Oct 8, 2018

17 Best Laser Engravers of Fall 2018

Looking for a laser engraver? Check out our fall 2018 guide to the best laser engravers. Plus an introduction to laser engraving, materials, and laser engraving services.

Home and office laser engraving have become so much easier these days. Once strictly used by industrial manufacturers, laser engraving is increasingly adopted by small businesses, product designers, makers, and even hobbyists.

In some cases, a laser engraver might prove to be the most advantageous manufacturing technology for your specific application.

Before pulling out your wallet, we have also compiled everything you need to know about laser engravers into a comprehensive guide to get you started in this great technology.

Our Laser Engraver Picks of Fall 2018

Top Pick

TEN-HIGH 40W Laser Engraving Cutting Machine

The TEN-HIGH 40W Laser Engraving Cutting Machine is a professional grade laser engraver with a 40W laser, a 40 x 30cm engraving area and a high engraving speed of 30,000mm/min.

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Best Value

Orion Motor Tech 40W

The Orion Motor Tech laser cutter is a compact machine with plenty of power for your money.

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Budget Pick

NEJE DK-8-KZ

On the budget side of the desktop laser engraver market, the NEJE DK-8-KZ still manages to offer a protective magnetic panel, an emergency stop button and cooling control. It also has a tidy operating distance of 38 x 38mm.

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Best All-in-One

ZMorph VX

Professional results from a series of highly developed toolheads, plus above average (for an all-in-one machine) build space makes the ZMorph VX a powerhouse of a desktop tool.

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Choose your budget

The laser engravers in the following list are sorted according to their prices. You can re-sort the list according to the headlines of each column.

17 Best Laser Engravers of Fall 2018

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Best Entry Level Laser Engravers

Laser Engraver Guide NEJE DK-8-KZ

Specs

  • Laser Engraver NEJE DK-8-KZ
  • Laser Type CO2
  • Engraving Area (in) 1.6 ✕ 1.6 ✕ 3
  • Laser Power 1,000mW
  • Hybrid No
  • Price (USD) $70

Priced at $70, the NEJE DK-8-KZ laser engraver is a good entry level machine to the world of laser engraving technology. Truth be told, 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 materials like wood and plastic. 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. For example, it boasts 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 at this price point, it’s a great entry level laser engraver.

NEJE DK-8-KZ

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Laser Engraver Guide QIILU Mini Laser Engraver

Specs

  • Laser Engraver QIILU Mini Laser Engraver
  • Laser Type CO2
  • Engraving Area (in) 1.6 ✕ 1.6 ✕ 3
  • Laser Power 1500mw
  • Hybrid No
  • Price (USD) $130

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.

The stand-out feature of this machine is that it can be utilized in almost any setting. This is due to its excellent connectivity. It can be operated without being connected to a computer, featuring both Bluetooth and USB port. 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 machine 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.

QIILU Mini Laser Engraver

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Laser Engraver Guide Sunwin Desktop Laser Engraver

Specs

  • Laser Engraver Sunwin Desktop Laser Engraver
  • Laser Type Semiconductor Node
  • Engraving Area (in) 19.6 ✕ 15.7
  • Laser Power 500mW/2.5W/5.5W
  • Hybrid No
  • Price (USD) $269/ $375/ $644

Nowadays, a growing number of medium priced laser engravers like the Sunwin DIY is available. You can choose between three levels of laser power 500mW, 2.5W or 5.5W, allowing you to process a variety of materials with this laser engraver including stainless steel, iron, aluminum, ceramics, stone, wood, bamboo, leather, and various plastics.

Since this is a DIY kit, 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.

This laser engraver is your go-to choice, if you need a machine that is both affordable and reasonably priced.

SUNWIN 40X50CM Desktop Laser Engraver

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Laser Engraver Guide SuperCarver K2

Specs

  • Laser Engraver SuperCarver K2
  • Laser Type CO2
  • Engraving Area (in) 1.5 ✕ 1.5
  • Laser Power 500mW or 1,000mW
  • Hybrid No
  • Price (USD) $160

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.

SuperCarver K2 Laser Engraver

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Laser Engraver Guide Mophorn 40W Laser Engraver

Specs

  • Laser Engraver Mophorn 40W Laser Engraver
  • Laser Type CO2
  • Engraving Area (in) 12 ✕ 8
  • Laser Power 40W
  • Hybrid No
  • Price (USD) $380

If it’s an affordable beginners laser engraver you’re after, the Mophorn 40W could be the right fit. At 40 Watts this machine engraves materials like fabrics, wood, crystal, film and various plastics – operating at a speed of up to 13.8 in/s. If you use it as a cutter at 1.38 in/s.

