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Overview of Laser Engraver Machine
Are you looking for the best laser engraver machine to take your at-home business to another level? We may have something valuable in store for you!
Whether you are a DIY enthusiast, an aspiring home-based business owner, or even a newbie in the tech field, you must have heard of laser engravers.
Laser cutting and engraving are emerging as a popular industry these days. It is not only demanded by product designers and small business owners to earn from their skill but even hobbyists to decorate their homes with their art.
With the rise in the popularity of laser engraver and cutter tools, you have many options to choose from. Choosing the best laser engraving equipment can be hectic, especially if you don’t know where to begin. But worry no more, as, in this article, we have provided a complete guide on the best ten laser engravers for beginners in 2022. Let’s get started!
Best 10 Affordable Laser Engravers for Beginners in 2022
I recently had the experience to buy a laser engraver for a friend. My takeaway from the whole searching process is: navigating all the possible options for the best laser engravers is extremely difficult.
To make the process easier for you, I have narrowed down the various options based on my research. Whether you want a budget-friendly laser engraving tool or are looking for one that meets your specific requirements for the material or usage, this list of the best 10 laser engravers for beginners in 2022 has something for everyone.
1. Ortur Laser Master 2
The first item on our list of the best laser engravers, the Ortur Laser Master 2, is also the cheapest option. The Ortur Laser Engraver 2 is extremely easy to set up; even a novice designer can handle it easily after a few trials.
The parcel consists of several pre-assembled components – and the assembly part is nothing complex considering it took a neophyte such as myself twenty-five minutes to assemble the whole thing.
The Ortur Laser Master 2 has a minimalist design; the laser module is installed on a square-shaped frame welded with extruded tubing. Moreover, it features basic mechanical hardware and a control board – the interactive interface offers a power socket, a USB port, and on and off buttons.
- Machine power: 20W
- Carving speed: Less than 3000 MM per minute
- Fully adjustable pixel accuracy
- Motherboard: 32 bits
- Carving area: X-400MM; Y-430MM
- Precision: 0.12 – 0.15mm
- Default Focal Length: 30MM
- Input Format: NC, BMP, JPG, PNG, etc.
- Operating system: Windows – XP, 7,8, 10, Mac OS, and Linux
- Control software: Lightburn software, LaserGRBL software
- Built-in G sensor cuts off the laser connection when the position of the machine is disturbed
The Atomstack A5 Pro is the perfect laser cutter and engraver to meet the needs of hobbyists and professionals. It is an efficient and flexible laser engraving equipment that provides beginners with a more professional interface to create mesmerizing artwork.
The parcel contains partly assembled components, screws and additional parts – all fully labelled according to an instructions manual. It took me around half an hour to assemble the whole thing and get it started.
You can engrave with the Atomstack A5 Pro on paper, bamboo, leather, wood, steel and certain plastics. It did a great job precision-wise, but I found that the results are a bit faded when you use it at high speeds.
- Machine power: 40W
- Weight: 3kgs
- Focusing method: Fixed focus laser
- Laser output power: 5 -5.5W
- Engraving precision: 0.01mm
- File format: NC, BMP, JPG, PNG, DXF, etc.
- Recommended print size: 410 x 400MM
- Operating system: Windows, Mac OS, Linux
- Control software: LaserGBRL, LightBurn
3. MakeBlock XTool D1
The Makeblock xTool D1 laser engraver is the perfect equipment for those who want to work on a large canvas. It can cut and engrave on a total of twenty-two materials, including cardboard to wood and even acrylic sheets.
Not only can you use the Makeblock x Tool 1 to engrave text, but also to carve images and sceneries. It comes with adjustable legs that can alter the height of the laser head when engraving on taller materials.
Furthermore, you can use the rotation device to carve cylindrical surfaces like balls or glasses. The Makeblock xTool D1 laser engraver is perfect for beginners as it offers a combo of accuracy, flexibility and safety.
- Machine power: 60W
- Maximum laser head height: 50 mm
- Laser spot: 0.08mm
- Routing speed: 160mm/s
- Laser module output power: 5W
- File type: SVG, DXF, JPG, JPEG, PNG, BMP, etc.
- Operating systems: Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS
- Control software: Laserbox software, Laserbox app
The next item featured on our list of the best ten laser engravers for beginners in 2022 is the OMtech 40W CO2. Manufactured by industry experts OMtech, the OMTech 40W is a cost-effective option for DIY enthusiasts.
It has a box-like construction, making it suitable for home use. It works on various materials, including wood, paper, stone, glass and leather. It offers various safety features like water-break protection, making it a beginner-friendly option.
Furthermore, the OM Tech 40W comes with an in-built exhaust fan for extracting smoke and laser fumes, making it a perfect laser engraver to use at home. The digital control panel with an LCD offers a user-friendly interface to beginners.
