precise.
This laser engraver is equipped with 500mW / 1000mW blue and purple laser head, and offers small engraving area of 38 x 38mm. It’s compatible with a wide range of materials, including mahogany, bamboo, paper cards, ivory, leather, flammable plastics and more (but not with metal or acrylic). You can find this laser engraver on online retail websites like GearBest for under $80.
The Sunwin Desktop Laser Engraver is a DIY kit that comes in three different forms: 500mW, 2.5W and 5.5W. You’ll have to build it yourself, so this laser engraving machine should appeal to makers who like a challenging assembly process. Unsurprisingly, the price is increase as the wattage grows, but the low-end model can be found for under $300 (while the 5.5W is under $700).
It has a maximum engraving area of 50x40cm, a 12v laser module with a heat cooling fan and a high-quality aluminum frame. You can engrave materials like bamboo, wood, paper, plastic, leather and more. Right out of the box, you get a disassembled laser engraver, safety goggles and instructions, so be prepared to get your hands dirty! All three versions are available on Amazon, so you can select a higher powered iteration if you want engrave more materials.
The SUNCOO 40w CO2 Laser Engraver and Laser Cutter is another excellent option for a wide target audience, from makers to small businesses. It has 40W water cooling laser tube, highly precise stepping motors, USB connectivity and an accessible control board. With an engraving area of 12 x 8 inches, this laser engraver is compact enough to fit in the home or office. It also has a high cutting speed of up to 1.38 inches per second.
If you’re looking for a high quality laser cutting machine that can fit on your desktop, look no further than the Orion Motor Tech laser cutter. This compact machine offers an engraving/cutting area of 300 x 500mm. This laser cutting machine has a resolution ratio of 0.001 in 0.026mm/4500DPI, and operates at a maximum speed of 500mm/s while engraving and 80mm/s when cutting.
What set the Orion laser cutter apart from others is the user-friendliness and low price of around $400. The Orion laser engraver operates with a 50W water cooling laser tube and high-precision stepping motor. You can utilize a variety of materials, including plastic, leather, stone, crystal, and more. However, beware, if you decide to buy the Orion laser cutting machine, there are other components you will likely need alongside it. This includes a CO2 laser engraver, smoke pipe, smoke fan, water pump, power wire, USB cable, and USB dongle key.
Orion also offers a 40W CO2 laser cutter at a reduced price. You can check that out here.
If you’re looking for a laser engraver that lands somewhere in between affordable and professional-grade, the TEN-HIGH 40W Laser Engraver is as good as it gets. It has a powerful 4oW CO2 Gas laser, an engraving area of 15.7 x 11.8 inches, and an engraving speed of up to 30,000mm per minute.
Although it can quite cut through metal, you can still engrave designs into coated paint on metal materials. Other materials include plywood, acrylic, density boards, leather, felt, paper, fabric and more. The manufacturer also has a small-sized 430 laser engraver available, along with upgraded versions of their pre-existing products, making the entire TEN-HIGH ecosystem accessible to all.
If you’re looking for a larger and more professional-grade machine, the Mophorn 130W Laser Engraver is an intriguing option. The Chinese manufactured laser engraver is equipped with a glass-sealed CO2 laser tube and a monstrous working area of a 55 x 35 inches.
Geared more towards makerspaces and small businesses than hobbyists, the Mophorn 130W Laser Engraver also has an unlimited design length, a resolution is 1000 dots per inch, as well as a USB interface, offline control system and CAD support. It can handle a variety of materials, including ceramics, bamboo, wood, marble, plexiglas, crystal, leather, rubber and more. Some users have cautioned that an English user manual is either not included or not detailed enough, but there are online resources that should compensate for this obstacle.
Let’s say you need a laser cutter or laser engraver that can handle metal materials. You’ll need to look at more industrial-grade machines like the Triumph Fiber Laser Marking machine. It’s definitely built for makerspaces or sizable workshops, equipped with high peak power and excellent laser beam quality, as well as a touchscreen interface and easy to manage control system. With a modular design that splits the laser generator and lifter, users are able to expand the marking area in size and complexity.
Unlike most of the other laser cutters and laser engravers on our list, this impressive machine is capable of marking aluminum, copper, gold, silver and other metals. With a peak laser power of 30W and marking speed of up to 900mm/s, this powerful laser marking machine is best-suited for professional and industrial purposes. However, at under $7,000, it’s definitely worth the asking price for what it has to offer.