With the included CorelDraw software you can begin drawing designs for your laser engraver instantly. Apart from the laser engraver and software you also get a water pump, smoke pipe, smoke fan, and other useful items.

Mophorn 40w

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Laser Engraver Guide Suncoo 40W Laser Engraver

Specs

  • Laser Engraver Suncoo 40W Laser Engraver
  • Laser Type CO2
  • Engraving Area (in) 12 ✕ 8
  • Laser Power 40W
  • Hybrid No
  • Price (USD) $380

If you’re looking for a high-quality laser engraving machine that can fit on your desktop and your modest budget, look no further than the Suncoo laser engraver. You can process a variety of materials, including plastic, leather, stone, crystal, and more. Although it has properties of a professional laser engraver, the Suncoo is set apart from others by its user-friendliness and competitive price of under $400.

How does the Suncoo laser engraver compare to other machines? This compact machine offers an engraving/cutting area of 12 ✕ 8″ (300 ✕ 500mm) and boasts a resolution ratio of 1000DPI. The built-in CO2 laser operates at 40 watts, allowing you a respectable maximum speed of 13.8” (350mm) per second while engraving and 3.2” (35mm) per second when cutting. The package includes a CO2 laser engraver, smoke pipe, smoke fan, water pump, power wire, USB cable, and USB dongle key.

You want laser power for a small price? Then, the Suncoo laser engraver is the right choice for you.

SUNCOO 40W CO2 Laser Engraver

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Laser Engraver Guide Creality3D CR-8 2-in-1

Specs

  • Laser Engraver Creality3D CR-8 2-in-1
  • Laser Type CO2
  • Engraving Area (in) 8.3 ✕ 8.3
  • Laser Power 500mW
  • Hybrid Yes
  • Price (USD) $390

In theory, any 3D printer can be converted into a laser engraver. Replace the extruder with a laser module and you’re good to go! Except, not everyone of us has the technical skills necessarry to pull this off. The 3D printer manufacturer Creality is here to the rescue. Its Creality3D CR-8 can switch being a laser engraver and a 3D printer.

The conversion process really couldn’t be any simpler. The laser module is attached to the extruder using four magnetes that hold both components tightly together. In terms of laser power, the CR-8 is on par with the SnapMaker with 500mW. This means you can engrave materials like paper, cardboard, leather, and wood. You control the CR-8 with a setup consisting of an LCD screen and a turn-wheel.

Let’s take a look at the 3D printing capability of this 2-in-1 machine. With a maximum build-volume of 130 ✕ 150 ✕ 100 mm, you have enough space for medium-sized designs. As the CR-8 does not include a heated bed, you cannot print fickle materials like ABS.

Creality3D CR-8

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Laser Engraver Guide Orion Motor Tech 40W Laser Cutter

Specs

  • Laser Engraver Orion Motor Tech 40W Laser Cutter
  • Laser Type CO2
  • Engraving Area (in) 12 ✕ 8
  • Laser Power 40W
  • Hybrid No
  • Price (USD) $400

If you’re looking for a high quality laser engraving machine that can fit on your desktop, look no further than the Orion Motor Tech laser engraver. This compact machine offers an engraving area of 300 x 500mm. This laser engraving machine has a resolution ratio of 0.001 in 0.026mm/4500DPI, and operates at a maximum speed of 500mm/s. If you decide to use it as a cutter, it will run at 80mm/s.

What set the Orion laser engraver apart from others is the user-friendliness and low price of around $400. The Orion laser engraver operates with a 40W 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 engraving machine, there are other components you will likely need alongside it. The package also includes a smoke pipe, smoke fan, water pump, power wire, USB cable, and a USB dongle key.

Orion Motor Tech 40W

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Best Prosumer Laser Engravers

Laser Engraver Guide XYZPrinting Da Vinci 1.0 3-in-1

Specs

  • Laser Engraver XYZPrinting Da Vinci 1.0 3-in-1
  • Laser Type CO2
  • Engraving Area (in) 7.8 ✕ 7.8
  • Laser Power 350mW
  • Hybrid Yes
  • Price (USD) $700

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, 3D scanning, and laser cutting technology. Manufactured by the Taiwanese company XYZprinting, this printer is one of the more affordable options 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.

