The 6 best laser engravers and laser cutters in 2021
What’s the best laser cutter/engraver?
Laser engravers/cutters use subtractive manufacturing technology (contrary to 3D printing, a.k.a. additive manufacturing). Their laser burns or melts material away in a selective manner, following specific instructions.
With a laser cutter and engraver, you can add a personal touch to almost any item or make your own customized objects. There are tons of laser cutters and engravers on the market though, and it can be quite challenging to choose the best laser engraver/cutter for your needs.
Our roundup features entry-level home laser engravers and desktop laser cutters and professional laser cutters/engravers to cater to all types of users.
Looking for more functionality? Check out our recent piece on all-in-one 3D printers; most of them are equipped with laser engravers and cutters!
What’s the difference between laser engravers and laser cutters?
Both terms are more or less used as synonyms, as laser cutters are often able to laser engrave. However, there is a difference between the two, which lies in the laser power.
- Laser cutter machine: these require high-power lasers to be able to cut through many materials.
- Laser engraver machine: the laser uses less power so that it creates light marks on the material without cutting through it completely.
If you want to be able to do both, you should choose a laser cutter/engraver with high and adjustable laser power.
The best laser engravers and cutters in 2021
|Machine||Laser power||Work area||Price||Buy|
|NEJE Master 2 MAX||30W||460 x 810 mm||$349||Buy|
|ORTUR Laser Master 2||20W||400 x 430 mm||$389||Buy|
|Glowforge Plus 3D Laser Printer||40W||300 x 400 mm||$2,495||Buy|
|TEN-HIGH CO2 40W||40W||300 x 400 mm||$2,269||Buy|
|FLUX Beambox||40W||400 x 375 mm||$3,299||Buy|
|Dremel LC40-03 40W CO2 Laser Digilab||40W||467 x 305 mm||$5,999||Buy|
Product overview: the top desktop laser engravers/cutters
Here is a list of some of the best laser engravers/cutters available on the market today.
Master 2 MAX
|Work area:||460 x 810 mm|
NEJE is one of the most popular CNC machine manufacturers in the maker community. They produce a range of laser engravers and cutters of all sizes and budgets.
This particular model is one of their biggest models, and it can be fitted with various different laser modules available on the official NEJE website.
Laser Master 2
|Work area:||400 x 430 mm|
This laser engraver and cutter is available in three different versions with varying laser power: 7W (1200mW-1600mW), 15W(4000mW-4500mW), and 20W (5000mW-5500mW). It is able to cut or engrave at a speed of up to 3 meters per minute with a precision of around 0.81um.
Most of its parts come preassembled, so assembly requires around 15 minutes on average. Compatible materials include wood, paper, soft metals, plastics, and more.
Plus 3D Laser Printer
|Work area:||279 x 495 mm|
The Glowforge 3D Laser Printer (laser engraver and cutter) is one of the more premium products. It boasts a clean and elegant design and comes with user-friendly web-based software.
This laser cutter/engraver is even equipped with onboard cameras so you can see what’s going on inside. You can change the laser’s focus to engrave at varying depths for more detailed results.
Three different versions are available– Basic, Plus, and Pro– with varying laser power and functionalities.
CO2 40W Laser Engraving Cutting Machine
|Work area:||300 x 400 mm|
TEN-HIGH’s laser cutter and engraver can go through up to 2 mm of material. It weighs 64 kilograms, so it’s more of a benchtop machine than a desktop laser engraver.
You can use this machine with CorelDraw and other graphics programs. The TEN-HIGH laser engraver even boasts an LCD screen to make it easier to use and control. The unit can provide reliable performance on leather, density boards, plywood, glass, bamboo, paper, and many other materials when it comes to materials.
|Work area:||400 x 375 mm|
The FLUX Beambox is an easy-to-use desktop laser engraver and cutter. It’s equipped with an HD camera for optimal object alignment, an advanced cooling system, and a highly precise laser.
The machine also features a large color touchscreen for intuitive operation but can also be controlled via FLUX’s iOS/Android app.
LC40-03 40W CO2 Laser Digilab
|Work area:||467 x 305 mm|
The Dremel Digilab Laser is one of the best laser cutters on the market and is a contender for the top spot. This CO2 laser engraver and cutter machine feature professional-grade hardware and easy-to-use software. Users may cut and engrave a wide range of materials, including wood, fabric, acrylic, glass, leather, paper, cardboard, and rubber.
This laser cutting machine also boasts user-friendly features, such as five safety sensors and an advanced cooling system. According to Dremel, it can run nonstop without any mishaps.
|Work area:||1245 x 710 mm|
|Laser power:||40 – 200W|
Trotec is a well-known and highly-regarded industry leader when it comes to professional laser engravers and cutters. Their SP series of laser machines offer high power (up to 400 W on some models) and great accuracy.
If you need a laser cutter and engraver for your business, you should definitely look into their line of products. Trotec can also make custom builds depending on your needs.
|Work area:||304.8 x 304.8 mm|
The Cricut Maker isn’t a laser cutter, but it has a suite of blades and other tools that allows makers to do some craftwork. Its rotary blade can cut through various fabrics effortlessly, and the supported apps allow you to plan your projects on a PC or smartphone.
