Until recently, laser cutters were something only found in industrial setups.
They were expensive, difficult to operate, and had high maintenance costs.
However, with technological advancement, desktop laser cutters have become affordable and accessible for hobbyists and small businesses.
At an affordable price, you get a laser cutter capable of etching, engraving, and cutting.
This guide lists the best and most reliable laser cutter options in 2023.
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Best Laser Cutters in 2023: Tested and Ranked
I evaluated the laser cutters based on various performance parameters like build quality, laser power, type of laser, material capability, and many more to give you a comprehensive idea of which to go for.
1. xTool D1 Pro-Best Laser Cutter in 2023
xTool is a popular laser cutter brand that has gained popularity for its capable machines.
D1 Pro from xTool is a powerful diode laser cutter available in 10W and 20W laser power options.
It provides a work area of 16.9" x 15.3" (430 x 390 mm) and can house workpieces with a maximum thickness of around 2".
xTool D1 Pro has an all-metal body and weighs around 11 lbs.
Furthermore, its sturdy aluminum plates and steel timing pulleys enable D1 Pro to achieve a high cutting accuracy of around 0.004".
It uses belt drives to transmit the laser head along X and Y axes while providing a maximum translational speed of around 945 IPM (24,000 mm/min).
Although both 10W and 20W laser modules can be used for cutting various materials, the 20W module provides greater power and is better suitable for laser cutting applications.
In a single pass, the 20W xTool D1 Pro can perform through cuts in 0.39" basswood and 0.31" black acrylic.
Apart from cutting, it can also be used for different engraving materials, and its powerful 20W laser beam can oxidize metal surfaces to produce colored laser engravings.
xTool provides an optional rotary attachment to engrave curved objects, and their optional leg raisers give enough clearance to accommodate the rotary roller under the laser module.
Watch the following video for a hands-on review of the 20W variant of xTool D1 Pro.
xTool D1 Pro has various safety features, such as instant stop on flame and motion detection.
Its 4-way limit switches prevent extreme movement of the laser module and help position the laser along X and Y axes.
D1 Pro comes with dedicated xTool Creative Space software and is also compatible with LightBurn software.
xTool D1 Pro comes with a 12-months warranty, and you can contact their customer support team via email.
You can find a complete review of this product at xTool D1 Pro Laser Review.
2. Ortur Laser Master 3
Ortur Laser Master 3 (OLM 3) is the latest release from Ortur. It features a modern open-frame design with dark gray color.
It has an overall footprint of 23.1" x 25.9" and a 15.74" x 15.74" work area. The frames are made of aluminum and are rigid.
Ortur has integrated most electronic components, including the controller, within the frame providing a futuristic design.
OLM 3 is powered by a 10W diode laser that can work on wood, fabric, acrylic, paper, leather, plastic, foam, anodized metal, rubber, etc.
In the following video, I review and test the performance of Ortur Laser Master 3 on various materials.
I cut 2mm thick black acrylic with the settings Ortur claimed on their website. I also engraved an aluminum card at a speed of 5,000 mm/min with full power.
OLM 3 is belt-driven along the X and Y axes. It can achieve a maximum speed of 20,000 mm/min.
Along the Z-axis, the machine is not motorized, and you'll have to set the laser focus manually.
Ortur Laser Master 3 relies on the TMC2209 stepper driver for sensorless homing, but the issue is that as the gantry hits the frame, there is a sudden load spike on the motor.
The machine supports WiFi, TF card, and USB connections. The firmware is loaded onto the memory card, so it must be plugged into the device for proper operation.
OLM 3 is compatible with LightBurn, LaserGRBL, and Laser Explorer software. Ortur has also released new software for Ortur Laser Master 3, OLM3 Web Control. It is a web-based control software.
Unlike most diode laser machines, OLM 3 has an on/off lock integrated into the machine frame for an extra layer of safety.
In terms of support, Ortur provides a 1-year warranty for Ortur Laser Master 3.
For a detailed review of OLM 3, check Ortur Laser Master 3 Review and Test.
When buying Laser Maser 3 from Ortur's website, use the code 80FORJAS to save an extra $80 over the sale price.