XYZprinting da Vinci 1.0 Pro 3-in-1

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Laser Engraver Guide Cubiio

Specs

  • Laser Engraver Cubiio
  • Laser Type Blue Laser Diode
  • Engraving Area (in) 3.9 ✕ 3.9
  • Laser Power 800 mW
  • Hybrid No
  • Price (USD) $777

The Cubiio laser engraver took Kickstarter by storm and created an immense public interest into the technology. It introduced some ingenious innovations that are particular to this machine. For one, users can control the machine wirelessly with an app that is available on the Apple Store and Google Play. The laser engraver itself consists of two units. The laser module that can be mounted onto a tripod to engrave onto immobile surfaces. By default the laser module is attached to a laser shield that protects your eyes from the laser beam and extracts toxic fumes and smells. Safety measures make Cubiio a great choice to do laser engraving with kids.

In sum, the engraving area is 3.9 ✕ 3.9 in (100 ✕ 100 mm).  Cubiio can engrave and even cut materials like card board, textiles, leather, and wood. You want to bring a little color into your life? The laser module is available in black, golden, red, and pink.

Cubiio

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Laser Engraver Guide SnapMaker

Specs

  • Laser Engraver SnapMaker
  • Laser Type Blue Laser Diode
  • Engraving Area (in) 4.9 ✕ 4.9
  • Laser Power 200mW
  • Hybrid Yes
  • Price (USD) $800

The Snapmaker is a 3-in-1 3D printer, laser engraver and CNC carver in a super-compact all-metal design. When its Kickstarter campaign launched in March 2017, the SnapMaker created a huge media buzz catapulting it to the position of the third most funded 3D printing project on Kickstarter. Switching between the 3 modules of the Snapmaker is easy.

Snapmaker offers the full laser engraving package. That means the software allows you to choose from three laser engraving modes: black & white, grayscale, and vector. However, be warned. The first two modes can take excruciatingly long, since at 200mW the laser module is comparatively weak. The maximum work area of this laser engraving machine is 4.9 ✕ 4.9” (125 ✕ 125 mm) – meaning you can engrave items the size of a smartphone. You can process a variety of materials with this laser engraver, wood, bamboo, leather, plastic, fabric, paper, and non-transparent acrylic.

In sum, the Snapmaker is a great laser engraver for those curious about the technology. But if you want to get serious about laser engraving, you should consider one of the more powerful alternatives listed here.

Snapmaker

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Best Professional Laser Engravers

Laser Engraver Guide TEN-HIGH 40W Laser Engraver

Specs

  • Laser Engraver TEN-HIGH 40W Laser Engraver
  • Laser Type CO2
  • Engraving Area (in) 15.7 ✕ 11.8
  • Laser Power 40W
  • Hybrid No
  • Price (USD) $2,229

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 ✕ 11.8 inches, and an engraving speed of up to 30mm 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.

TEN-HIGH 40W Laser Engraving Cutting Machine

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Laser Engraver Guide FABtotum Core PRO

Specs

  • Laser Engraver FABtotum Core PRO
  • Laser Type Blue Laser Diode
  • Engraving Area (in) 8.4 ✕ 9.3
  • Laser Power 2000mW
  • Hybrid Yes
  • Price (USD) $2,460

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.

FABtotum Core PRO

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Laser Engraver Guide ZMorph 2.0 VX

Specs

  • Laser Engraver ZMorph 2.0 VX
  • Laser Type Blue Laser Diode
  • Engraving Area (in) 9.8 ✕ 9.25 ✕ 3.3
  • Laser Power 2800mW
  • Hybrid Yes
  • Price (USD) $2,799

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.

ZMorph VX

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Laser Engraver Guide Triumph Laser Marker & Engraver

Specs

  • Laser Engraver Triumph Laser Marker & Engraver
  • Laser Type Fiber
  • Engraving Area (in) N/A
  • Laser Power 30W
  • Hybrid No
  • Price (USD) $6,550

This laser processing machine is designed with the idea that manufacturers to add serial numbers to their parts. Therefore, it is marketed as a laser marker, but it is capable of laser engraving just as well. Powered by a 30 watts fiber laser you can even process metals like aluminum, copper, gold and silver with ease. The included rotary attachment allows to laser engraver round objects like rings.