- Machine power: 40W
- Pixel resolution: Up to 1000 dpi
- Carving area: 12″ x 8″/ 300MM x 400MM
- Machine weight: 50.6 pounds
- Power supply: AC 110V
- Motor type: Stepper motor
- Working temperature: 40 – 104ퟀ�F
- Operating system: Windows 2000, XP, 7, 8, 10
- Control Software: Shenzhouyi, Laser Draw Software, CorelDRAW
If you belong to the class of people who wants to unleash their creative animal the moment they get inspiration, you need a portable laser engraver; and which is better to go for than the LaserPecker Mini Desktop Laser Engraver?
Half the size of your favorite soda can! It works on various materials like wood, paper, leather, cardboard, felt, etc.
Moreover, the LaserPecker Mini Desktop Laser Engraver has a durable and highly functional laser head – you can use it horizontally and vertically with no limits on the engraving height.
- Material: Metal
- Machine Power: 1.6W
- Laser power: 1600mw
- Laser range: 100 x 100mm
- Machine weight: 0.9500kgs
- Focal length: 190 – 200mm
Neje Master 2 is extremely efficient for engraving and cutting wood, leather, paper, cotton, felt, etc. Moreover, this engraving tool is extremely precise – it offers the best performance when carving intricate designs.
Other than that, what makes the Neje Master 2 a great option for beginners is that it comes mostly pre-assembled, so no need of going through comprehensive manuals figuring which component to attach next. It took me around eight minutes to set the Neje Master 2 for software.
The Neje Master 2 comes with software, but I found it to perform better with commercial software – I tried LightBurn. But other than that, it was a good investment overall.
- Weight: 1850 grams
- Supports 360ퟀ� engraving
- Engraving area: 100 x 120mm
- Motor type: Stepper motor 42mm
- Machine weight: 1850g
- Engraving precision: 0.01mm
- Maximum engraving and cutting depth: <8mm
- Operating system: Windows 7 and 10, Android, iOS, iPad, Mac OS
- Control software: NEJE software (can use commercial software as well)
MySweety 2 in 1 laser engraver is the perfect tool for those just starting with laser cutting and engraving. You can use it on various materials. Wood, paper, bamboo, plastic, stone, and leather are just a few of the materials you can engrave your name or company logo on at home.
The best part about the MySweety 2 in 1 laser engraver is that it comes in a sturdy casing and has a built-in heat sink and external fan. Moreover, it is capable of operating offline.
- Includes clamps to hold irregular materials in place
- Wavelength: 450nm
- Laser power: 5.5W
- Working temperature: 10 – 40ퟀ�C
- Input voltage: DC 12V
- Engraving area: 30x18x4.5cm
- Operating system: Windown XP, 7, 8, 10.
- Control software: GBRL
8. Twotrees TT-5.5S Laser Engraver
Another budget-friendly option from our list of the best ten laser engravers for beginners in 2022 is the Two trees TT-5.5S Laser Engraver. This machine can engrave on various materials, including wood, plastic, paper, bamboo, leather, glass and even metal.
It is a high-performance laser engraver and cutter that offer a wide engraving bed workspace. The Two trees TT-5, 5S Laser Engraver is fast, neat and efficient, giving you the precision you need.
- Machine power: 40W
- Laser power: 5.5W
- Engraving speed: 8000MM per minute
- Print size: 300x300mm
- Input file format: NC, DXF, BMP, JPG, PNG, GCODE
- Engraving precision: 0.01mm
- Laser spot: 0.08mm
- Operating system: Windows (XP/ 7,/8/ 10), Mac OS, Linux
- Control Software: LightBurn, LaserGBRL
Comgrow ROBO CNC 5W laser engraver consists of an ultra-fine laser that can easily engrave tough materials such as steel and ceramics.
The Comgrow ROBO CNC 5W doesn’t need a wired connection to operate – it works perfectly well in offline mode. It comes pre-assembled; you have to secure some screws in place, and the machine is ready to run.
Furthermore, you can transfer files from the CNC router using an SD card; no PC is required here as well!
- Machine power: 60W
- Laser power: 5W
- Weight: 7.7kgs
- Material: Aluminum
- Engraving area: 300x180x45mm
- Input file format: JEPG, JPG, PNG, BMP, PDF, DWG
- Operating system: Windows XP, 7, 8, 10, Linux
- Control software: GBRL
10. MathRose A5
The MathRose A5 laser engraver features a convenient metallic structure to assemble, repair, and upgrade. It is an extremely accurate machine that does a great job of carving intricate designs.
Moreover, the MathRose A5 laser engraver comes with a protective covering to ensure that you can walk into your room anytime without wearing goggles. This laser engraving tool comes with a one-year warranty, so you can rest assured to receive the full value for your investment.
- Machine power: 20W
- Weight: 4kgs
- Laser power: 4.5 – 5W
- Engraving accuracy: 0.01mm
- Input file format: NC, BMP, JPG, PNG, DXF, etc.