Can’t decide between a desktop laser cutter or 3D printer? Why not both! There is a vast array of hybrid 3D printers that offer laser cutter capabilities. Here are a few of the most popular options.
The Snapmaker is a new all-in-one machine that offers three distrinct functions: 3D printing, laser engraving and CNC milling. It’s extremely compact with 125 x 125 x 125 mm build volume, making it ideal for makers with limited workspace. The aluminum frame adds stability and durability to this hybrid printer.
There are three interchangeable modules that can be seamlessly mounted onto the X-axis rail. The laser engraving module has a class 200 mW laser and an adjustable spindle speed that can be set between 2,000 and 7,000 rpm. For this particular process, the Snapmaker has an engraving area of 4.9 x 4.9 inches (125 x 125 mm). Users can engrave designs into a handful of materials, such as wood, leather, plastic, paper and more.
Whether you need FDM 3D printing, laser engraving or CNC milling, the most appealing aspect of the Snapmaker is how easy it makes it to switch between the three technologies. The LCD touchscreen and proprietary software makes this hybrid machine super accessible to both beginners and makers looking to add other manufacturing techniques to their arsenal.
Targeted at the beginner’s market, the XYZprinting da Vinci 1.0 Pro is an adequate option for those looking to dip their toe into 3D printing and laser cutting technology. Manufactured by the Taiwanese company XYZprinting, this printer is the most affordable option for those hoping to purchase an all-in-one option. The da Vinci 1.0 3-in-1 is equipped with a laser engraver that allows you to laser cut cardboard, leather, wood, and more. The printer itself costs $800, but the optional laser engraving module will cost an additional $200. Still, it’s relatively cheaper than most other hybrid machines on the market.
When looking at machines that are pushing the boundaries of multi-fabrication technology, the FABtotum Core PRO definitely deserves to be mentioned. After a successful Kickstarter campaign way back in 2013, the manufacturer has slowly implemented additional laser engraving and laser cutting capabilities.
With this all-in-one machine, users are able to engrave into wood and other materials, cut through paper and cardboard, and even more impressively, has a laser tool head that enables the production of PCBs. For laser engraving, the FABtotum Core PRO provides an engraving area of 214 x 236mm.
This modular 3D printing, CNC milling and laser platform is one of the most proven and tested hybrid machines on the market, and is the perfect device for makers looking for a compact multi-purpose fabrication tool.
Arguably the best all-in-one 3D printer on the market, the Polish company ZMorph has created an extremely versatile hybrid machine. The ZMorph 2.0 VX functions as dual extrusion printer, laser cutter, as well as CNC mill. Simply swap out the tool heads and you can go from extruding paste materials to engraving patterns into wood. With a simple design and expansive ability, this printer is ideal for those who consider themselves a jack of all trades. For the complete kit with all available tool heads, the retail price will run you around to €4399.
After collecting over $80,000 on Kickstarter, the BoXZY has taken the maker community by storm. This hybrid machine offers 3D printing, CNC milling, as well as laser cutting and engraving. One of the few highly touted 3D printing crowdfunding success stories, the BoXZY team has already delivered their product to backers and has put this all-in-one machine onto the market. You can purchase this compact all-in-one printer now for $3,899.
Want to learn more about laser cutters and laser engravers before you decide to invest in one? Keep reading through our 2018 Laser Cutter Guide to find out everything there is to know about laser cutting technology.
Unlike 3D printing, laser cutters create designs and patterns by cutting into materials instead of building them up layer-by-layer. This subtractive manufacturing technology uses a powerful laser beam source to melt, burn, or vaporize material away. A desktop laser cutter typically follows directions from computer numerical control (CNC) or G-code.
The process starts with an extremely small laser beam that is emitted from a tube when a current passes through. This current causes the laser to reflect off a partial mirror and point through a focal lens in the machine head. Following the vector file that holds the 2D design, the laser beam cuts away at a material until the image is completed. These laser cutting machines are highly capable of creating finely detailed patterns with a high-quality surface finish. There is a wide range of laser cutting techniques and compatible materials that you can use.
CO2 powered laser cutters are the most commonly used of the three.With low power usage, relatively inexpensive price, and high efficiency, this laser cutting technology is the most ideal for consumers and maker spaces. The laser source is generated from a gas mixture that is primarily comprised of carbon dioxide. Also, CO2 lasers are also compatible with the widest range of materials.