The laser is built for a lifetime of up to 100,000 hours giving you a high return for your investment. In case, something should be wrong with your laser machine, the manufacturer offers a free maintenance service and a one year warranty.

Triumph’s fiber laser engraver and marker is a great addition to any professional workshop.

Triumph Laser Marker & Engraver

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Laser Engraver Guide Epilog Laser Zing 16

Specs

  • Laser Engraver Epilog Laser Zing 16
  • Laser Type CO2
  • Engraving Area (in) 16 ✕ 12
  • Laser Power 30/40W
  • Hybrid No
  • Price (USD) $8000

Epilog has a vast product line consisting of differently sized laser engravers, from desktop to industrial. You can start off with their Zing Laser Series, which is their entry level desktop laser engraver range. The Zing 16 is both considered low-cost and high-quality machines. This line of machines uses air-cooled CO2 lasers promising a long lifespan and making them easy to maintain. If you require an exhaust tube, you can attach an air compressor to remove heat and combustible gases.

The Zing 16 offers an engraving area of 16” x 12” (406 x 305 mm) and is estimated to cost just under $8000.

Epilog Laser Zing 16

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Laser Engraver Guide

I. First, learn the basics of laser engraving technology. This section also introduces common applications and how it compares to traditional technologies.

II. Then, master challenges of designing for laser engraving. Here, you can delve deep into matters like different laser engraving materials and how to optimize your laser engraver.

III. The next part of this article examines what you need to look out for when buying a laser engraver and gives an overview of both desktop/home laser engravers and professional laser engravers available today.

IV. Finally, we introduce a few criteria that will help you to choose the right laser engraving service.

Laser Engraving Technology

Laser Engraver Guide How does Laser Engraving work?

Specs

  • Laser Engraver How does Laser Engraving work?

The high heat of the laser beam vaporizes the material thereby cutting into the part’s surface and physically removing material. This process leaves a cavity in the surfaces that is not only visible with a high contrast but also noticeable by touch. There are noteworthy differences in the depth of this cavity that varies between 0.02″ in metals to 0.125″ in harder materials.

Usually, the engraved areas become black. Multi-layer materials offer an alternative, as they enable to engrave other colors than black. By removing the top layers the lower layers become visible.

Another variant of laser engraving is relief engraving. The laser creates a deep engraving with distinct heights. This variant is beyond any doubt the most impressive, since the overall effect is that of a wooden sculpture. If you want to create a relief engraving, you need a grayscale design and set your laser to translate the different values into different heights.

Laser Engraver Guide What are typical applications of Laser Engraving?

Specs

  • Laser Engraver What are typical applications of Laser Engraving?

This process has become very popular for customizing parts made off metal, leather plastics, wood, glass, and acrylic. In particular, it is a great tool to add numbers, logos, images and serial numbers to parts.

Laser engraving is today a technology commonly used for producing promotional products like pens, signs, and displays.

Outside the maker scene, many consumers enjoy the possibilities of laser engraving to produce objects customized with their names. One of the most noticeably applications is engraved jewelry, like wedding rings.

Laser Engraver Guide How does Laser Engraving compare to traditional techniques?

Specs

  • Laser Engraver How does Laser Engraving compare to traditional techniques?

In short, the idea of “one tool fits all” applies. Laser engraving is a universal tool that can be applied to a wide range of materials. Meaning that you don’t need to buy dedicated tools for each of them.

Laser engraving is a money-saving technology. When parts are engraved using mechanical tools it is necessary to fasten them with clamps. This adds to the work hours and may damage the parts. Since laser engraving is a contactless technology that does not require fastening parts, you save not only time, but you also avoid the risk of damaging the parts.

Conversely, this also means that your tools like drills or cutters do not suffer from wear and need to be replaced saving you even more money.

Lasers engrave your designs with the highest precision onto the parts and can achieve an extremely high degree of detail. Moreover, since every design is saved as a file you can reproduce them at the same level of quality.

Traditional carpentry, wood-cutting and leather decorating are crafts that require long years of practical training to achieve mastery. Love it or hate it, but with laser engraving anyone can create items at a level of quality high enough to make a living! – Many people using laser engravings sell their goods on platforms like Etsy, Ponoko etc.

Compared to CNC engraving machines, laser engraving is not only faster, but you can draw on a larger number of font options and the end result is by far more legible.