3. xTool P2 CO2 Laser
xTool P2 is 55W CO2 laser machine. It is a robustly built machine with a metal chassis and an outer shell made of ABS plastic.
It has an enclosed setup with a top lid with magnetic locks to ensure secure usage.
The work area of the machine is 26.7" × 14.1" x 3", with a total footprint of 39.4″ × 25.1″ x 10.6". The work area is illuminated with LED lights, providing excellent visibility during use.
One of the most impressive features of the xTool P2 is its passthrough capability, allowing you to slide long workpieces through the machine's work area for cutting or engraving.
Unfortunately, you'll have to buy their automatic conveyor feeder separately to feed the workpiece automatically.
The machine's X and Y axes are driven by belt-driven transmission, while the Z-axis uses a motorized leadscrew drive to provide autofocus capability.
This transmission provides the xTool P2 with a processing accuracy of 0.01mm and a speed of 600mm/s.
xTool P2 comes equipped with an air pump and water pump, which includes an air-assist system that allows you to adjust the air pressure from 2.175 - 21.75 psi.
Additionally, the machine features a water level and temperature sensor to monitor the water supply.
The machine also has an exhaust fan and a massive radiator with three fans at the back to provide better performance.
The xTool P2 supports xTool Creative Space (XCS) and LightBurn control software, allowing you to work with file formats like SVG, DXF, JPG, JPEG, PNG, BMP, etc.
xTool Creative Space is compatible with Windows, MacOS, and iPadOS, while LightBurn works on Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
The xTool P2 comes with a one-year warranty, and you can upgrade this warranty by purchasing xTool Care's extended warranty service.
I've personally tested the xTool P2 on various materials, and you can read my detailed review of P2 to see how it performed.
4. OMTech K40
Orion Motor Tech or OMTech, is headquartered in California and is well-known for producing reliable laser engravers of various ranges.
The 40W laser engraver is an affordable entry-level machine from OMTech that can engrave on materials like acrylic, glass, Delrin, leather, ceramic, fiberglass, anodized aluminum, plastic, cork, and more.
Although its CO2 laser head is more powerful than most diode laser engravers, it cannot be used to engrave on metals as the wavelength of CO2 lasers is not readily absorbed by metal surfaces.
Depending on the material you are processing, you can engrave at a maximum speed of 1000 ipm.
The maximum speed is based on straight-line transmissions so the actual speed will be far less.
OMTech K40 has a 12" x 8" work area and a footprint of 32" x 20" x 10" with a weight of around 51 lbs. You can place it on most work desks.
It can house workpieces with a maximum thickness of around 2.5".
The machine is completely enclosed, making it safe to operate and it has a transparent window on the top to let you view the engraving process.
It has a control panel that you can use to set laser power and view laser temperature. It also features an emergency stop button to stop the laser immediately in case of emergencies.
You can achieve a maximum engraving resolution of 1,500 dpi using recommended settings.
The laser head is a 40 W CO2 unit that has a lifespan of 2,000 hours when used at low power settings and can work for around 400 hours when used at maximum power.
CO2 laser tubes produce a laser beam that is not visible to the naked eye, making it difficult to position the workpiece on the workbed accurately.
However, to overcome this, OMTech DF0812-40BG comes with a red dot pointer to indicate the engraving area.
OMTech K40 is a feature-packed machine and has a water pump to cool the laser head while in operation.
It also has a ventilation fan on the inside to remove the fumes created while laser cutting.
For controlling the engraver OMTech provides LaserDRW on a USB drive. You can also use it for converting your designs into G-code.
It can work on Windows OS computers and supports formats like JPG, WMF, JPEG, TIF, BMP, EMF, and PLT.
OMTech K40 has a 2-year warranty which is a testament to its build quality. However, the warranty on the laser tube and power supply are only for 6 months.
The customer support is excellent, they have a US-based customer support team that you can reach via phone call or email.
Overall, if you need a laser engraver that is reliable and requires very little tinkering to make it work, OMTech DF0812-40BG does a neat job.
Has an effective work area of 12 x 8 inches
2-year manufacturer's warranty
5. Full Spectrum Laser Muse Core-40W- Best Laser Cutter for Businesses
Muse Core from Full Spectrum Laser is a 40 W desktop CO2 laser engraver/cutter that has professional capabilities.
