If you're wondering about the things you can make with a laser engraver, then this guide will give you an overview of what's really possible.
They are great value-adders and can be used for many different projects out of materials like paper, wood, leather, acrylic, rubber, fabric, glass, and more.
With a laser engraver, you can remove thin layers of material from the surface to create beautiful and intricate designs on various types of materials and use it to make markings, signs, and decorative pieces. You can also use it to customize different items to give them a personalized appeal.
What's in this article?
- Wood projects using laser engraver
- Paper and cardboad projects using laser engraver
- Leather projects using laser engraver
- Acrylic projects using laser engraver
- Rubber projects using laser engraver
- Fabric and textile projects using laser engraver
- Metal projects using laser engraver
- Glass projects using laser engraver
- Plastic projects using laser engraver
- Other Projects
- Final Thoughts
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Wood Projects Using Laser Engraver
Wood is one of the widely used laser engraving materials because a lot of people love wood products and also wood is quite easy to work on.
Laser engravers can give a good output on hardwoods, veneers, walnut, cherry, MDF, plywood, other similar wood, and wood composites.
Wood being an organic material doesn't always have uniform characteristics.
Its color, grain density, and sap content differ drastically in different woods.
For engraving applications, you'll need to use a CO2 laser with at least 40W of power to work on solid wood and other composite wood like MDF.
With a 40W laser, you can achieve a speed of 0.4"/sec for cutting a 3mm thick wooden board.
With a low-powered laser, it will take longer and multiple passes.
The depth of cut of the engraving depends on the cutting speed and power of the laser.
Laser Cutters are similar to laser engravers, but in laser cutting, you pass the laser beam throughout the width of the material.
If you are planning to do cutting operations on wood, you'll need to have a wood laser engraver or cutter with at least 20W laser power. Having a powerful laser also helps you do engraving operations faster.
There are several wood suitable for engraving and cutting with laser. A wood like maple has high resin content and gives a dark burn while those like walnut give only a light wood burn because it has a low resin content.
With wood, you can make many personalized projects like engraving images, name tags, furniture, signboards, engraved boxes, coasters, and much more.
Paper and Cardboad Laser Engraving Projects
A laser engraver can easily cut/engrave paper and materials of similar thickness. It can be used on hard papers and cardboards to make many different creative projects.
For engraving on paper you'll need to have a 25W CO2 laser, and For cutting, you will need a laser with at least a 40 W power rating.
Yes, you can cut paper with a 25W laser power, but it'll take almost double the time of what a 40W laser power takes.
With a 40W laser, you can achieve a speed of 3.1"/sec for cutting a sheet of paper.
While working with paper it releases Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), It has to be removed from the work area through an exhaust.
The most common projects worked on paper and cardboard are tearable tickets, puzzles, invitation cards, paper arts, polygon objects, boxes, book covers, etc.
You can create different custom-designed projects made of laser-cut papers for interior designing and other visual arts as well.
Leather Laser Engraving Projects
Laser engravers can engrave on real and faux leather.
You can engrave logos, patterns, and any other design onto the leather.
However, you should avoid using faux leather made of PVC as it can produce hydrochloric gas which can damage the lens on your laser engraver.
To cut leather you'll need to use a laser with a minimum power of 40W, anything lower than that is not recommended.
With a 40W laser, you can achieve a speed of 0.6"/sec for cutting monolayer leather sheets.
Low-powered lasers have to be run at a slow speed to reach deep enough to cut.
Continuous laser exposure of a point in the leather can cause heat buildup and fire.
Engraving leather with a laser is far better than using some sharp tool.
When the laser beam burns the leather, the gaps and borders of the cut get filled with burned residuals.
As the gaps get filled there is less chance of fungal buildup in leather and it can last much longer.
Compared to other materials, leather shows off your design well in any color.
Even laser engravings done on black leather are extremely pleasing and easy to notice.
You can read a detailed guide on engraving or cutting leather using laser here - Laser Cutting and Engraving Leather.
Acrylic Laser Engraving Projects
Though acrylic is classified as plastic, they have some properties which make them unique. They are lightweight, stiff, and have good strength.
Acrylic is easy to work with but it's more vulnerable to scratch than glass. There are many anti-scratch coating available to overcome this problem.
Acrylic of dark colors is generally easy to work with than lighter colors as dark colors don't reflect much of the laser light.
If you want to work on a light-colored acrylic, you'll have to spray it with removable black paint before engraving to make them less reflective. You can wipe off the residual paint from the material after engraving them.
A 40W laser is powerful enough to work on acrylic. With that power, you can do both engraving and cutting operations on a 3mm acrylic sheet.
By using a 40W laser, you can achieve a speed of 0.6"/sec for cutting a 3mm thick acrylic sheet.
With acrylic, you can make coasters, table lamps, boxes, signboards, key chains, and much more.
You can read a detailed guide on engraving or cutting acrylic using laser here - Laser Cutting and Engraving Acrylic.
Rubber Laser Engraving Projects
The most commonly made rubber projects on laser engravers are rubber stamps.
You can make smooth cuts on a 2.3mm rubber with a 30W laser power. You'll have to adjust the power and speed depending on the quality and thickness of the rubber.
With an 80W CO2 laser, you can achieve a maximum speed of 1.1"/sec to cut a 3mm rubber plate.
After engraving, you'll have to clean the laser lens with q-tip cotton and isopropyl alcohol. It will clean the black fume stain stuck to the laser lens after the engraving process.
Using a laser engraver, you can work with rubbers like foam rubber, silicone rubber, synthetic rubber, natural rubber, microporous rubber, and oil-resistant rubber.
You can work on different projects such as sign making, flexographic printing, office supplies, school supplies, and much more.