How to Design for Laser Engraving

For the short read, peruse our six-step guide. If you want to delve in deeper, consult our in-depth dossiers that will help your improve your laser engraving results.

  1. First, make yourself familiar with the distinct effects raster engraving and vector engraving create on different materials. This allows you to design your part in way that is aesthetically pleasing and cost-efficient. – Learn about the fundamental differences between these two techniques.
  2. Wood is not the same as stone. You should also be aware of the different ways materials react to laser engraving. – Read the laser engraving materials guide to learn how to achieve what effect on the desired material.
  3. Next, create the design in a graphics program like Gimp, or Photoshop for raster files and AutoCAD, Illustrator, or InkScape for vector files. – Learn more about the software used to create laser engraving graphics.
  4. Transfer the file into the laser engraver and fasten the part on the work platform. Depending on the design and materials, you may use tape, but some laser engravers offer mechanical solutions.
  5. Choose the laser engraving settings according to the specifications provided by the manufacturer. Use presets to speed up this step of the process. – Read about the Do’s & Don’ts of how to maintain your laser engraver and achieve eye-catching effects.
  6. Run the laser engraver.
  7. Usually, it is not necessary to post-process laser engraving parts. If necessary assemble the part, i.e. attach chains, glue walls and components together. In short, work your magic.

Laser Engraver Guide Raster Engraving vs Vector Engraving

Specs

  • Laser Engraver Raster Engraving vs Vector Engraving

You can use both raster and vector files for laser marking, engraving and etching. However, depending on the intended use, you should choose which one you apply for your design.

Raster files (JPG, PNG etc.) are the go-to format for large engravings like fillet letters, images and stamps. If you want to engrave any image made with a camera, raster engraving is what you want to use. Just like on computer screens, the image is put together by gradually adding points to form any shape you can imagine. Sometimes this method is also called “area engraving”. This method is especially well suited to materials like acrylic because it lends a beautiful frosted finish with a distinct contrast. Avoid raster engraving large glass, stone, and ceramic surfaces, since the end results may be visually uneven.

Vector files (SVG, EPS etc.) are composed of lines that are traced onto the surface sequentially. If your design consists of minute lines and curves, then vector engraving is the appropriate method. Professionals also call this approach “scoring”, and sometimes it is also called “line engraving”. Vector engraving lends itself well to wood because the burned outline creates a stunning contrast with the warm surface of the material. It is less suitable for materials like acrylic, since the melted outline is only faintly visible. The video above illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of both methods.

For the best effect, it may be worthwhile to combine both methods. The final parts feature the evenly engraved surface from raster engraving and also the crisp outline created by the vector engraving. This effect works especially well on wood.

The difference between both methods can be a substantial cost saver even when you order only one piece from an online service. But how do you decide? As a rule of thumb, if your surface details consist of large, relatively simple shapes you should opt for vector engraving, as this is the quicker and thus more economic laser engraving method. However, if the design covers a large area that contains many intricate details, you should choose raster engraving method. However, ultimately you should decide based on what works best for your design!

Laser Engraver Guide Guide to Laser Engraving Materials

Specs

  • Laser Engraver Guide to Laser Engraving Materials

Laser engraving is so much more than fastening any material in the work area and pushing a button. Every material has its own quirks and idiosyncrasies that will sometimes help you achieve your design goal and sometimes make it hard on you. The following list will guide you through the properties of the most common materials.

Laser Engraving Leather

It is possible to laser engrave finished leather, producing a look similar to hot-branding. Avoid raster marking large surfaces, since the leather will turn powdery. Therefore, vector marking is recommended.

Since leather is a natural material, it may deform during laser engraving if too much power is applied.

Because of the many varieties of leather it is difficult to come up with a general rule for laser engraving it. Hence, there is no way around determining the optimal laser engraving settings for each kind separately. To this end test your machine with a grayscale matrix (see above).

Laser Engraving Paper / Cardboard

Because of the many varieties of paper and cardboard it is advisable to determine the optimal laser engraving settings for each kind separately. To this end test your machine with a grayscale matrix (see above).

Laser Engraving Wood

Besides natural woods there is also plywood, which has several advantages. This laser engraving material consists of several sheets of wood that are glued together. As a result, plywood boasts a raised mechanical resistance, water resistance and lightness. All these properties have made plywood a staple for builders, designers, artists, and craftsmen.

