Both techniques use custom models or designs to create accurate parts and models. Most laser cutting machines can do both, depending on the laser’s power and depths it can cut. There are however a few subtle differences between the two:
- Laser Cutters: laser cutters use powerful lasers to cut entire pieces off your workpiece to create your final model. These cutters typically use vector files to accurately cut your chosen part, shaving chips off and smoothly separating these areas off in a process of subtractive manufacturing. Laser cutters typically use CO2 lasers, and even cheap laser cutters can cut quickly through acrylics, plastics and wood.
- Laser Engravers: rather than cutting all the way through the material, laser engraving machines engrave an image, logo or graphic on top of your chosen material. Engraving is often used for branding products or signage, but can also be used to engrave entire greyscale artwork onto wood. This is done via image files such as jpg, svg, png or ai files, using methods such as grid engraving where the laser moves horizontally, line by line, removing certain depths of material to create a contrasting and readable image. Engravers use short focal length lasers with fine spot sizes for accurate engraving.
Laser marking is also a process wherein rather than engraving or cutting, physical contrasting marks are made on the material by heating it to separate elements that show up to the naked eye, without making any indentations.
Advantages of Laser Cutters vs CNC Mills
Laser cutters are very precise and accurate and can cut and engrave very quickly. For the same power, they’re usually cheaper than CNC routers, and can cut a variety of materials.
The best laser cutters & laser engravers
1 — Ortur Laser Master 2 / 2 Pro
- Work area: 400 x 400 mm
- Laser Master 2 Pro price: $449 — Best price on Madethebest here
The Ortur Laser Master range has become known as the most versatile, effective and powerful low cost laser engraver range around, with tradespeople using it to engrave leather products, CNC hobbyists using it for wood engraving and cutting, and many other uses.
Depending on the power you need for your next project, you can pick between the 7W, 15W and 20W laser cutter options, and for the power it’s actually very light, weighing around 4kg in total.
We built our Ortur Laser Master 2 in around 45 minutes, and even beginners shouldn’t have too much trouble — it’s designed to be accessible for the less DIY-inclined, and hobbyist makers will really appreciate how simple Ortur have made the assembly process. It comes mostly assembled, you just need to attach the main parts like the four sides, laser head and a few screws.
It’s powerful, and made really great looking contrasting images on the woods we tested with it. And if you want an even better laser engraving experience, go for the Ortur Laser Master 2 Pro, for a couple hundred dollars extra.