In this comprehensive laser engraver buying guide, find out the important features to consider when evaluating different laser engravers.
New technologies are gradually replacing traditional methods of work. And this is also true for the engraving process.
In the past, laser engraving was done by hand. However, today, it is increasingly being done with the help of laser engravers. This equipment saves time and effort, and also brings to life with maximum accuracy even the most complex ideas.
With the right approach, laser engravers can also be a good source of income. You can start your own laser engraving business without incurring huge upfront equipment costs.
In this laser engraver buying guide, we’ll talk about the types of engravers, where they are used and how to choose the most suitable one for your goals and objectives.
Let’s get started.
Purpose and Features of Laser Engraving
Laser engraving differs significantly from other surface treatments. For example, a CNC machine mechanically removes some of the material with a cutter, leaving chips behind. This method has its drawbacks. For instance, sometimes it may require revision, additional grinding of the product, and it is also necessary to remove waste.
Laser engravers operate in a different way: they evaporate material layer by layer using a beam, leaving behind a perfect, very thin seam. The process takes place very quickly and almost silently, which is a big advantage in comparison with the mechanical application.
Moreover, laser engravers not only work with blanks or traditional materials, but even with all kinds of gadgets – tablets, laptops, smartphones, etc.
The main purpose of engravers is to process solid materials. In addition to drawing pictures and inscriptions, this equipment can also be used for milling, cutting, grinding and drilling. You just need to change the nozzle to one that is suitable for the task at hand.
Advantages of Laser Engravers
Most laser engravers are used for delicate work that requires high precision. For example, in jewelry design, for decorating products, etc.
The advantages of laser engraving include:
- High detail and clarity of the image
- Contactless and fast work with different materials
- Low marriage rate (almost 0%)
- Complete safety of work
- The ability to perform even the most complex drawings
- A large list of materials that can be processed
Types of Laser Engravers
Laser engravers are available on the market in a wide range. However, the most popular ones are:
- Solid-state. These engravers use various crystals as an active medium, through which a beam of light passes. A good example of such as engraver is the Ortur Master 2 Pro .
- Gas. With these engravers, a mixture of gases (nitrogen, helium and carbon dioxide) is used for activation and an electric discharge is used instead of a beam. A good example of lasers in this category are Ketai Laser.
- Fiber. These lasers use optical fiber, which includes silica glass with the addition of other refractory compounds.
Solid state laser engravers are the most functional and, therefore, more expensive. These lasers can engrave at high precision on a wide variety of materials, including metals, silicon, ceramics and even precious stones. Solid-state lasers cannot process glass or wood. However, they have a long service life and work very quickly.
Gas laser engravers are more suitable for home use or work in a small workshop. The lasers can engrave wood, leather, plastic, cardboard, paper, rubber and other materials. Their cost is significantly less than solid-state lasers, are easier to operate and are more compact.
Fiber laser engravers also have various advantages. In particular, they are less susceptible to various external influences and all kinds of vibrations. This increases their wear resistance. As a result, they are actively used in manufacturing enterprises.
In addition, thanks to their design, they practically do not suffer from excess heat energy, which is inevitably generated during operation.
There are also other types of laser engravers that are worth mentioning. These include rechargeable and electric laser engravers. As you can tell, the main difference between these engravers is their source of power..
Each variety has its own distinctive characteristics, based on which you can choose the device that is most suitable for certain tasks.
Areas of Use
Laser engravers are versatile tools for working with any product. You can use the machines to:
- Decorate souvenirs (pens, notebooks, figurines, key chains, organizers, toys) from any materials, including wood, ceramics, glass, stone, metal, plastic, cardboard, leather, rubber, fabric, etc.
- Make memorable inscriptions on wristwatches, jewelry (wedding rings, bracelets, pendants), leather goods (belts, wallets, business card holders, wardrobe items, etc.) and even on gadgets;
- Apply any patterns and drawings on wood (numbers, tags), metal (tokens, coins, medallions), leather (bags, shoes), etc.
- Create decor for homes and offices
- Engrave cups, medals, plates, etc.
- Produce outdoor brand advertising , make branded and gift wrapping, brochures, business cards, calendars, etc.
- Make engravings on monuments
You can start a profitable business using engravers. This is why the machines have become popular of late with many workshops and design studios engaged in small-scale production. The creation of unique items according to individual design is becoming an increasingly popular service.
To attract and retain customers, small businesses need to have something exclusive that sets them apart from the competition. Laser engravers can help with this. Their functionality is very wide and their application is not limited to inscriptions and drawings. They can also be used to cut, grind, drill, and so on.
