It used to be the case that laser cutters were too expensive for most craftsmen and small business owners to afford. These days, improvements in technology coupled with increased interest in laser cutting have driven down prices to the point that most people can afford a laser cutter. Whether the plan is to use the laser cutter to take a home crafting business to the next level or to use it in an industrial setting, it’s important to research what to look for when buying that first machine.
1. The Manufacturer
There are a lot of cheap laser cutters out there, but most are manufactured in China and do not adhere to the same high standards of quality people are used to in the United States. It’s important to research manufacturers, read industrial laser cutter reviews, and choose a reputable brand that provides quality products and ongoing support. Laser cutters are complex machines, so even minor breakdowns can become nightmarish in scope if it’s not easy to get replacement parts and adequate tech support.
2. Bed Size
A laser cutter’s bed size determines what it can accomplish. A larger bed will allow users to cut a wider range of objects or even to cut out multiple pieces at once, which can be helpful when manufacturing goods for sale to consumers.
There’s a second issue that comes into play when evaluating laser cutter beds, and that’s whether it is fixed or movable. Fixed beds can only engrave objects of a certain size, while movable beds can be adjusted to accommodate a greater range of cutting surfaces.
3. Power and Speed
Laser power is measured in watts, so the more wattage a machine has, the more powerful it is. The strength of a laser will help to determine what materials the machine can cut and how fast it will complete the projects. It’s worth purchasing a laser that’s powerful enough to work quickly and reliably.
Keep in mind that the depth of cut is not affected by a laser cutter’s wattage rating. Rather, it is determined by the lens’s focal point, which can be changed. Changing the focal point may require purchasing additional lenses, but it’s much more affordable to upgrade lenses than it is to buy an entirely new laser cutter.
4. Fiber Lasers vs. CO2 Lasers
Fiber lasers and CO2 lasers are by far the most common types of equipment used in laser cutters. They’re both powerful and great at what they do, but these two types of lasers have different applications.
People who want to engrave or cut metal should always buy fiber lasers. They’re set to a shorter wavelength, which makes it possible to cut and mark even reflective surfaces.
CO2 lasers are set to a longer wavelength. They can’t cut or engrave reflective metals, but they’re perfect for working with organic materials such as wood and textiles and softer man-made materials like plastic and synthetic rubber.
How to Make the Final Decision
Still not sure what type of laser will be the best fit? Don’t just wing it. Reach out to a reputable vendor that carries well-known, name-brand laser cutters with your questions and concerns. Laser cutters may be more affordable now than ever, but they’re still a serious investment, so it’s always better to ask a professional opinion.
Troy is a freelance writer, author, and blogger who lives, works, and plays in Boise, Idaho with the love of his life and three very talented dogs.
Passionate about writing dark psychological thrillers, he is an avid cyclist, skier, hiker, all-around outdoorsman, and a terrible beginning golfer.