In terms of laser engraving, plywood has an additional advantage over natural wood. When cut into sheets, the latter reveals grains in alternating shades that stem from different kinds of growth during the seasons. These differences also translate into different laser engraved surfaces. Usually, the lighter areas will come out lighter and the dark areas will be darker.

As a rule of thumb, unless the desired look of your design is kind of zebra pattern, you will be better off using plywood that has a uniform surface.

In addition, you should always apply higher laser power when engraving hard wood. Only then will you smooth results.

To determine the optimal laser engraving settings, test your machine with a grayscale matrix (see above).

Laser Engraving Glass

The effects the laser has onto the glass surface can be manipulated using a number of practical methods.

Apply a moist paper towel to achieve a smoother surface finish and a white engraving result. Take care that there are no air bubbles or overlaps, because this would distort the effect. Once the engraving is finished the paper towel can be wiped off easily.

An alternative to paper towels is application tape. Like moist paper towels, application tape is an excellent measure against surface roughening. The same caveat concerning air bubbles and overlaps apply. However, the final engraving color is not a bright white, but looks grey. Once the engraving is finished the tape residue can be removed off easily.

But what to do when your laser engraver has not enough power to engrave glass? Even then you can achieve designs with high-contrasts! Simply mask the glass surface with tape. Then you engrave the design into the tape. Next, cover the revealed area of the tape with a thin layer of paint using a brush. After the paint has dried, peel the tape and remove the tape residue carefully.

Laser Engraving Stone

Experience shows that it can be piece of work to laser engrave stone. You will get the best results with polished stones. To avoid distortions of the laser engraving motif, try to use stones that have a flat surface. You can align natural stones with the laser by using modeling clay as a support. When you set the laser’s focus, apply an average value to achieve a uniform result

If your results are poor, consider changing the Z-offset value. This simple trick can significantly improve the result of your engraving. Many professional laser engravers report that hard stones are easier to process if you choose a negative Z-offset value of 1mm or even more. The physics behind this workaround are simple. The closer the surface to be engraved is to the laser, the more energy enters.

But what to do when your laser engraver has not enough power to engrave stone? Or, when working with extremely hard stones that yield no satisfying results? Even then you can achieve designs with high-contrasts! Simply mask the glass surface with tape. Then you engrave the design into the tape. Next, cover the revealed area of the tape with a thin layer of paint using a brush. After the paint has dried, peel the tape and remove the tape residue carefully from the stone’s surface.

Laser Engraver Guide Laser Engraver Software

Specs

  • Laser Engraver Laser Engraver Software

Raster Engraving

Files for use in raster engraving can be created in a many graphic programs. In fact, if you are reading this on a Windows, macOS or Linux PC, then you have a graphics program already installed with the operating system that will suffice for your basic needs.

Laser Engraver Software #1: Adobe Photoshop

Undoubtedly, Photoshop is the go-to raster image solution. Its mind boggling feature-set makes is not only popular among professionals, but a series of trimmed down versions for mobile devices are also suitable to consumers who wish to enhance their personal snapshots or make their feet wet in graphic design.

If you are looking for a free alternative to Photoshop, try GIMP.

Laser Engraver Software #2 GIMP

Created with GIMP

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free raster graphics editor that is considered by many to be on par with Photoshop. It features comprehensive image editing tools, like as transformation, selection, layer and masking tools, but also filters and brushes. Hence, this free and open source graphics editor is superbly equipped for creating raster engraving files.

Vector Engraving

Vector engraving files are created in programs that offer support for vector formats like AI, DXF, EPS, PDF, and SVG. In general, these softwares come with different tools to generate the necessary files. Depending on the machine you are using, a different setup is required. For example, if you want to combine vector engraving and raster engraving in the same design, it may be necessary to create separate files or assign different colors for each technique.

Laser Engraver Software #3: AutoCAD

First published in 1982, AutoCAD is one of the most popular CAD software available today. It’s large feature-set makes it a standard across a wide range of industries: architecture, engineering, graphic design, management, and others. Moreover, it saves its designs as vector files that can be used for laser engraving.

If you are looking for a free alternative to AutoCAD, try FreeCAD.

Learn more about this software for laser engraving: 2018 AutoCAD Free Download – Is There a Free Full Version?

Laser Engraving Software #4: FreeCAD

Designed around parametric modeling, FreeCAD is a solid free CAD software. It offers a modular architecture that allows plugins to be mounted to the core application. This means FreeCAD can be used in widely different fields like architecture, engineering, robotics, and CAM.

