Check out our buyer's guide for the best laser cutters on the market. Plus an introduction to laser cutting, services, and materials.
The cutting process was one of the earliest processes to be discovered, which used a laser beam. Ever since its discovery in the 1960s, laser cutting has become an extremely common process in many industry sectors.
However, in recent years home and office laser cutting machines have become accessible and affordable. Once strictly used by industrial manufacturers, laser cutting is increasingly adopted by small businesses, product designers, makers, and even hobbyists.
In the following article, we’ll provide insight into the best laser cutters on the market – ranging from hobbyists to semi-professional machines.
We’ve also included a comprehensive guide to laser cutting, sharing everything you need to know about this technology before you make an investment.
Easily cut and engrave projects for your school, small business, or home with the Dremel DigiLab LC40. Learn more
The Glowforge Plus is a professional-grade laser cutter that is both easy-to-use and highly reliable. Compared to the Glowforge Basic model, the Plus offers upgraded components and increased laser power that makes it 20% faster. Learn more
The Orion Motor Tech 40W is our "Best Budget Pick for Laser Cutter/Engraver" in 2020. It's a compact machine with plenty of power for your money. Learn more
As laser cutters become more affordable, we’ve seen a significant shift in the consumer market. What was once a tool strictly for industrial purposes, you can now find laser cutters in schools, maker spaces, and even homes.
The spectrum of cutters ranges from budget ones to semi-professional and industrial-grade machines. Providing you with a broad overview, here are a few of the most popular desktop laser cutters on the market right now.
The Orion Motor Tech laser cutter is a high-quality laser cutting machine that can fit on your desktop. This compact machine offers a cutting area of 300 x 200 mm, a resolution ratio of 4500 dpi and a maximum speed of 80 mm/s when cutting.
The Orion laser cutter operates with a 40W water cooling laser tube and a high-precision stepping motor. It can cut through 2 – 3 mm, depending on the material, and you can utilize a variety of materials, including plastic, leather, wood, rubber, crystal, and more. What sets the Orion laser cutter apart from others is the low price of around $450.
However, as usual, with machines from this price sector, upgrading the hardware to obtain more optimized results, can be beneficial. Certain components that users tend to upgrade include a better exhaust fan, water pump, or even the laser tube.
If you’re looking for a laser cutter that lands somewhere in between affordable and professional-grade, the TEN-HIGH 40W Laser Cutter is as good as it gets. With its features, build quality, and great performance, it’s one of the best that you will find on the market at this price. It has a powerful 40W laser, an operating area of 300 x 400 mm, and a resolution ratio of 0.026 mm. On top, it features functions and controls such as red light positioning, temperature control, and flame retardant systems.
Most non-metal materials are supported, including solid wood, PVC, cork, plywood, density board, non-woven fabric, acrylic, and leather.
Ten-High also provides an instructional video, which will make setting-up and learning this laser cutter much easier; making it a popular laser cutter that is available for around $1,400.
Armed with a 45W CO2 laser tube, which provides high cutting power and precision of up to 0.025 mm, the Glowforge Plus is the middle ground between the well-loved Glowforge Basic and Glowforge Pro. It’s a machine optimized for home and office use, packing features like water cooling, HEPA filter, and an air compressor to blow away stray particles from the laser – preventing ignition.
It’s compatible with a wide range of materials, including leather, wood, acrylic, glass, fabric, cardboard, and can even engrave metal materials like anodized aluminum and titanium. With its powerful 45W laser tube, the Glowforge Plus model can cut through 10 -12 mm depending on the material. Making this laser cutting machine an ideal choice for prosumers and small business looking for a versatile and reliable laser cutter.
Compared to the Chinese-manufactured budget options that are in the $1,000 – $2,000 range, this machine boasts features that make it well worth the slight increase in cost – especially for those that want a plug-and-play experience.
This sleek, matte-black machine is an incredibly capable tool. Equipped with a 40W CO2 laser and a 500 x 300 mm cutting area, it can comfortably cut acrylic, wood, leather, and paper up to 7 mm. Upgraded versions come with an external water cooler or an air vent, but you should only invest in those if you’re going to be cutting or engraving more seriously – the vast majority of users will probably benefit most from just placing this machine next to a window.
But the standard LC40 version already offers many user-friendly features, such as built-in camera, intuitive touchscreen, and WiFi connection. If you need a machine for a home, classroom, or studio environment, this is one of your most solid options. With official UL-certification, this machine is fully at home wherever you are.
The TEN-HIGH 60W Laser Cutter is a powerful laser cutter that provides hobbyists with professional quality at an affordable price of around $4000.
This laser cutting machine is empowered with a large 400 x 600 mm cutting area and a 30 cm adjustable height. It operates with a 60 W CO2 laser with a wavelength of 10.64 micrometers. On top, it is also equipped with a front-rear double door that eliminates size restrictions, enabling the use of objects with unlimited length.
