Best Laser Cutters and Engravers of 2022
Laser cutters and laser engravers are similar machines that can cut or engrave images or shapes into hard materials. Industrial laser cutters can cut even the toughest metals, like stainless steel and nickel, while more affordable laser cutters, like DIY laser cutter kits, can cut wood, acrylics, and other softer materials.
Acrylic or plexiglass is a unique material that is very fun and creative to work with, but also very temperamental.
Acrylic laser cutters and engravers help take a lot of the guesswork and labor that comes with working with acrylic by automating and modernizing processes, such as deburring edges and achieving clean lines.
Can you laser engrave acrylic?
Yes. Acrylic laser engraving occurs when the laser evaporates the top layer of material. Therefore, the material absorbed by the laser rapidly turns into a liquid and then a gas. Because of this vaporization, you'll need an enclosed laser engraver with a ventilation system that can direct the fumes away from the work area, such as out of a window.
In addition to enclosure, you'll need a machine with air assist to further manage steam in all aspects of your sculpting environment.
Acrylic or plexiglass are actually ideal materials for laser engraving, as the laser avoids warping the material, provides automatic deburring, and gives you precise angles and sharp edges when cutting acrylic. They are also so powerful that industrial laser cutters can process acrylic materials up to an inch thick.
How to laser engrave acrylic?
When engraving, acrylic comes in two types: cast and extruded.
Cast acrylic is made by pouring a liquid into a mold, which is then turned into a matte material that is highly sought after in custom projects such as awards.
Extruded acrylic is made by putting pellets into an extruder, which is then melted and extruded. This is an easier and cheaper option to make and keep its clear deposits during the engraving process. It is also softer than casting and is best for projects that require smooth edges.
But in general, acrylic or plexiglass will absorb certain wavelengths of light, which means you'll be able to engrave at relatively low power. No matter which version you use, you only need about 25% - 50% more power to achieve the design you want.
You may have heard about the growing popularity of wood laser cutters, but now is the time to try it out for yourself. These wood laser cutters and engravers promise to combine your artistic endeavors with powerful design software while saving you time, money and costly mistakes.
What are CNC wood laser cutters and engravers?
A laser wood cutter is a mechanized way of cutting and carving wood using a laser beam and design software.
These are usually carbon dioxide or gas and laser "cut" or burn the wood to create the design you want, giving you a dark burnt wood effect. During this process, the intensity of the laser is adjusted to create varying degrees of "burn," as well as product shading and contrast (if desired).
If you don't want the signature burnt brown look, there is also a way to create a white engraving when using the correct settings (i.e. low temperature and high speed).
When laser cutting wood, you need to consider a number of factors before processing, such as the density and resin content of the wood. For example, balsa wood is soft, so cutting requires less power than hardwoods such as redwood. There's also MDF (made from glulam fibers), which requires a machine that uses compressed air and a laser to optimize cutting and engraving.
Laser wood cutters are popular for making arts and crafts, but they're also great for furniture construction, interior design, gifts, models, and more. Not only do they allow you to make these things, but they make them faster and better than traditional methods, giving you more money and opportunities to create.
Wood Laser Cutting and Engraving
All of the laser cutters on our list are also capable of carving wood, depending on the setup you use. For cutting wood, you'll want a higher power setting, and less intense for engraving. With carving, you don't want to cut the wood, but burn the top layer while maintaining most of the structure.
Since wood laser engraving doesn't require power, you don't have to spend a lot of money on a solid-state laser engraver. However, if large projects and precision are priorities, it's worth checking out the advanced options.