Looking to Buy a Desktop Laser Cutter? Read This First…

Desktop Laser CutterIf you’re looking to buy a smaller, desktop hobby laser cutter then read this first. These days  lasers are used mostly in major industries for processing metal. However, desktop CO2 lasers have become very affordable and popular in recent years.  They’re also widely used in educational institutions,  smaller companies, and you may even see one in your next door neighbors garage. It’s not uncommon to find a cool hobbyist with their very own desktop laser cutter. These are typically smaller co2 powered cutters with engraving areas ranging from 9×12″ to 12×20″.

As stated above referred to as either a desktop or hobby laser. They are designed to process lighter cutting or smaller engraving projects and even metal marking projects depending on the type of laser.  This is what this article will mainly address.  With the help of a metal laser cutting machine you have the ability to affordably process intricate designs on metal in a matter of minutes…even seconds.  The best part is the speed and precision that .

Uses and Applications of smaller co2 laer cutters

Modeling: Wood and mat-boards are popular choice of material that can be used for modelling. This is especially useful in the architecture and design fields.

Award engraving: Awards are accolades of honor that deserve to look extra special. Thus intricate engravings are a norm. Desktop Carbon dioxide laser cutters can be used to do award engravings with high precision and less time.

Wood Engraving: Almost all show pieces are wooden carvings. From photo frames to your dead grandma’s statue, wooden engravings can be easily done in a desktop laser cutting machine.

Glass etching: These include mirrors and beer mugs. Etching gives them a more elegant and world class look. Precision is very important and that is exactly what these machines offer.

Signage engraving: With the magic of desktop laser cutters, even 3D sign boards can be made thanks to very high metal laser cutting precision. The best part is that thousands of such sign boards can be produced at a very short time which was never possible before.

UID laser marking: The UID markings are made using laser cutters.

Laptop engraving: That’s right! Ever thought of getting a personalized laptop? Well that is what you can get from laser cutters. Make sure you give it to someone with expertise unless you want a hole in your laptop.

Fabric Engraving: This is one of the latest applications. Using laser engravers, clothes can be styled in a way that never fades off.
Things to think about before buying any Desktop CO2 Laser Cutting machine

Find the thin line between utility and cost
It is very important to understand the nature of your work before buying a laser cutter. They are expensive equipment which requires a reasonable amount of expertise to operate and maintain. Another big factor to consider is the material that you will be cutting or engraving. Laser cutters are rated based on wattage. A 40W machine is ideal for most uses. For more speed and power you could choose the 50W version or even the 60W version for heavy jobs. Note that the 50W machine would have twice the power of the 40W machine. If it’s the first time you are buying a laser cutter, do some research and ask your friends before zeroing in on one. Never settle for a lower rated version without being sure. This is because, once you know the endless capabilities of this beautiful invention, your needs might change. The size of engraving also matters when it comes to choosing the right cutter.

The laser interface software
It is very important that you get the right piece of software – almost as important as the right machinery. It is this software which communicates with your cutter and translates your vision to the machine. It is better to have a trusted laser interface and USB controller which are compatible with programs like Photoshop and CorelDRAW. Again, some companies offer only the driver without the interface. So make sure you check these things to the very fine detail.

The carbon dioxide, CO2 laser tube
This is the most important part of the laser cutter. It is the ‘engine’ of any laser.  I recommend buying a little more power than you think you’ll need.  There’s no substitute for raw cutting power. Almost all hobbyists use carbon dioxide laser glass tubes due to their affordability and they can be replaced inexpensively compared to metal or RF laser tubes.  Of course as the wattage of the laser tube increases, so does the ability to cut through denser materials.  For hobby laser machines wattage will range from 10 to 50 watts.  50 watts is a good cutting and engraving compromise between cutting and engraving.  Typically 50 watts will consistently cut through 1/4″ woods.

Add-on Accessories
You might need add-ons depending on your use. For example, rotary attachments help in cutting through cylindrical objects. Another add on is the focus lens. They come in different focal lengths and are used to increase the intensity of the laser beam. The ones with smaller focal length can be used to cut thinner materials while ones with larger focal length can easily cut through thick materials. Bottom line is that if you are to cut objects of varying thickness, you will need to get focus lens.

Air compressor
Air is used to blow away any dust, debris or chip material which can get in the way of the laser especially when cutting wood or leather. They are a potential fire hazard as  well so it’s always smart to keep an eye on what your cutting at all times.  So, for this reason most desktop / hobby lasers should come equipped with an air pump or air compressor.

Which company should I choose?
Many people have had terrible experiences when they tried buying it directly from china or via Ebay. The common complaint with a lot of these foreign companies is that the product gets stuck at the border by Customs Border Patrol due to not having valid FDA approved accession numbers, compliant or certified UL or CSA documents.  This is very common and you can’t always trust what a foreign company will tell you.  Unfortunately once it hits the border and the CBP puts it on hold and then seizes the machine not only will you not get your laser you can potentially be fined or blacklisted on any future imports.   Even if they do get through, many a time’s customers do not get what they ask for. This is because of the lack of quality checking. People find themselves at the wrong end and realize their folly only after it is too late.

It is always best to trust a US based company when buying a laser for cutting metal or hard steel. The advantage of going US based is that they either have a USA made machine or a high quality design with parts imported from overseas and thus they are able to lower their retail price but still maintain impressive quality.  Moreover don’t need to worry about all the hassles that could  and probably would happen throughout the customs clearance process.  Another added advantage is that these US based companies conduct their quality check to ensure a US standard product.

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