- Print size: 410 x 400mm
- Operating system: Mac OS, Windows
- Control software: LaserGBRL, LightBurn
5 Factors to Consider When Buying a Laser Engraver
Buying a cheap and affordable laser engraver could be a tough task since there are tons of merchants on the market, here are the most 5 important factors that you can consider before you spend money.
You have to buy something that you can afford, and your budget is critical in determining the type of laser engraving equipment you can buy. Even though the price might not directly dictate the quality of the machine, it should be noted that most high-value engravers are usually expensive. This doesn’t mean that cheap engraver and cutter tools are bad, but your budget is a great determinant in the decision-making process.
A device that offers quality and can engrave a wide range of materials will be automatically expensive. In this case, you should be prepared to spend more money. But you can also find a cheaper alternative that consumes less power and energy. the biggest price determinants include:
- Laser power
- Type of engraving material
- The engraving area
There is a wide range of cheap and affordable laser engravers for beginners in 2022. On the other hand, numerous software products are designed for use with the best laser engravers. However, not all of them are compatible due to different specifications and project requirements. For instance, if you need a software product for illustration that can be compatible with your machine, you should consider Adobe Illustrator and Inkscape. Adobe Photoshop will be a great option if you need photo-processing software, while PDF files are compatible with software packages such as Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat.
The type of material you intend to mostly work with determines the type of laser engraver you will eventually buy. Understand that there are several types of materials that can be engraved. They include plastic, wood, glass, metal, acrylic, and many others. However, not all devices can work on all these types of materials. Its, therefore, important that you choose equipment that’s compatible with your needs.
Engraving size matters since it affects how the laser can etch a material and influence its surface finish. Smaller sizes are important if you want less material, for instance, 0.001 inches. Before you invest in a laser engraver, it is important to evaluate your space availability.
I have seen some people who are interested in purchasing this device but advisors say they cannot operate one because of the size and weight – which can be an issue if the placement isn’t possible or convenient for accessibility reasons.
It’s possible to run into complications when using your equipment. A readily available customer support team is important in helping you to handle operational issues. That’s why you should consider choosing a best laser engraver from a reputable manufacturer with multiple channels of communication.
Laser Engraver & Cutter Guide for Beginner
In consideration of lots of users is still a beginner in laser engraving, so below is a comprehensive guide that will go over the basics of how laser engravers work, the different types available, and what you need to get started. So whether you’re just starting out or are looking for more information on using your laser engraver, read on!
What are Laser Engravers?
A laser engraver is equipment used to engrave permanent marks on surfaces. It etches anything, from wood, stone, marble, tile, cardboard, aluminium and even glass to create unique designs.
Laser engravers work by exposing a narrow laser to the material. The excessive heat of the laser causes the material to melt, burn and vaporize, resulting in a permanent abrasion-resistant engraving.
Moreover, the high precision of laser engraving equipment allows designing intricate details on materials without using multiple tools. Companies use laser engravers to etch serial numbers, logos in their products, but you can use it to carve your name or scenery on wood or metal.
What is a Laser Engraver Used For?
This engraving technology works on different surfaces and materials to create stunning masterpieces with high value. As a result, a laser engraver has a wide range of applications, including:
- Barcode creation
- Designing awards and trophies
- Creating electronic components and medical equipment
- Crafting commemorative and decorative annotations
Types of Laser Engravers
There are three main types of laser engravers, including:
CO2 Laser Engraver: It involves using carbon dioxide beams to penetrate the material. However, it has a low-efficiency level; hence it’s ideal for engraving and cutting non-metal materials such as paper, fabric, leather, and wood.
Diode Laser Engraver: it becomes quite popular with hobbyists and makers. The diode in this laser is usually an optoelectronic device that converts electrical energy to light, leading to coherent light with high intensity used to engrave objects.
Fiber Laser Engraver: It produces strong laser beams by pumping an extremely intense level of light via fiber optic cables. Note that these cables are normally doped with ytterbium to release high-capacity energy in the form of photons.
How Does a Laser Engraver Work?
A laser engraver vaporizes materials, generating fumes and leaving permanent engraved marks. This equipment utilizes a laser beam that acts as its chisel, precisely incising marks on material by removing a substantial material layer from its surface. The edge that’s left behind will have a premium quality finish on its surface.
The effectiveness of using a laser engraver is because it can hit all localized areas with a high energy level. This normally leads to the generation of high heat needed for the process of vaporization. The right laser engraving process depends on:
The type of material being engraved
The vaporization process that’s ideal for engravement usually depends on the ability of the material to withstand temperature. Below is an example of vaporization temperatures in degrees celsius of different materials:
- Zinc – 906
- Lead – 1750
- Aluminum – 2327
- Copper 2595
- Iron – 3000
What’s the Difference Between a Laser Engraver and a Laser Cutter
These two pieces of equipment are the same. However, a laser cutter is a type of laser that has been optimized to quickly cut through materials at faster speeds than an engraved machine. Besides that, a laser cutter has a higher cut standard but with a lower engraving standard.
