Do you need a Cricut or a Laser Cutter for your work? This article will help you decide.
Both machines are used to cut different materials, but their cutting capability differs depending on the material and their thickness.
The difference between Cricut and laser machines is in their working and cutting capabilities. Cricut machines physically cut materials using sharp blades, whereas laser cutters use a focused laser beam to cut materials without making direct physical contact. Cricuts are popular for craft cutting while Lasers are used in manufacturing.
This article compares Cricut and laser cutters in detail by looking at their differences in various aspects and applications.
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Difference Between Cricut and Laser Cutter
|Cost of Machine||Comparatively lower||High|
|Ease of Operation||High||Comparatively lower|
|Maintenance and After-work||Low||High|
|Machine Configuration||Printer-type configuration||Flatbed configuration|
|Operational Safety||Good||Requires special safety equipment|
Cricut is actually a brand that makes cutting plotter machines while Laser Cutters can be from any brand.
Cricut is the most popular brand for cutting plotter machines.
In the laser cutter market, Glowforge is similarly popular among hobbyists and small businesses.
Even then, other laser cutter brands like FSL, Boss laser, Trotec, xTool, Atomstack, OMTech, etc., also have a vast user base.
In the laser cutter industry, no brand has complete dominance like Cricut in cutting plotter machines.
What Materials can they Cut?
Cricut machines are best for cutting heat-sensitive materials like vinyl, leather, thin plastic sheets, paper, etc., which otherwise will warp or burn when processed under a laser.
Apart from that, laser cutting of materials, such as vinyl, can produce harmful fumes that can damage the laser equipment and harm the operator.
Whereas Cricut is best suitable for cutting soft materials without the risk of producing harmful fumes, eliminating the need for a fumes extraction system.
|Cricut||$160 - $400|
|Laser Cutter||$300 - 5,000|
Laser cutters are costlier than Cricut machines in almost all aspects including initial investment, and maintenance.
This is because of the complex optics and laser sources used on laser machines. They are much costlier than the cutting blades used on Cricut.
Cricut machines are generally priced between $160 - $400, but laser cutters can cost anywhere from $300 - 5,000 or even more.
It depends on the machine's configuration and cutting capabilities. Diode laser machines are some of the most affordable laser machines you can get.
Ease of Operation
|Software||All-in-one Software||CAD, CAM, and Control Software|
|Machining Parameters||Blade depth and cutting pressure||Laser power, speed, frequency, resolution, etc.|
Cricut machines are comparatively easier to use as they do not involve complex machining parameters and have fewer safety concerns.
Both machines require a computer system to feed in the design and execute the cutting process.
Therefore having basic knowledge of CNC machining can give you a quick start at operating these machines.
However, being comparatively easier to use, Cricut machines do not involve a steep learning curve and you can start making your projects after performing a few test cuts on different materials.
Cricut machines come with dedicated software that walks you through the operation, further simplifying the operation of the machine.
Whereas working with laser cutters requires adequate knowledge of CAD, CAM, and control software to operate them.
Although you can find such all-in-one software for laser cutters as well, using individual software for CAD, CAM, and control provides greater flexibility and control of the process.
Apart from that, learning about the working principles of these machines will help you quickly troubleshoot any errors and work more efficiently.
The main challenge for beginners is in optimizing cut settings based on the material.
In the case of Cricut machines, blade depth and cutting pressure are the two important settings you must dial in.
Finding these settings can be tricky at first, but with repeated tests, you can find the right settings. Most manufacturers will provide a chart with some common materials and their optimal settings.
Cricut also provides various presets for cutting different types of materials.
Compared to Cricut machines, laser machines require more accessories for their operation. This includes air filters, a honeycomb workbed, a rotary roller, safety glasses, an enclosure, an air assist, etc.
You can use a fire detector and an E-stop switch to enhance the safety of working with laser cutters.
On the other hand, Cricut machines do not support any accessories to enhance their operation.