Learn more about this free CAD software: FreeCAD Tutorial for 3D Printing

Laser Engraving Software #5: Adobe Illustrator

Illustrator is Adobe’s go-to vector graphic software. The range of tools that this program offers is probably unsurpassed. On the flip side, it takes extensive training until you can fully leverage on Illustrator’s capabilities and make good on your investment.

If you are looking for a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator, try InkScape.

Laser Engraver Software #6: InkScape

InkScape is a free vector software that has been actively developed since 2003, so you safely say that is now a mature and reliable piece of vector software. It implements the complete SVG standard meaning your designs are not stuck in a proprietary format, but an open standard. Over the years the toolset of InkScape has grown substantially. Today, it includes handy tools like image tracing, i.e. you can convert a raster file into a vector file automatically. InkScape is available for free download.

Laser Engraver Guide Do’s & Don’ts

Specs

  • Laser Engraver Do’s & Don’ts

So, you want to know how you can improve your laser engravings? Here are a few tricks that will help achieve that goal.

Calibrate your Laser

There are a few hacks that allow you to get you started in no time. However, if you are earnest about #laser engraving#, then there is no way around measuring the focal point of your laser. We suggest that you test 10 to 15 increment of 1mm in the Z-axis. Prepare a series of files that contain a straight line and the value you are testing. Once, your series of tests is complete, compare the results. You want the laser engraving with the thinnest solid line. Use this value for your future laser engravings.

The same applies to testing the intensity of colors. Modern laser engraving machines can achieve a broad spectrum of shades. However, the appearance of the final engraving cannot not always be deduced by looking at the raster file. By laser engraving a grayscale matrix onto the desired material is an easy way to achieve predictable results, as you can “read” the intensity of shades on a scale from 0 (white) to 100 (black). Ideally, you should run this test for every material you want to laser engrave for the best possible results.

Avoid Smoke Stains

Image by geordie_h (http://www.instructables.com/id/10-Tips-and-Tricks-for-Laser-Engraving-and-Cutting/)

Laser engraving on materials, like wood and leather, can sometimes stain the surface surrounding the engraved area. While some makers like this “branded” look, it can be easily avoided. Protect the surface of the part using masking tape. The tape is so thin that it will not diminish the power of the laser much. If you feel that may be an issue, just increase the laser power a few notches. After the laser engraver is done, peal the masking tape off your part.

Keep your Laser Engraver Clean

Tidiness at the workplace should be a non-brainer. However, with regard to laser engraving we’re not merely talking about courtesy towards your co-workers. Materials like wood, plastics or rubber leave large amounts of dust that may cause unwanted results like discolorations, burnt debris or even distortions.
Install an exhaust system that has the necessary capacities. This will take a lot of weight of your shoulders. However, it will clean the entire machine.
Hence, you should clean the laser engraver regularly by hand. You can remove most of the dust with a simply kitchen-cloth.
You should also pay extra attention to the machine head and the laser lens. These components should be free from dust and smut at all times to avoid laser engraving mistakes.
In case your part is smaller than the work platform, cover the rest with paper. This simple trick will increase the efficiency of your exhaust system and save you a lot of manual cleaning.

Use Templates to Engrave Multiple Parts in One Session

Templates are safe and cost-effective way to laser engrave multiple parts in one process. They fasten the objects into fixed positions that are known to you and your laser engraving software. Hence, you are not bound to laser engrave objects one by one, but instead, you can process entire trays in one session.

Here are our tips for making your laser engraving process more efficient with templates:

Watch out for the volume of your workpieces. For thin objects flat templates are sufficient to keep them in place. However, thick objects like pens require thicker templates to keep them from rolling away.

In case you work with a large number of different template, make sure to write (or better laser engrave) the name of the graphics file in question on to the template. This will make it so much easier to match your tools in your daily work.

File small templates in folders to keep them save and organized. Simply laser cut holes and they will be quickly at hand.

How to Buy a Laser Engraver

These days laser engravers come in all shapes and sizes. You can even start out with a small desktop machine. But apart from the obvious difference in size, what do you need to look out for when choosing a laser engraving machine? Here is a list of criteria that will help you make up your mind.