You can engrave on workpieces with a maximum dimension of 20" x 12" and a thickness of 2.5". You can also remove the workbed to accommodate thicker workpieces.
Muse Core has a footprint of 32.3" x 20.3" x 8.5" and looks like a desktop printer with a sleek look.
It can cut materials like acrylic, fabric, leather, paper, rubber, and wood with a maximum thickness of ¼' and engrave on materials like coated metals, glass, and stone.
The laser module uses a 40W CO2 tube with a resolution of 1,000 dpi.
You can customize Muse Core while purchasing and add on several accessories like a water pump, air compressor, rotary engraver, exhaust fans, and additional lenses.
It is a completely enclosed machine that adds to the safety and has a 7" touchscreen on the top to fiddle with machine parameters.
For controlling the machine, FSL provides their custom software called RetinaEngrave v3.0 which is an all-in-one software that allows you to do everything from designing to controlling.
It has features that are at par with dedicated design software programs and is highly capable software.
The software is hosted on the machine itself and you can access it by connecting to the machine using a WiFi or ethernet connection.
You can use Chrome, Safari, or Edge browser to use the software and it can run on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS computers.
Full Spectrum Laser is headquartered in Las Vegas and has a US-based customer support team, and they provide technical assistance to their customers via phone and email.
The Muse Core laser engraver/cutter comes with a warranty of 1 year, which can be extended to 2 years at an additional cost.
If you are looking for a laser engraver/cutter for your business or small shop, that requires less maintenance and has good speed, the FSL Muse Core is a good option to consider.
6. Glowforge Laser Cutter and Engraver
Glowforge is an American laser engraver brand based in Seattle and is known for its robust CNC engraver/cutter.
Glowforge Plus is the mid-range model. Apart from Plus, they offer a basic version and a Pro version.
The Plus version and Basic version can work on workpieces with a dimension of 19.5" x 11" and the Pro version allows you to slide through a 19.5" wide workpiece of infinite length.
All three versions have a footprint of 38" x 20.75" x 8.25" and allow you to work on materials with a maximum thickness of 2" (0.5" with tray).
The Plus and Basic versions come with a 40 W CO2 laser tube and the Pro version has a 45 W laser tube.
There is a difference in linear speed between the models, the Plus version is twice as fast as the basic version, and the Pro version is thrice as fast.
It can be used for making various laser cutting and laser engraving projects with materials like wood, fabric, leather, Delrin, plexiglass, cardboard, rubber, paper, and cork.
Additionally, it can engrave on glass, stone, marble, ceramic tile, Corian, anodized aluminum, and titanium.
The linear motion components are made of extruded aluminum and use stepper motors for moving the axes.
It comes with an internal air assist system, thereby eliminating the need to purchase an additional compressor for air assist.
You can interface Glowforge with your Windows PC, Mac, Linux, or mobile devices over a WiFi network and it requires an internet connection to function.
Glowforge has two inbuilt cameras that allow you to place designs over your workpiece with a precision of 0.001 inches.
The web-based software is compatible with PDF, SVG, JPG, PNG, and other file formats. However, if you want to use DXF files you will need to purchase Glowforge Premium.
An interesting feature of Glowforge is that the software can automatically scan drawings and print without the need for additional design software.
The Pro and Plus versions come with a twelve-month warranty and the Basic has a six-month warranty.
The documentation provided is excellent and will help you greatly in setting things up initially.
Glowforge has a US-based customer support team that you can reach via phone or email.
Overall, it is a great package that offers excellent quality cuts and engravings, suitable for businesses and light production.
7. Comgrow COMGO Z1 10W - Best laser cutter for beginners
Comgrow COMGO Z1 is a compact laser engraver/cutter that is feature-packed and lets you take on laser engraving jobs on a budget.
There are two variants for the COMGO Z1, a 5 W model and a 10 W laser model.
If you want to cut through wood with a maximum thickness of 5mm the 5W version is sufficient for you.
The 10W version will allow you to cut through wooden plaques with up to 10 mm thickness.