Meanwhile, a laser engraver has lower laser power; hence, it cut effectively through the same thickness level as a laser cutter. While it produces a higher engraving standard, its cut standard is quite low.
What creates these main differences is the laser lens of the machine. An engraving machine has a shorter focal length, resulting in refined spot size, leading to high-quality engraving. Meanwhile, laser cutting machines have longer focal lengths that tolerate object height variations.
How to Use a Laser Engraver
There are two main steps involved:
I.Prepare the Material
There are two types of materials used with laser engravers:
Hardware: you need to prepare the material you can cut with the cutter, and this can be metal, glass, fabric, leather, cast acrylic, and wood, among others.
Software: this includes the application you will use to design the engraving. You need a computer program with vector graphics software, e.g., Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape, etc.
While preparing the materials, you can use a warning sign since certain materials such as wood, acrylic, plastic, and paper are highly flammable. Aluminum is also highly reflective. The aim is to create a soft operating environment.
Consider the machine’s settings, including power and speed. This depends on the type of material you will use and the effect you want to attain. For instance, glass might need high power and medium speed, while acrylic cutting may need high power and lower speeds. With some materials, you have to first experiment with the cutting. Use the software to draw your design or resize a pre-existing image, and then once everything is ready, go to File -> Print.
Prep your laser cutter for material placement by turning it on. After that, open the laser’s case and then place your material where you plan to have your cut. Note that the whole placement process would be easy if your laser cutter had in-built rulers. If you feel a little risky with the placement, you can adjust the bed. Note that there are different types of laser cutter beds, and they include:
Thick-plate welded bed: currently the best laser cutter bed with great lifetime and structure
Cast-iron machine bed: it may have a bubble inside, which may result in bed breakage
Square tube welded bed: it’s quite popular due to its cheaper cost. It has a high level of stress and a shorter lifetime, i.e., not more than five years.
Material for Laser Engraving
A laser tool can etch or cut material, and these are its main functional processes. So, the common materials used for laser engraving include:
Glass: it’s one of the topmost laser engraving materials. Laser jobs can be done on all glasses to produce esthetically pleasing effects. It could be wine glasses, bottles, vases, and mugs.
Wood: it’s a popular engraving material since it’s cheap and readily available. Besides that, you can use any type of wood for laser engraving and cutting to attain different results. The most common types of woods used for engraving include plywood, MDF, solid wood/solid timber, natural wood, chipboard, HDF, and veneers.
Marble and granite: these materials are mostly used for engraving photos, and this is because marble and granite are highly effective in yielding a great contrast engraved. For a better esthetic appeal, use dark-colored materials.
Bricks and stones: They are ideal for engraving items that will be exposed to different weather elements. This makes them ideal for engraving pieces used on memorial sites and outdoor patios.
Leather: this material, just like fabric, can be customized through engraving. Engraved leather is in high demand, and the most commonly engraved materials include natural leather, suede leather, synthetic leather, napped leather, and Alcantara leather.
Metal: all types of metals can be engraved, but the most common ones include: stainless steel, iron, steel, brass, aluminum, and silver.
Acrylic: It is a durable, reliable, and lightweight alternative to glass. There are two types of acrylic sheets, i.e., extruded and cast. As a result, they both respond differently to the engraving process. Cast acrylic sheets usually produce a frosty white appearance in contrast to the original material. On the other hand, extruded acrylic normally remains clear since it doesn’t produce much contrast.
What Machine Setting does a Laser Engraver Include?
Laser settings determine the output of the cutter. For instance, faster speeds usually indicate that the machine will have reduced exposure time with your material and vice-versa. The four main types of machine settings include:
The power setting controls the amount of energy level in the laser equipment. It’s worth noting that when the power increases, the energy levels in the laser increases. Generally, the energy required to penetrate a material normally varies depending on the type and thickness. Deeper cuts and perpendicular walls need more energy than thin conical shapes since more energy will be needed to remove more material.
Note: extremely high energy levels can lead to charred edges and smoke. Overall, less power leads to straighter edges and shallower cuts. Meanwhile, more power leads to wide edges and deeper cuts.
Speed affects how fast or slows the laser carriage will move around. There is a direct relationship between speed and power(energy). To get this, you need to understand that the longer it takes energy to be exposed to an area, the more energy that area will receive. We can, therefore, conclude that speed can be used to control the duration of energy is focused on a point.
A lower speed leads to slower cutting but with deeper cuts, while a higher speed leads to faster cutting but with shallower cuts since the amount of energy focused on a point in such a scenario is reduced. Understand that if the speed is extremely slow or too fast, your design could end up with undesirable edges.