Cricut maker is a die-cut machine that allows you to make anything from paper and leather crafts to balsa models and sewing projects.
All-in-one 3D printers with laser engraving modules
|Work area:||250 x 235|
The Snapmaker 2.0 is Snapmaker’s second-generation multifunctional 3D printer. This time, it comes in three different versions – A150, A250, and A350 – each offering varying build volumes.
Through an intuitive and easy user interface, the included software handles all of the machine’s multiple facets: 3D printing, CNC milling, and laser engraving/cutting. Users can control the Snapmaker 2.0 via its removable touchscreen (it looks like a smartphone).
An optional enclosure is available.
|Work area:||250 x 235 mm|
|Laser power:||2.8 W|
The ZMorph VX is a powerful all-in-one desktop 3D printer made by ZMorph, a manufacturer based in Poland.
Thanks to its interchangeable tool heads, the ZMorph VX enables users to rapidly switch between functionalities: CNC milling, laser engraving/cutting, 3D scanning, and paste extrusion.
|Work area:||220 x 155 x 160mm|
The DexArm by Rotrics is an all-in-one robotic arm that is able to 3D print, laser engrave and draw thanks to its various modules.
It is able to work at up to 500 mm/s and reaches a precision and repeatability of up to 0.05mm.
Laser engravers and laser cutters: what’s the difference?
Many find it confusing to make a difference between the two machines, but here we’ll teach you why laser engravers and laser cutters are not the same devices.
What is a laser engraver?
A laser engraver is a tool used to inscribe images, logos, and other designs on any object. These machines can use different methods to leave light marks on materials. The engraving process uses a low-power laser beam that burns out part of the material surface. Thanks to that, you can not only see the marking clearly but also feel them by touching the surface.
As for the depth, laser engravers are capable of engraving to variable depths, ranging from a few microns to a few millimeters. However, the maximum depth largely depends on the specifics of a particular unit.
What is a laser cutter?
Laser cutters create a hollow or deep cut when used on suitable materials. This kind of machine uses a laser beam to cut through materials by following the assigned design. The working process is simple – the high-power laser beam passes through the material to cut it. It uses computer numerical control (CNC) and laser optics to ensure the cutting is precise and in line with the user’s desires.
The laser beam runs through the materials first and then creates burns or melts that leave a fine surface finish. Commercial-grade cutting is commonly used across various industries, for example when cutting structural materials, pipes, or flat sheets. At the consumer level, you can use a laser cutter for your DIY projects. Laser cutting projects can include making coasters, furniture, decorations, accessories, and much more.
What can you do with a laser engraver or laser cutter?
Laser engravers or laser cutters perform a wide range of functions on different materials. This makes them useful at home or in the workplace.
Things you can do with a laser engraver
Here are some of the many things you can do with a home laser engraver.
Photo laser engraving
It’s easy to engrave photographs onto plastic, metals and other materials with even a cheap laser engraver/laser cutter. It may take some trial and error to perfect your skills, which is why you should be ready to invest a bit of time and effort into the process.
Overall, photographs with a wide range of light and dark tones are best to use for the engraving to stand out.
Gun laser engraving
Apart from creating a laser engraved photo, you can use the device to perform a vast number of functions on firearms. They include adding serial numbers to guns, creating graphic patterns, as well as alignment markings on firearm parts.
Laser ring engraving
With a jewelry laser engraver, you can use an intense laser beam to etch the surface of a ring. Use your creativity to make the preferred design on a PC, and the machine will engrave it on the jewelry. Engravings can be made on rings of soft metals like gold, or hardened metals like steel.
Note: for metal laser engraving, home laser machines usually require you to cover your 3D metal object with paint first, unless the material is already anodized.
Things you can do with a laser cutter
Here are a few examples of things you can do with a home laser cutting machine.
Laser cut artwork
With a laser cutter, you can quickly bring your art ideas to life by cutting the materials you need. You can laser cut paper, wood, felt, and more as long as the material isn’t too thick.
Laser cut home decor
You won’t be able to make Ikea-style furniture with a home laser cutter, but you can make decorations for your home. Many makers like to create their own coasters, clocks, organizers, key holders, rugs (fabric laser cutting), etc. You can even make your own ornaments and gifts for the holidays!
Laser cut accessories
On the web you can find a lot of laser cut designs for key rings, earrings, business cards, laptop stands, stamps… The possibilities are endless.
Laser cut signs
Whether you need a sign for your shop or just want cool signs for your home, a desktop laser cutter is perfect for the job. You can cut out the base for your sign or cut out the letters. After that you can also laser engrave your sign for even more originality!
Buying guide: what to look for in a laser cutter/engraver?
Before heading out to purchase a laser engraver for tasks like creating personal gifts, check out the factors you should consider during the buying process.
This is probably the most important thing to consider when looking for the best laser cutter/engraver for you. If you have a high-power laser, chances are you’ll be able to engrave and cut through thicker materials than with a low-power laser.