You can engrave on wood, leather, cardboard, acrylic, coated glass, stainless steel, and other metals that are coated with paint.
It has a work area of 15.7" x 15.7" with a footprint of 22.64" x 22.64" x 8.07" and is light enough to be picked up and moved without help.
The frame is made of aluminum and is rigid with a strong build quality.
For linear motion, COMGO Z1 uses a stepper motor on the X and Y axes paired with a belt drive mechanism.
The Y-axis uses two stepper motors on each side of the gantry to ensure accurate movement of the wide gantry.
The Z-axis needs to be adjusted manually based on the height of the workpiece.
The adjustment is easy as it has a fixed focal length of 20 mm and comes with a red box to let you set the Z-axis height quickly.
You can do it by placing the red box on the workpiece and moving the Z-axis all the way down till it touches the box.
Additionally, it comes with a roller accessory that allows you to engrave on cylindrical workpieces like a soda can.
The laser head uses an LD-FAC unit that produces a spot size of 0.08mm x 0.08mm, which lets you engrave really fine lines. Additionally, it has an engraving resolution of 1,000 dpi.
One advantage of using an LD laser unit is that it is not as sensitive as CO2 laser modules and hence the maintenance and upkeep of the machine are easier.
It uses a 32-bit control board and you can control it using LaserGRBL or LightBurn laser control software.
It works on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux computers and is simple to operate.
You can import PNG, JPG, JPEG, BMP, and G-code files and engrave them onto workpieces using the software.
It has a g-sensor onboard that detects any abnormal movement of the machine and powers off the laser to prevent any mishaps.
There are a good number of instructional videos on the internet to help you get started with engraving using COMGO Z1.
Comgrow is a Chinese brand and the support is based in China, and you can contact them over email for any technical assistance.
A detailed review of this product can be found here– Comgrow Z1 Laser Engraver Review
What Type of Laser Cutter Do You Need?
Laser cutters are generally available with three types of lasers: CO2 laser, fiber laser, and diode laser.
Although all laser cutters work in a similar way, there are significant differences in the types of materials they can cut.
CO2 Laser- For non-metal workpieces
CO2 lasers generally have a wavelength of around 10600 nm, which is readily absorbed by organic materials. However, it is not suitable for applications involving metal workpieces.
Although very high-powered CO2 lasers (above 500W) can be used for performing through cuts in metals, they are not recommended for laser engraving metals.
Generally, CO2 lasers with a power rating of over 40W can be used for various small-scale applications involving cutting/engraving of materials like paper, leather, fabric, cardboard, glass, etc.
Apart from that, it can also be used for etching coated metals like anodized aluminum, laserable brass, painted metals, etc.
Fiber Laser- For metal workpieces
Fiber lasers used in laser cutters generally have a wavelength of around 1060 nm, which is readily absorbed by metal surfaces, making them ideal for applications involving cutting/engraving metals.
These lasers are not suitable for processing non-metals, except for certain plastics.
A fiber laser with a power rating of over 20W is ideal for marking or engraving different types of metals, whereas a power rating of over a few 100 watts is recommended for cutting applications.
Therefore, a fiber laser cutter can be used for applications such as making custom engraved knives, engraving jewelry, cutting and engraving pet tags, keychains, engraving name plaques for trophies, etc.
Diode Laser- For metal and non-metal workpieces
The diode laser is the most versatile laser with wavelengths ranging from 450 nm to 980 nm, making it suitable for both metals and non-metals.
However, diode lasers are generally available in comparatively low-power options than CO2 and fiber lasers.
This limits their applications to small-scale businesses and DIY projects.
A 20W diode laser can be used for cutting various materials like paper, wood, glass, fabric, etc., and can be used for engraving almost any metal.
Apart from that, there are various laser engraving projects that you can make using a low-powered diode laser.
Although diode lasers are not significant in cutting or engraving transparent surfaces, covering the workpiece with black paint or masking tape can help overcome the limitation and produce clean engravings on them.
Therefore, diode laser cutters are recommended for DIY users and small-scale businesses where a low budget is preferable over cycle time.
Software Required for Operating a Laser Cutter
Operating a laser cutter generally requires two types of laser software: design software (CAD) and control software.