The frequency setting of a laser engraver is usually given in Hertz (HZ). This decisive parameter indicates the number of laser pulses generated in a second. For instance, a CO2 laser can have a frequency range of 1,000 Hz – 60,000 Hz.
In some instances, the frequency can also be referred to as Pulses Per Inch (PPI). It gives you the ultimate control on how many times the pulses can be highlighted over a given object distance during the engraving or cutting process. Note that the higher the frequency, the more output pulses will be generated. This will eventually result in an overlap of the pulses, leading to a smoother cut.
However, a higher frequency value means more heat will be generated during the cutting process, which could lead to the charring or melting of certain materials. Meanwhile, a lower frequency means that fewer pulses will be generated in a spaced-out way, which usually leads to creating a perforated line.
The focus is important in providing the best cutting effect based on different material thicknesses. A laser beam needs to concentrate on a specific area by “focusing” light on it to facilitate engraving or cutting.
To adjust a laser engraver’s focus, you need to adjust down the Z-axis depending on the material thickness you are using. Simply measure the thickness of the material you want to engrave and then go ahead and adjust the engraver’s backup depending on the attained level of thickness. You can focus a laser cutter using a single Len or multi-lens optic, which usually depends on the diameter of the free aperture and the focal length.
How to Build a Laser Engraver
If you have a spare Arduino and a DVD drive, then you can create multiple DIY laser engravers. To ensure that you find a technique that suits your needs here is one of the simplest DIY options to consider:DIY Laser Engraver with RGB.
It’s one of the most affordable and best laser DIY projects that you can do. With this technique, you need an Arduino, RGB controller, laser safety glasses, two old DVD drives, MDF, screws, and hot glue. You need to start by preparing the basic structure, e.g., cutting the MDF to better position the cables and LEDs. For a cleaner appearance, you can encase the laser equipment.
Step 1: lay the equipment’s basic structure on the drawing board
Step 2: draw the life-scale design of the support side pieces
Step 3: get the rails out of the DVD drives
Step 4: create the X-axis support plate from the two MDF layers. The support plates have to adapt to the DVD driver rails’ shape. You can use the basic wood glue to join the two pieces. But before you do this, ensure that you have effectively sorted where the laser’s cable will go through to the motor.
Step 5: create a room for the RGB’s LEDs. Note that the LEDs have to be hidden in between the MDF pieces. If possible, use a knife to dig smooth groves for the cables and LEDs to go through. This will also create the perfect channel for your X-axis’ motor cables.
Step 6: Get thin wire. Since the grooves won’t be very wide, you need a thin wire to connect the LED. You can use ethernet or USB cables to get the thin wire.
Step 7: Paint your Laser cutter and wrap everything up! If you have time, you can reinforce the structure of your device with more durable material.
If you did some research, there are still other DIY techniques that you can consider implementing, including:
DVD Drive to CNC Laser Engraver
DIY Arduino Mini Laser Engraver
Pocket Laser Engraver
DIY Wireless Laser Engraver
Anyway, Below is a video to show you: How to make CNC LASER engraver DIY from DVD drive
What Software Can Be Used for Laser Engraver and Cutter
With the right software, laser engravers and cutters can be great. Cutting and slicing through materials with a concentrated light beam might appear simple, it to get the precise product design requires the use of high-quality software.
It’s a control and editor software package. Lightburn is used to import a wide range of bitmap and vector graphic image formats. This software allows you to create new art, edit, and arrange your vector graphic. It’s highly efficient for use with a laser engraver since you can easily send your file directly to the machine.
- Works with a wide range of common image formats and vector graphics, including AI. DXF, SVG, GIF, PNG, PLT.
- A native application that’s written for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS
- Allows you to create, arrange, and edit new vector shapes in the editor.
- Multiple powerful features such as welding, node editing, offsetting, and Boolean operations
- It has several passes, speed, power, dithering mode, cut order, brightness, and contrast.
This is a free laser engraving software designed for DIY laser engravers. Rated as the most sought-after Windows GCode streamer, you can use this software to load or stream your GCode path to engrave pictures, images, and logos. Its unique features are enhanced because it was specifically developed for a hobbyist laser engraver and cutter.
- Powered by user-defined buttons
- Ideal for image engraving with vectorization, dithering, and grayscale conversion.
- GRBL configuration for import and export
- Offers real-time projection and job preview
- Offers different color scheme optimization for use with various safety glasses
- Has homing button, resume button, feed hold butting, and GRBL reset button
It’s free and open-source software popularly considered the most effective alternative to Adobe Illustrator. Its popularity is aided by the fact that it’s constantly evolving and improving user experience when dealing with laser engravers.