Most of the time, manufacturers list their products’ laser power in W (watts) or mW (milliwatts). When the power is expressed in milliwatts it’s generally because the laser is low-power.
The price for an ideal cutter and engraver may be anywhere from $100 to $10,000 (or more for industrial models). The general rule is that the more expensive the unit is, the higher its laser power and therefore the better it can cut through materials.
However, you should always consider your needs. Even if you plan to purchase a commercial-grade cutter, it doesn’t mean you will have to splash the cash on a product. You may find a model that doesn’t cost a fortune but is still versatile enough to fulfill your expectations.
Whether you only need a hobby laser engraver or a professional unit, you want one that provides software support. Fortunately, this type of support comes with most cutters and engravers designed today.
There is no doubt that the software makes it easier to work with a laser engraving machine. Software designed by the company that made the machine is 100% compatible, but many devices also support third-party software. That includes CorelDraw, AutoCAD, and solutions designed by Adobe or other reputable developers.
Materials to work on
A desktop laser engraver can handle a wide variety of materials. The list includes paper, leather, metal, various fabrics, etc. Before buying a particular unit, you want to ensure that it can handle engraving or cutting the materials you plan to work with in the future.
Laser engraver software
Using PC software makes working with a laser cutter or engraver easy as ABC. Here are some of the best software options available for various types of engraving and cutting.
Software for raster engraving
Many programs support raster engraving, and the chances are you have at least one of them already installed on your PC. The most commonly used raster software for laser engraving list includes the following solutions:
- Adobe Photoshop: this software has features that make it popular with both professional and amateur designers. It also has a mobile version with fewer features than the PC variant, but one that can still create high-quality images.
- GIMP: GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. This software is available for free, but do not doubt that it is a reliable raster software solution. GIMP includes image editing tools like transformation, selection, masking tools, filters, and brushes. It works on all operating systems, and it’s easy to find your way around it.
- LaserGRBL: this is another free software available to download on the web. It transforms your designs into GCode efficiently and is perfect for hobbyists.
Some laser cutter/engraver manufacturers have also developed their own PC software or even smartphone apps, so you may not even need to look for something else.
Software for vector engraving/cutting
Those that want to make an engraving file in vector formats like AI, DXF, or SVG, need to use software that supports them.
- AutoCAD: it stands as one of the oldest and most popular software on the market. It allows users to save designs as vector files which can be used for laser engraving or cutting. This engraving software also includes an extensive collection of tools that fit applications in graphic design, management, architecture, etc.
- Adobe Illustrator: you can make vector designs with this well-known tool from the Adobe suite.
- Inkscape: this free design software for Mac, Linux, and Windows lets you make vector graphics without splurging on expensive software.
There are many options to choose from. You can try a few of them out before sticking to your favorite one.
Raster vs. vector
Raster files (a.k.a. bitmap) are made of pixels or dots. The laser follows the file’s instructions dot by dot, line by line. Raster engraving is the most common type of engraving.
Vector files are made up of shape lines, curves, and geometries. Vector engraving (a.k.a. scoring) is slower than raster engraving.
Laser cutting services and laser engraving services
If you don’t feel up to buying your own home laser engraver/cutter, you can always order designs online.
If you only have a few objects to engrave or just one small project for which you need to laser cut, it can be worth it to check out an online laser printing service. Sculpteo and Ponoko are two of the most popular laser cutting/engraving services.
Sculpteo metal laser cutting service (and more)
Sculpteo is originally known for 3D printing projects, but they also feature a laser cutting service with instant quotes and quick shipping (one to three days). You can order wood laser cuts, plastic laser cuts, and even metal laser cuts, among others.
Ponoko 3D laser service
Ponoko provides laser printing, cutting, and engraving services. You can get instant quotes from their website, same-day shipping, and low prices. They offer 85+ materials that you can order and cut, print, and engrave on.
Laser engraving and cutting FAQ
What is a CO2 laser engraver?
A CO2 laser engraver is a machine that can engrave materials by using a carbon dioxide laser beam. CO2 lasers are among the most efficient laser types available today. They can cut through a large selection of materials like wood, metal, plastic, or acrylic.
What is a fiber laser engraver?
A fiber laser engraver users fiber optic lasers for excellent precision and rapid speed. They are known as long-lasting systems that require little maintenance and can provide consistent results.
Where can I buy a laser engraver or laser cutter?
You can buy a home laser cutter at your local hardware store or retailer. However, if you want to enjoy a vast selection of units, and make sure to pick the one that perfectly fits your needs, you should head online. There’s plenty of choice on Amazon.
What can a laser cutter cut?
A laser cutter can cut wood, leather, plastic, foam rubber, glass, and more. Stronger cutters can even handle metals, ceramics, and crystals. It depends on the unit you purchase, but laser cutters are known for their versatility.
What is a CNC router?
A CNC router is similar to a laser cutter/engraver except it has a different tool head. It carves and cuts into materials with a drilling bit instead of a laser.