Design Software (CAD)
The design software, as the name suggests, is used to prepare the design file that replicates the final output in a virtual interface.
Depending upon your application, the design file can be a raster or vector file.
A raster file is similar to a typical bitmap image, such as a photograph, that consists of tiny pixels which make up the image.
This type of file is generally used for engraving applications, and enlarging a raster file will result in a loss of detail.
On the other hand, a vector file consists of lines and curves based on mathematical equations.
These images are generally used for laser cutting and engraving applications where hairline thick cuts are required.
Unlike raster images, a vector image can be rescaled without affecting the quality of the image.
Some of the most commonly used CAD software are Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, CorelDRAW, etc.
Control software is used to set different laser parameters for the cutting or engraving process.
This software takes in the design file exported by CAD software and provides different options to set the cutting sequence of design elements, the optimal laser power, the required cutting speed, the frequency of the laser, etc.
Although these software programs are meant to control different parameters of the laser cutter, they also provide the ability to draw basic geometric shapes and letters.
Some of the popular laser control software are LightBurn, LaserGRBL, EZGraver, LaserWeb, etc.
What Can you do with a Laser Cutter?
A laser cutter is a capable machine that can be used for making various cutting and engraving projects that sell.
Depending upon the type of machine you own, a laser cutter can be used for making different craft projects from materials such as paper, cardboard, wood, leather, and even metal.
Although industrial applications require powerful laser cutters, the laser cutters mentioned in this article can also be used for making DIY and small-scale projects.
With a capable laser cutter at hand and good design skills, you can customize already existing products with unique designs and sell them on platforms such as Etsy, to earn profitable deals.
Some of the popular laser cutting and engraving projects include custom design engraving on clothes, personalized leather accessories, laser engraved acrylic bed lamps, laser cut wooden gift items, signboards, laser engraved photographs, etc.
Laser Cutter vs Engraver
Laser cutters and laser engravers are subtractive machining tools, similar to CNC routers, that remove the material from the surface.
However, in a laser cutter, the amount of material removed is significantly higher than in a laser engraver, and that allows you to cut all the way through the workpiece.
Whereas, a laser engraver only removes a thin layer of material from the top surface to leave a marking on the surface.
Another significant difference between the two is the power level.
Cutters require high-powered laser tubes compared to engravers and therefore are noticeably more expensive than engravers.
Furthermore, the development of diode lasers has introduced cheap laser engravers that are ideal for beginners and DIY enthusiasts.
Theoretically, you can use a laser engraver as a cutter if you were to run multiple passes over the same line and change the focus each time.
But doing so is highly inefficient and hence the need for a laser cutter that can cut through in a much less number of passes.
Another significant difference is the type of file used for the process. You can use image files for engraving and it is a relatively easy process that can be done in a single pass.
Laser cutting typically requires you to have a vector image of your design and can require multiple passes with varying depths to cut through the material.
A laser cutter is used when you want to completely detach parts of the material from stock like in the automobile industry where parts of vehicles are cut out of large sheets of steel.
You use a laser engraver when you want to print something onto a solid surface like the serial number on automobile engines and the serial number on guns.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What can a 45W laser cut?
A 45 W laser can cut through wood, leather, acrylic, cardboard, and similar materials. However, the thickness of the material it can cut depends on the hardness of the material.
A typical 45W laser can cut through a 0.25" thick wooden workpiece. However, cutting thick wooden materials using lasers will leave burn marks on the cut surface which would require sanding off.
What materials cannot be cut on laser cutters?
Low-powered CO2 lasers like 40W lasers cannot cut through metal workpieces, they can only engrave on coated metal surfaces.
You also need to consider the laser safety factors when choosing the material as some materials that can be cut on lasers also produce toxic fumes and hence should not be cut on a laser cutter.
For example, PVC emits chlorine gas, ABS emits cyanide gas; HDPE, Polystyrene foam, and Polypropylene foam tends to burn when cut using a laser.
Can you laser cut MDF?
Yes, you can. But it would also depend on the type of MDF you are using. MDF boards can sometimes have metal and sand particles in them, which can affect laser cutting. If you want to laser cut MDF you must choose good quality MDF boards that have fewer undesired particles in them.
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