- Its native format is the scalable vector graphics (SVG)
- It offers a royalty-free type of graphics formatting- markup language, i.e., you can use commands to create your unique designs
- Runs on all OS platforms with equal ease, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS
- Has clones, pencil tools, shape tools, and text tools for object creation
- Facilitates object manipulation through grouping objects, transformations, raising and lowering operations, layers, and alignment and distribution of commands.
- Fill and stroke with pattern fills, path markers, color selector, and dashed strokes, among others
- Offers text support with text in a shape, multi-line text, text on a path, and letterspacing, among others.
It’s currently rated as the industry-leading vector graphics software. With Adobe Illustrator, you can easily scale down or up your artwork for mobile screens or billboard size screens. Premium design starts with adobe illustrator, and with this software, you can create web graphics, logos, packing, and icons, among other things
- Sharp at any scale: this allows you to easily bring your ideas to life
- Smart and fast: the software is powered by the Adobe Sensei AI that allows you to create design content quickly. Note that you can easily recolor your work with a click or opt to create custom effects!
- Enhanced 3D effects: give your vector drawings those unique 3D looks by playing with lighting options, extruding, and rotating the design in a 3D panel
- Automatic font activation: this feature automatically searches and activates all the available Adobe fonts
How Do I Create Designs for a Laser Cutter?
How can you effectively create quality designs for your laser cutter? Regardless of your professional status, an entrepreneur or an engineer, you can manufacture products with great designs at low costs with high precision and speed using a laser cutter. But a key thing to note is that laser machines follow specific design guidelines to meet quality requirements and design precision.
Use the appropriate software to create the vector files
At the start of the design operations, all laser cutters need vector files. You make such files using Inkscape or adobe illustrator. The common vector files can be in the formats such as. step, .ai, .eps, and .dxf among def. others.
Use a finished size to scale the design
Before you can finally use the design with the laser cutter, you should first ensure that the finished size is scaled. For instance, if the product is meant to measure 10 inches squared, its design needs to have the same measurements. If that’s not the case, the product will end up with inappropriate proportions.
Submit the final design to the cutter
Specifically submit the final design ONLY to be cut the laser. Any additional information such as gridlines, comments, marking, and extra notes should be completely removed as they don’t make part of the final product.
Bridge the design
New creators often forget to connect the design. Bridging is important since it helps to ensure that your shapes are preserved in the primary material. Overall, adding bridges is important in allowing the laser to precisely cut the design and keep it together without missing out on the important parts.
Understand that laser machines can’t process texts, and if there are any, you should consider converting them into outlines or shapes. This is a simple process, and you can do it by hovering the cursor over the text and then choosing the editing bar with an active text box.
Delete Open Shapes and Intersecting Lines
Laser cutters can’t work with unfinished shapes or those that are open. So, all your designs need to be self-contained and complete. If that’s not the case, the end product will be totally different from what you envisioned in your design.
Besides that, all intersection lines should be removed since this will be treated as an overlapped design. Leaving a design with intersecting line means that the laser cutter will cut any lines in the design, resulting in the loss of important lines and damaging the whole product design.
Use Large Cutouts
It is generally recommended that your cutouts be at least bigger than 1X the thickness of the material used. Smaller cutouts are generally inefficient in the cutout process since the laser cutter may fail too effectively. Besides that, this equipment treats small designs as delicate.
Consider the Design Material
So, which material is ideal for your design? This is a critical aspect in creating laser designs for your cutter since the performance of the material matters. In most cases, laser cuttings are made using stainless steel, copper, cold/hot-rolled carbon steel, and aluminum brass.
More laser cutter design creation information can be found by watching YouTube videos such as:
Design Tips for High-Quality Laser Cuttings
To create design cuttings like a pro, here are a few tips to help you:
- The type of design file format you need: To prepare a laser cutting design, create a vector file. Unlike a PNG or JPG image made of pixels that will lose their original quality when resized. However, a vector file won’t lose its properties.
- Type of software: Two types of software work with laser cutting, i.e., 2D or 3D. 2D software is ideal for graphic designers who create banners and logos. But this would only be ideal for flat objects. 3D software is ideal for engineering and mechanical projects.
Types of 2D Software
- Adobe Illustrator
Types of 3D Software
- Autodesk Fusion
- Autodesk Inventor
Consider the type of material and its thickness: several materials can be used to create laser designs. Acrylic is known for its waterproof characteristics and great flexibility, and cardboard is an affordable material ideal for project presentation. Additionally, the thickness of the material plays an important role in the design, and generally, the thickness ranges between 1 to 10 mm.
- Eliminate line overlapping: consider the minimum length between two cutting lines because if the lines are too close, the laser beam will melt the material.
- Connect the essentials: assemble the nodes, edit the edges of the slots, etc. But at the end of your design creation, ensure that you highly enrich your design.
A rotary attachment is a type of device that’s plugged into the laser cutter to facilitate engraving on rounded objects. Generally, a laser cutter is designed to operate straight down. As a result, it can’t effectively engrave on the bottom and sides of an object. But as the laser fires, the rotary attachment makes it possible to revolve around the object, thereby allowing you to perfectly engrave your design around the object.