To turn these ideas into a viable business you need to have a well-thought-out business plan. A step-by-step plan for your laser business can be quite handy.
Fabric and Textile Laser Engraving Projects
With the power dialed down to the perfect sweet spot for the fabric, you can customize clothes and other textile products with different designs.
A laser engraver can work with a vast range of fabrics like denim, fleece, microfibre, canvas, cotton, and more.
For general-purpose fabrics, you'll need a CO2 laser with laser power anywhere between 25 -150 W.
Using a CO2 laser power of 150W, you can cut smooth fabrics at a speed of 26"/sec with a resolution ratio of 0.0125mm.
Be cautious while working with synthetic textiles as they can melt when cut with lasers.
Never use any piece of clothing with vinyl content on your laser.
Laser cutting of vinyl containing material produces hydrochloric acid which is harmful to the laser and you.
Layered fabrics can be cut in many different styles with a laser to bring out many color combinations in a piece of clothing.
You can customize a wide range of garments with a laser engraver to show off your style. These days most ripped jeans are made using laser cutting techniques.
Metal Laser Engraving Projects
Most laser engraving machines are powerful enough to engrave on steel, aluminum copper, brass, etc.
You'll need to have a minimum laser power of 50W in a fiber laser, and for CO2 lasers, you need to have 150W of power to work on metals. Low-powered lasers can get the job done but you'll have to be patient.
To give you an idea of cutting stainless steel, You can cut a 2mm thick stainless steel at a speed of 5.2"/sec by using a 1000W laser.
A popular application of laser on metal is engraving anodized aluminum, you easily engrave on anodized aluminum with a 30W laser.
Since metals are reflective, you'll have to blacken the metal with removable black spray paint. The paint will greatly reduce the reflective property of metals.
You can engrave metals for many different projects like laser engraved knives, name tags, number boards, guitar picks, key chains, bottle openers, signboards, machine number engraving, and much more.
Glass Laser Engraving Projects
One of the most popular and widely used glass engraving techniques is sub-surface laser engraving. 3D crystals or bubblegrams are made of this technique and they have a high market demand.
A lens that provides a spot less than 0.005" is most preferred, and at the least, you'll need to use a laser power of 40W in a CO2 laser for working with glass.
While working with glass be mindful of providing lower resolution images as it'll help engrave each dot at an optimum distance from each other preventing sudden fracture of glass.
You can engrave both plane and curved glasses. For engraving on curved glasses, you'll need to use a roll-rotary attachment on your laser engraver.
Some of the glass laser engraving applications are gift items, promotional materials, decorations, and personalized engravings.
Using a layer of material like a paper towel or plastic cover on top of glass gives you a clear engraving. If you use a wet paper towel you'll get a clear-white engraving.
A laser engraver can directly engrave a design on mirror glass but the engraved part of the mirror will turn transparent. It can be used to create some cool-looking mirror designs.
After you complete the engraving, you've to use a brush to clean it up. I suggest you use a brass brush/wheel as it can clean more effectively, never use a steel wheel as it can mess up your engraving.
Plastic Laser Engraving Projects
Plastics are easy to engrave and there is a huge list of plastics you can engrave with a laser.
Some of the most suitable plastics for engraving are polyether ketone, polystyrene, polyimide, polyamide, polyethylene, polyarylsulfone, polycarbonate, and silicone.
For a CO2 laser, the typical power is anywhere between 25 -150W, and for fiber lasers, you need 40 - 50W of power.
With a UV laser, you can get a speed anywhere between 35" - 47"/sec while working with different plastic materials.
Plastic when cut with lasers produces toxic fumes and long-term exposure to these fumes can cause medical issues.
To protect yourself from these fumes, you'll have to maintain an external system to extract and remove the toxic fumes through an exhaust.
You can read a detailed guide on engraving or cutting plastics using lasers here - Laser Cutting and Engraving Plastic.
Other Laser Engraving Projects
Some of the rewarding creative projects you can take up are customizing and engraving designs on laptops, mobile phones, watches, books, foil/stickers, labels, etc.
You can buy and engrave on simple ready-to-go products like a pizza peel, wooden spoon, wine opener, aluminum capo, bottle opener, lock, and many more.
Make sure the product you are buying has an engravable surface where you can work on. You can add a greater value to these products with your laser engraver.
If you are someone who's trying to start a small business out of laser engravers, try finding out what products have high demand in your community.
Rather than making your own products and then engraving them, it's probably better to find high demanded customizable products already available in the market.
It's profitable to buy these products in bulk and then boost their value by laser engraving them according to the order.
It's easy to get started in laser engraving but you'll have to be creative with your designs and the products you engrave to get good returns.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is a laser engraver and a laser cutter the same?
No, laser cutters and laser engravers are not the same. Laser cutters use more powerful lasers that can cut thicker materials. However, both laser engraver and laser cutter work in a similar fashion, they cut the materials with light that burns and vaporizes the materials.
Are the vapor/fumes released by laser cutters and laser engravers toxic?
The vapor/fumes released by laser cutters/engravers are toxic in some cases. Vapors from materials like vinyl, PVC, and foams are extremely toxic. Such vapors can ruin the mirrors and lenses on your laser. Wood and other organic materials also produce vapor when worked with a laser but are non-toxic.
Use a gas mask when working with materials that produce toxic fumes, such masks can also shield your eyes from the fumes.
What type of wood is best for laser engraving?
The wood sublimation by a laser engraver depends on the wood's sap/resin content. Woods with higher resin content can give a much darker burn compared to one with lower resin content.
You need wood that has a light color. The engravings will have better contrast if you use light-colored wood.
Wood of maple, cherry, and alder are the best for laser engraving as they have high resin content and light color, they can give darker engravings that show off.