Small Laser Engravers

Small laser engravers can be an excellent alternative to large industrial models. But this category of laser engravers has its own set of problems: the surface area that can be processed in these machines is much smaller – think a letter size part, although many machines offer only half that size.

Crowdfunding Laser Engravers

You should thinkt twice, in case you are eyeing a crowndfounding laser engraver. Laser beams can cause irreparable harm to your eyes and skin if they are not expertly contained within the casings. These kits cannot ensure the same level of safety as laser engravers that have been assembled by professionals and rigorously tested.

Our advice is that as a beginner you buy a machine that is already fully assembled. If you have already experience with laser engraving and know how to safely assemble technical devices then we hope that you are up to the task.

If the company behind your laser engraver should go bankrupt (not a rare event in the highly volatile crowdfunding world) you will be left without a supply of spare parts and expert knowledge for maintaining your machine.

Industrial Grade Laser Engravers

Industrial grade laser engravers are not only expensive to buy, they also entail high costs of maintenance. For example, the laser unit needs to be replaced every 5 to 6 years. In case you have bought an industrial grade machine, this is not a quick replacement that you can do by yourself with a screwdriver. No no, you have to send the entire device to the manufacturer.

The laser unit alone can cost up to 3000$, and on top of that you have to pay for the man hours it takes to install it. So, before you decide to invest thousands of dollars into an industrial grade laser engraver, make sure that you also have the money necessary for maintaining it.

Laser Safety

Watch out for laser safety! Class 4 lasers can cause serious damage when operated irresponsibly. Assess your needs carefully before you make a decision. you will sleep easier if you buy a machine that is less powerful, but still does what you need.

Each class of lasers requires better eye protection. Do your research and find out whether the laser engraver you have in mind, includes the necessary glasses. If not, any responsible manufacturer will proactively tell you what laser class is built into the machines to allow you buying the appropriate protective glasses in advance.

Power Supply

What kind of power connector does the machine require? Can you plug it into any socket in your office / workshop, or do you need a power line to operate it?

It’s clear that the laser unit takes a lot of power. However, some people are not aware just how much power the other components consume. The cooling and air exhaustion modules will make themselves felt on your electricity bill. So do the math and try to calculate, if the benefit of setting up a laser engraver in your office or workshop is worth the costs.

Cooling

Strong lasers require constant cooling, but there are important differences between the different solutions. How does the cooling unit of the laser work? Tubes that are made from metal/ceramic use air, and can last up to 5.5 years. However, they are substantially more expensive that cooling tubes made from glass. The latter use water as a cooling agent. The downside of this method is a great deal of inconvenience, since you need to place a bucket next to the laser engraver to catch the waste water.

Exhaust Air

Laser engraving makes a lot of mess. Large amounts of dusts are produced that can be harmful when breathed in. Hence, it is necessary to install an exhaust pipe to maintain a healthy environment in your workshop. This pipe requires a diameter large enough to remove all of the dust. Otherwise, the engraver remains a health hazard.

In addition, you should take into account that air filters produce a lot of noise that may distract you in case you are thinking of setting up a laser engraver in your office.

How to Use a Laser Engraving Service

Although over past few years affordable desktop laser engraving machines have become available, you may still prefer handing the execution of your design over to a professional laser engraving service. There is a wide range of manufacturing services on the internet that offer both 3D printing and laser engraving.

Using a laser engraving service quite simply takes a large burden off your shoulders: You don’t need to worry about the intricacies of positioning your parts correctly in the work area, focusing the laser, and all the thousand other things that could go wrong. – The services listed below will engrave your work pieces to perfection.

The downside is that the actual setup of your laser engraving project can become quite abstract. In order to work properly, the graphic files need to follow certain rules. This means specifically that you must upload your designs in the file formats this service supports. If you want to combine laser engraving with laser cutting, you also need to follow the color coding of the different processes to get the desired result.

Laser Engraving Service #1: Ponoko

This service provides over 100 materials to choose from, allowing you to make anywhere from 1 to 100,000 laser engraving products, parts, or prototypes. Ponoko also offers same day production and shipping, as well as design templates to ensure your idea is properly executed.

Laser Engraving Service #2: The Make Lab

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.

Laser Engraving Service #3: Laserage

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.

Laser Engraving Service #4: Sculpteo

Even 3D printing service bureaus like Sculpteo now offer laser engraving 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 engraving, Sculpteo is the service for you.

License: The text of "17 Best Laser Engravers of Fall 2018" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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