But when it’s the ideal time to use a rotary attachment? For this plugin to work properly, the object needs to be placed symmetrically around the tall-axis from top to bottom. This suits the profile of wine glasses, water bottles, and rolling pins.
If the object isn’t perfectly round, the engraving can be skewed due to the object falling off the rotary attachment. This is because the center of mass will keep on shifting as the object rotates. For efficiency, the object’s line of symmetry needs to be consistent. Besides that, rotary attachment problems can be caused by object unevenness.
A qualified staff member should only use this type of plugin for effectiveness. Besides that:
- It’s advisable to run the initial test with zero power and high speeds to determine if the object will rotate properly.
- If you are using a glass object, exercise caution.
- Don’t be tempted to use soap on the object to enhance the rotation since this will easily result in the object quickly slipping off your rotary attachment plugin.
- The object should be sealed before being placed in the engraver, i.e., remove any water and dirt
- Effectively set up the working space, including the height, which should be the full circumference of the engraved object.
Laser Engraving Safety Precaution
The use of a laser engraver can be quite dangerous and toxic to your health. To protect yourself from the fumes and beams, here’s what you need to do:
Laser Beam Protection
Lasers can cause significant damage to your eyes. For safety purposes, you must consider wearing laser safety glasses. When choosing such a protective tool, you should consider glasses that directly complement the type of laser engraver you are using.
This should be easy since laser information can be found in the instruction manual. This includes information such as the optimal density and wavelength range, usually nanometers. Alternatively, you can also consult with a laser safety officer. Ensure that you wear your laser glasses during the engraving process and only take them off once you have stopped using the equipment.
Laser cutters easily generate fumes, particulates, metal fumes, and vapors from substrates that may be highly toxic. It’s important to wear Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) when operating a laser cutter. Besides that, workshops with these tools must have well-fitted filtration systems, which is important in reducing the chances of health hazards caused by toxic fumes.
To keep up with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), laser cutting workshops should have fume extractors that comply with the stipulated protocols. Fume extractors are ideal for such workplaces since they help to extract dangerous fumes from the air, protecting you against exposure to heavy metals and toxic particles.
Potential side effects of laser fumes exposure include:
- Metal fume fever: this is usually caused by zinc fumes released when cutting certain steel alloys. Common symptoms of zinc fumes include aches, coughing fits, flu, and fever.
- Irritation: chemical exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, mouth, and noise.
- Toxic chemical buildup: over time, the toxic fumes accumulate in the body leading to unwanted chemical reactions. This might eventually result in lead poisoning and kidney problems.
- Exposure to carcinogenic compounds is quite prevalent, especially when there is hexavalent chromium. It’s a dangerous particle that can result in cancer. Besides that, multiple research studies indicate that this nasty particle can immediately result in several side effects, such as skin sores, irritation of the nose, mouth, and eyes.
Laser machines, especially those that involve CO2, usually give out dangerous fumes, which is why these devices need to be vented. You should therefore consider working in a well-ventilated space. While modern laser engraving systems are designed with exhaust ventilation systems that keep the insider of the laser cutter as well as the air around the laser safe, ensure that you open doors and windows for free airflow.
Other additional safety measures include:
- Utilizing proper equipment storage: your protective glasses should always be stored in an individual case and a safe unit. This will help to minimize the chances of exposure to contaminants and eliminate scratches.
- Follow the stipulated laser engraving protocols: ensure that your facility complies with laws and regulations regarding the use of laser cutters in workshops.
- Use warning signs: if there are a lot of human movements in your workshop, use warning signs. These should be easy-to-read signs correctly placed and designated locations such as entries.
- Always clean up the clutter: remove the flammable materials and debris accumulated after using a laser cutter. Besides that, don’t remove the material from its cutting bed immediately; wait until it has cooled down.
How thin Can a Laser Cutter Cut?
A laser cutter is designed to cut into materials of various thicknesses. Besides that, you can operate it in a wide range of cutting conditions to effectively attain materials of different thinness or thickness. One of the fields where this equipment is widely used in the medical field, in refining medical tools.
Through laser pulse mode, it’s possible to attain finer features with high tolerance and different sizes. Fine lase can effectively cut a thin width of 20-30 microns. Generally, it’s possible to attain an extremely high dimensional control by routinely adjusting the laser to +/- 0.001 inch. In medical cutting, it’s possible to focus down the laser to 0.001-inch diameter. This effectiveness is enhanced because laser cutting doesn’t depend on touching any material part.
Additionally, no mechanical force has to be exerted during the cutting process on the material. There is no drag or push effect that can have a negative impact on the thinness of the material. But understand that when the cutting accuracy is less fine, the cutting speeds are rapids and vice-versa.