Maintenance and After-work
|Wear and tear of Equipment||High||Low|
During the cutting action of laser cutters, it leaves behind burn marks and fume stains on the machine parts like the work table, lens, etc.
These need to be regularly cleaned and maintained for a laser cutter to operate effectively.
Sometimes you might even need to process the burned edges of the workpieces further to get good results.
In the case of Cricut machines, the dust, fibers, and other leftover workpiece materials from the job can get into the mat and blades, causing errors during the cutting process.
Apart from that, the physical cutting action of Cricut results in wear and tear in the long run.
Because of their burning action, laser cutters require much more maintenance, but they don't experience as much wear and tear as Cricut machines.
Cutting plotters are primarily available in two different configurations.
Some come with a flat workbed, while others use to have a printer-type configuration where the material is moved along the Y-axis by friction roller wheels.
All the machines from Cricut have a printer-type configuration.
In the case of the laser machines, they have a flatbed configuration because the laser beam used for cutting has a stable focus plane.
So, a flatbed-type design lets it properly focus the laser beam on the cutting plane.
How do they work?
The major difference between a Cricut and a laser cutter is how they cut materials.
Laser cutters use a powerful laser beam to burn and vaporize materials to make the cut. It is a contactless cutting technique but leaves behind a burn mark on the cut surface.
Cutting plotters like Cricut cut materials using a sharp blade. Since the cutting tool comes in direct contact with the workpiece, it's not a contactless cutting technique.
In common, a Cricut and a laser cutter machine use CNC technology to operate. The cutting head on these machines is connected to an electronic transmission system controlled by computers.
This allows them to do more accurate and repeatable jobs than any manual cutting techniques.
Comparatively, laser cutters are more dangerous than Cricut machines because of the powerful laser beams they use to cut through the workpiece.
The laser beam produced by laser cutters is hazardous, and you need to work with these machines with proper protection devices like laser safety glasses.
Also, you should be aware of different laser safety risks, hazards, and control methods for a safe operation.
Cricut machines are primarily used for cutting thin sheet workpieces like paper, felt, leather, vinyl, plastic sheets, and other fabric materials, making Cricut ideal for art and craft applications.
You can use a Cricut on projects like custom stickers, labels, stencils, ornaments, cards, iron-on t-shirts, etc.
If you want to work with a wide variety of materials, including glass, acrylic, wood, metals, different types of plastics, etc., a laser cutter will be the best bet.
They can also cut thicker materials and can work with intricate details. A Cricut machine is not the best for such jobs.
Laser cutters and Cricut machines provide various advantages over traditional cutting techniques, provided that you use them according to their applications.
When looking for the right machine for your application, it is strongly advised to refer to the type of materials you want to cut, cutting speed, work area, etc., to make an informed purchase.
Note that these machines work with gadgets like computers, tablets, mobiles, etc. You need to be comfortable with using these devices and the software to operate them.
If you are a beginner, you will need to research a lot about these machines to operate, repair, and maintain them in working condition.
However, as you learn to use them, you can work on many different projects and even start a business to earn extra money.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Glowforge better than Cricut?
Both Glowforge and Cricut are good machines, but among them, the best option will depend on the type of projects you work with. Glowforge is a versatile machine. It uses a CO2 laser to cut or engrave different materials like wood, acrylic, glass, paper, leather, glass, coated metals, etc. Comparatively, Cricut is better at cutting thin heat-sensitive materials like vinyl, plastic sheets, leather, fabric, paper, etc. If you are looking for a better option in terms of price, Cricut machines are much cheaper than Glowforge laser machines.
Can you cut wood with Cricut?
Yes, you can cut thin wood pieces on the Cricut machine. You can only cut wood on the Maker model of the machine. The Explorer and other older machine series can't cut wood. To cut wood, you need to use their knife blade cutter attachment. Note that you can only cut wood pieces up to 1/16" thick.
Can you engrave with Cricut?
Yes, you can engrave using a Cricut machine with the help of a special engraving tip the manufacturer provides. You can use it to engrave on acrylic, plastic, leather, and other similarly soft materials.