Created with neodymium-doped crystals, this laser has a much smaller wavelength and higher intensity compared to CO2 lasers. This enables laser cutting through thicker and stronger materials, including metals and some ceramics. The downside to this type of laser is that machine parts wear down very quickly, requiring a higher degree of maintenance.
Created from a so-called “seed laser” and amplified through special glass fibers. This laser source has a high intensity that rivals Neodymium but is easier to maintain due to the way they’re built. Fiber-based laser cutters are mostly used for laser marking processes, which entails marking or labeling workpieces with information.
With vector cutting, the laser beam is continuously fired, cutting directly through the material. This technique is solely used for vector graphics and extremely small lines.
Contrary to vector cutting, the rastering process burns off only the top layer of the material instead of cutting all the way through it. The design is engraved in a different color, integrating the image within the selected material. To do this, the laser is usually preset to a lower power level. Instead of a high-powered pulsing beam, the laser cutter unfurls finely detailed dots to produce the design without cutting through the material. By managing different dots per inch (DPI), you can control the way the raster effect is produced. This technique works well with wood or leather, but may not work as intended with others types of materials.
Meeting in the middle of vector cutting and raster engraving is vector engraving. Also known as “Kiss Cuts,” this method follows vector lines but only cuts into the surface of the material.
Depending on the type of laser that is utilized, there is a wide range of compatible materials available. With the CO2 laser cutter, you can use wood, leather, acrylic, glass, plastics, foams, as well as cardboard and other paper materials.
When using fiber or neodymium lasers with higher intensity, the material options expand into metals, more types of plastics, and even some ceramics.
Here are the most common laser cut materials:
If you don’t want to splurge on a desktop laser cutter, or just have one project to undertake, you can utilize a laser cutting service bureau. There is a wide range of manufacturing services that offer both 3D printing and laser cutting. Here are some that are best known for the latter.
This service provides over 100 materials to choose from, allowing you to make anywhere from 1 to 100,000 laser cut products, parts, or prototypes. Ponoko also offers same day production and shipping, as well as design templates to ensure your idea is properly executed.
This expansive design and manufacturing service offers laser cutting, 2D printing, 3D printing, and even design assistance. You can print ink designs on a card and have it laser cut to add a unique effect that literally stands out.
Offers CO2, Neodymium, Fiber, and other custom laser types. As a business unit of the medical component company Amtek, Laserage seems best equipped to take on projects in the medical sector. They also take on aerospace, electronics, and other industrial endeavors. This manufacturing service provides laser welding and drilling services as well.
Even 3D printing service bureaus like Sculpteo now offer laser cutting services as well. With over 60 possible material combinations, the French company claims to work around your workflow and template. If you have an idea that necessitates both 3D printing and laser cutting, Sculpteo is the service for you.
When it comes to selecting the best manufacturing technology for your application or project, there are many factors the make laser cutting more beneficial than 3D printing. While additive manufacturing is useful for prototyping purposes, the current lack of material properties makes it a tough sell for user-end production. Laser cutting is a subtractive manufacturing technology that cuts away from a material, rather than building a design up from scratch.
But with laser cutting technology, existing materials are able to maintain their mechanical advantages after being cut or engraved. While both are considered go-to tools for rapid prototyping, laser cutters provide more versatility with 2D geometries.
CNC milling, another computer controlled manufacturing method, shares a lot of similarities with laser cutting. While both use a cutting head to carve through various materials, CNC uses metal cutting heads that move up and down on a third axis. This allows for more design freedom and the ability to produce more complicated shapes.
Now that we’ve explained laser cutting technology and provided some insight into the desktop laser cutter market, there’s one important question left to answer. What can you create with a desktop laser cutter? Well, in reality, the possibilities are endless. But here are some of the most popular uses of this marvelous manufacturing technology.
Here are just some ideas:
Those are just a few popular uses for a desktop laser cutter, but there’s much more where that came from.
And last but not least, when shopping for a laser cutting machine, be sure to research thoroughly and find the machine that best suits your budget and needs.
When creating a design or pattern for laser cutting, you can use either 2D or 3D design software. Laser cutters essentially function like an average 2D inkjet printer but come with drivers that allow the laser cutting machine follow specific designs. While these specific drivers are highly common in 2D design software, there is less support from 3D software.
Graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator and free drawing tools like AutoCAD are ideal 2D programs for laser cutting technology. But 3D software like Solidworks, Autodesk Inventor, and Autodesk Fusion can also be utilized to create certain types of designs and patterns.
License: The text of "15 Best Laser Cutters/Engravers & AIO Machines of 2018" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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