How Long Does a Laser Engraver Last
Most laser engravers in the market have a lifetime of around 30,000 hours, but you can still find good equipment with over 35,000 hours, and this translates to more than 15 years if used properly.
Can You Make Money with a Laser Engraver?
Yes. You can use such equipment to make personalized product designs, lettering, and logos. In a world where everyone is trying to be different, this can be good for a business that wants to create unique items. Customization helps to increase the value of a product, so you can use it to generate a handsome profit. Laser engravers earn a reasonably good salary, and due to their wide application in different industries, you are guaranteed income.
Laser Engraver vs. 3D Printer
For creatives, getting machines that ultimately meet your needs is important. So, should you get a laser engraver or a 3D printer? Both tools are designed to inspire creativity and allow users to learn new skills. So, choosing one can be quite a complex process.
3D printers are used in additive processes since they provide an efficient way of adding or using materials to create a different item. With a 3D printer, you will create something new from scratch, e.g., jewelry, prosthetic bones, and even parts of buildings!
Meanwhile, the design of laser engravers is based on subtracting. To achieve new shapes and designs, some materials have to be removed. So, what are the advantages of a laser engraver and a 3D printer?
A laser engraver is ideal for angular projects and those that need flat layers. Meanwhile, the benefit of a 3D printer is that it can be used to create irregular and wholesome 3D objects right from scratch.
A laser cutter and 3D printer may be used during different stages of the product creation process. for instance, you can use a 3D printer to make affordable product prototypes before you finally move to full production of the product. Meanwhile, you can use the laser cutter to refine the product’s appearance during the final stages. Note that some people also use the 3D printer during the final stages of product development.
When creating prototypes and objects, a laser cutter is faster. Instead of using a printer to derive small shapes out of wood, it might take your cutter a few cuts to get the job done. It takes time to use a 3D prototype since you first have to generate the shape out of its filament, which will also lead to additional operational costs of the material.
Filaments have to be used to create a 3D-printed object, and as a result, they may not be effective in creating the ideal functionality or esthetic appeal of the output. But the filament can still be treated to change the object’s appearance. With a laser cutter, you are guaranteed a wide range of material compatibility, and as a result, you can experiment.
Even though laser cutters are more efficient, they are generally more expensive than 3D printers. So, if you are looking for a cheaper alternative, you should consider a 3D printer, and spending more to get a laser cutter guarantees you reliability.
Laser Engraver vs. CNS Router
A CNC router is a computer-controlled machine used for cutting, drilling, and milling materials. Generally, it’s similar to standard milling machines, but you automate it by using a computer numerical to control the tool paths.
Laser engravers and CNCs operate similarly, but the difference lies in how the cutting process usually occurs. A laser engraver relies on heat to effectively generate the product’s desired shape, and this is a high-energy light beam focused on a specific part of the material. On the other hand, the traditional CNC usually carves a design out of a product.
When it comes to modern wood cutting, what’s the advantage of a laser cutter over a CNC router and vice-versa?
A CNC router can be easily adjusted along the Z-axis, up and down, to cut precise depths that are easy to control. This means that the height of the CNC router’s cutter can be adjusted on some wood surfaces to become easier to control.
CNC routers are ideal for designing products that need rounded corners. If the operator has the right technical know-how, then the tool can highlight an outstanding level of craftsmanship. The only problem is using a CBC to create sharp angles since it has a radius limitation. Besides that, cutting labor is more intensive.
The carved nature of CNC routers helps eliminate the chances of discoloration on the surfaces or edges of the wood surface. Besides that, you have better control over the true dimension of the object’s depth, and you can conveniently work with thicker wood pieces.
Lasers act like automated routers, but instead of carving the wood away, these devices use a high-energy beam of light to burn through the wood material. As a result, they provide high precision cuts, and this sometimes feels like working with a magic marker with a finely-tipped pen.
Since engravers burn through wood, they produce clean, sealed, and crispy edges. However, you must be prepared to deal with downsides such as burning discolorations that can leave unwanted marks on the wood. However, burning is great since it helps seal the edges, thereby minimizing the chances of wood extraction and expansion.
There are only two types of depths you can create with a laser on wood when it comes to depth. You have a chance to use the engrave or cut option, and this is quite a huge limitation since you can’t use a laser cutter to create various multi-depth cuts that are detailed. For versatility, you can only stack your layers on top of each other, and this is after the laser has cut/burned through them.
All these differences help set these two machines apart and help you find the ideal areas where they thrive.
Individuals and businesses can greatly benefit from laser engravers. These devices are designed to create permanent and precise engravings on a wide range of materials and applications, and this usually leads to the generation of customized, high-value products.
There are several types of engravers, and each is designed to offer unique benefits. Your preferences, as well as budget, will determine the best equipment that suits your needs. However, you need to be careful when using such equipment since laser engravers usually emit fumes and particles that can result in health hazards.