The cutting speed is about 30 mm/s, and cutting thickness is up to 0-5 mm on paper, cork, plastic, leather, or acrylic, and 0-3 mm on hard-wood.
It is strongly built with powerful features that also incorporate safety and security. Such as, an effective ventilation fan for exhaust smoke, a Blowing Flame retardant system that is used to prevent burning during the cutting process, a communication interface, and a temperature control system.
The company offers a YouTube video to help you set up the machine. If watching the video doesn’t help, you can always seek technical support. However, the installation is easy, so you shouldn’t have any problems after you follow the basic steps in the manual.
Epilog has a vast product line containing laser cutters, from desktop to industrial grade. The Zing 16 – their entry-level desktop laser cutter – offers an engraving area of 406 x 305 mm and can be equipped with a 30 and 40-watt laser, making it capable of cutting acrylic, plexiglass, wood, paper, cardboard cork, leather, fabrics, and textiles.
If you require an exhaust tube, you can attach an air compressor to remove heat and combustible gases. Another useful feature the Zing Series offers, ist the Red Dot Pointer. Since the laser beam is invisible, Epilog’s Zing Laser allows you to have a visual reference for locating where the laser will fire. Product layout was never easier.
The Zing Laser provides high-quality engraving and cutting, at a low cost, estimated to cost just under $8000. Making it the perfect desktop laser cutter for everything from home use to starting a business.
The Orion 80W Laser Cutter is a semi-industrial laser cutter that allows for high power cuts. It offers a 500 x 700 mm operating area and a surprisingly high-resolution of 1000 dpi, capable of handling a variety of materials such as wood, leather, rubber, and plexiglass. With its 2-phase stepper motor, it can achieve a top cutting speed of 1000 mm/s.
It’s easy to cut and engrave designs on any material with this laser. Plus it can cut as small as an English letter of 1.1 mm in size. With a position accuracy of 0.01 mm, you always get the quality and precision needed for your projects.
All in all, this company offers a top-quality machine that’s suitable for small businesses and industries. The laser is also relatively easy to setup. Remember though to make some room because it is a large product -sized 146 x 85 x 95 cm – and you also want to have enough space for the exhaust fans.
Full Spectrum Laser’s PS20 Pro-Series Laser System is midway between hobbyist and semi-professional use. Designed for industry-scale production and heavy usage output, yet at a reasonable price point; it is ideally suited for small to medium-sized businesses.
This 45 W CO2 laser-powered cutting machine offers an enclosed working-area of 508 x 305 mm, as well as front and back pass-through doors. Further useful features include an LCD touchscreen, in addition to an autofocus sensor, motorized Z-table control, air compressor, exhaust fan, and even a rotary accessory.
The PS20 runs on the easy-to-use RetinaEngrave v3.0 laser control software. This powerful, browser-based, software lives right on your laser and can be accessed using your favorite web browser. No download is needed. And it even can connect through a network (ethernet or wireless) without an internet connection.
It can cut up to 7 mm on the usual materials, such as wood, fabric, leather, acrylic, rubber and so on.
Plus, upgrades can be applied individually. Such as improving the cooling system with a refrigerated water chiller, or the exhaust system with a fume extractor.
The Mophorn 100W is an affordable laser cutter best suited for semi-professional or even industrial use in small to medium-sized businesses or workspaces.
The machine itself is made of high-quality material and has a sturdy well-thought-out design. Equipped with an industrial grade 100w laser head, it ensures reliable performance and durability. The lifetime of the CO2 laser tube is up to 2000-4000 hours.
With its large working area of 900 mm x 600 mm, sound absorption, heat insulation, high precision micro-stepping motor and high-quality reflector different materials such as wood, bamboo, plexiglass, crystal, leather, rubber, glass, etc. can be processed in detailed resolution up to 1000 dpi.
The digital control system, with multiple languages available, such as English, French, German, Italian, or Spanish, makes operating this machine intuitive, simple, and more convenient. CorelDraw, AutoCAD, and other advanced software are supported.
Want to learn more about laser cutters before you decide to invest in one? Keep reading through our 2020 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 low 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 compatible with the broadest range of materials.
This laser, created with neodymium-doped crystals, has a much smaller wavelength and higher intensity compared to CO2 lasers. Enabling the laser to cut 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, usually by presetting the laser 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 other 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.
If you don’t want to splurge on a desktop laser cutter or have a single 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 executed correctly.
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 also provides laser welding and drilling services.
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 the design up from scratch.
But with laser cutting technology, existing materials can 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 — therefore allowing for more design freedom and the ability to produce more complicated shapes.
Now that we’ve explained laser cutting technology, there’s one crucial 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.
Those are just a few popular uses for a desktop laser cutter, but there’s much more where that came from.
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 to follow specific designs. While these particular drivers are highly common in 2D design software, there is less support from 3D software.
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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 "2020 Best Laser Cutters" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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