Depending on the technical characteristics, these devices can be used both for hobby and industrial work. Which laser engraver should you choose?
How to Choose a Laser Engraver
There are many laser engravers on the market. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know which one to go for. Should you consider the price or brand of the manufacturer? What about functionality?
Well, when looking to buy a laser engraver, you have to consider multiple factors together. Here are the important ones:
Do you need a laser engraver for small or large production? Or will you simply be using the machine for personal use?
Also, what exactly will you be doing with the machine? Will you be engraving, cutting or both?
For engraving, choose machines with optical power up to 80W. Also, pay attention to the accuracy of the work.
For cutting, power should be a priority. The machine should be at least 80 watts.
If you need a laser engraver both for cutting and engraving, then there are more factors to keep in mind.
2. Type of material
Consider the material that you will be working with. Gas and solid-state engravers have different properties. The former can easily handle cardboard, leather, ceramics, wood, and glass. On the other hand, solid-state engravers can work with metal and various alloys.
3. Device performance
Consider the performance and operating speed of the laser engraver. The planned production volumes and the type of material you will be working with should help you determine this. It is much easier and faster to engrave on cardboard, plywood or leather than on metal.
4. Working Area
The working area is also important. There is no point in buying a large engraver to create small drawings. But if you plan to work with large objects, choose something larger and more powerful.
5. Laser power
The higher the laser power, the more durable material the engraver can process. Also, power affects the speed of work and energy consumption.
Here is a quick rundown:
- 12W to 15W is suitable for materials that are soft and thin (no more than 5 mm thick). However, speed and performance suffer.
- 25W to 30W lasers can engrave the same group of materials, but with a higher density and thickness (up to 10 mm).
- 40W to 60W lasers can engrave up to 13 mm thick materials.
- Lasers with 60W to 80W of power can engrave wood, glass, and plastic
- Laser with up to 100W can engrave metal.
- Finally, lasers with 150W and above can carry out industrial cutting and engraving of metal.
Consider the software that the laser uses. The software should have a suitable number of options and an clear interface. This is especially important if you do not have special skills.
If you are already familiar with the technical capabilities of laser engravers and are proficient in modeling, you can go for more complex software.
Consider the precision of the laser beam. The importance of this will be realized when creating complex and small patterns. The precision largely determines the quality of the pattern or lettering.
Check the number of attachments (cutters) that the laser engraver comes with. Different removable heads are required for different tasks (cutting, grinding, engraving, etc.).
During operation, the laser tube may overheat. To prevent this, some devices have a protective function. With a cooling system, the laser can operate continuously. This improves both its performance and service life.
However, such equipment are more expensive than those without this option.
Electric Table Drive
This drive is usually found on high power, industrial engravers. The option greatly simplifies the process of laser control, since the beam is focused automatically. This increasing the accuracy of execution, especially for non-stop work that involves a large volume of products.
This largely depends on the materials used for assembly, whether the laser has overheating protection (see the previous paragraph), brand and country of manufacture.
An expensive price does not always guarantee the durability and strength of a laser engraver. However, as a general rule, more expensive models last longer.
Of course, the service life will also depend on the operation and maintenance carried out on the laser engraver.
How to Extend the life of an Engraving Machine
Any equipment requires regular inspection and maintenance. To prevent your engraver from failing prematurely, you need to look after it properly. Follow these guidelines:
- Every day at the end of the work, clean the machine to remove dust and dirt. Wipe the optics and remove carbon deposits from the tip. Also, check the status of the compressor and adjust the focus.
- Once or twice a week, carefully inspect all electrical parts for serviceability. Also, lubricate mechanical parts in a timely manner. Finally, monitor the fluid level in the cooling system (if any).
- Do not violate the rules of care indicated in the instructions. For example, do not exceed the maximum permissible continuous operation time, forget to clean filters and change water, and so on.
- Make sure the environment meets technical guidelines, including indoor temperature, humidity, and even cleanliness. Otherwise, the exhaust fans may not be able to cope with the amount of dust and debris, and the optics will quickly become dirty. These will affect the performance of the machine.
The performance of a laser engraver and its service life can also be determined by the initial setup. Special attention must be paid to this to prevent overheating and the the processed material from getting spoilt.
When purchasing, check the equipment’s ability to perform the declared operations and the serviceability of all elements.
Laser Engraver Buying Guide: Which Machine Should You Buy?
The most important thing is to choose the best product in terms of price-quality ratio. Also, keep in mind that technologies are constantly being updated. Some laser engravers that are popular today may be inferior both in technical aspects and in performance to other that may be unveiled in the future.
To help you with the buying decision, check our guide on the best laser engravers. The guide contains a detailed analysis of all technical properties.