Frequently Asked Questions About Laser Cutting and Engraving Machines
Do you need to cut materials in bulk or with precision? For the hobbyist, DIYer, professional artist, engineer, architect or entrepreneur that needs specialized equipment for various cutting requirements, a laser cutter machine will do the trick. If this is your first time exploring these fascinating cutting devices, let me give a quick introduction on laser cutters and the frequently asked questions we have encountered over the years.
A Brief Introduction To Laser Cutters
Laser cutters were first introduced as advanced cutting devices and used by manufacturing companies focused on mass production of affordable fabricated prototypes. These special cutting tools are typically found in industries needing precision cut materials of various shapes and patterns in large quantities.
A laser cutting machine is a highly useful cutting tool for anyone involved in arts, especially helping in the creation of unique art pieces. Laser cutting equipment is sometimes referred to as a CNC machine (computer numerical controlled) since it is programatically controlled by a computer. Not only do laser machines cut material, but they also engrave and etch with the same precision and detail. Depending on the application, a laser machine can be referred to as a laser etcher, laser engraver, or laser cutter. Basically, it’s the same laser machine just with various functionality.
There are a large variety of materials that a laser cutter can cut with great efficiency, speed, and accuracy such as cardboard, paper, plastic, metal sheets, and wood. The thickness of material that can be cut with a laser cutting machine is dependent on the wattage of the machine and how powerful it is.
Now that you have a brief overview of laser cutters, let’s look at the top questions we are asked by our customers when inquiring about their first laser cutter and engraving machine. If for some reason we don’t cover you question in the text below, give us a call and we would love to discuss with you!
How does a laser cutter work?
Are you just getting your feet wet in the world of laser cutting and engraving? If your interested in how these machines work, your in the right place. Laser cutters come in many different brands, types, and with varying abilities. Every CO2 laser cutting machine utilizes the same cutting technology through the assistance of computer technology to cut materials.
A laser machine emits light from the laser resonator and is reflected via a system of mirrors towards the cutting head, then, the laser light passes through the lens until it produces an intensified beam of light targeting the material. The outcome is a flawless cut with tremendous speed and precision. The intensity of the laser (controlled by computer software) determines the difference between engraving or the cutting of material.
The difference in cutting abilities depends on the wattage of the laser cutting machine. Of course, a laser cutter integrated with a higher wattage laser is used for large scale cutting of a variety of materials with a greater range of thickness like sheets of metal and thicker wood. Smaller desktop and table top models of laser cutters with a less powerful laser to be used for cutting of thinner materials such as card stock, paper, and thin wood.
Are their various types of laser cutting, laser etching, and engraving machines?
There are three types of laser cutters; the CO2 laser, fiber laser and neodymium laser. Even though these three types of laser cutters are designed and built with resemblance, each has its own special features such as the intensity of laser beam produced and the capacity to cut a variety of materials and thickness.
- CO2 Laser Cutter
This type of laser cutter is the most commonly used laser cutting equipment because of its low power usage, affordability and accurate cutting performance for a wide range of materials. The CO2 laser cutter can efficiently cut through acrylic, paper, cardboard, plastic, wood, leather, and foam. It can etch on glass, marble, brick, and slate. It can also mark on metals when a compound like Cermark is applied. The CO2 laser cutter is what we offer here at Thunder Laser. See our complete guide to selecting a laser etching machine.
- Fiber Laser Cutter
A fiber laser cutter is made from “seed laser” and intensified through a special type of glass fiber. The intensity and wavelength of a fiber laser cutting machine are similar to the neodymium laser cutter. This is why the fiber laser cutter is generally used for laser marking projects (laser engraving or laser etching). The materials that will benefit most on the use of fiber laser cutters are metals and plastics.
- Neodymium/Crystal Laser Cutter
The third type of laser cutting equipment is the neodymium laser cutter, quite similar in function to the fiber laser cutter. This laser cutting tool is built from neodymium doped crystals and has a smaller wavelength than a CO2 laser cutter. What does this mean? It simply means it produces a more intensified laser beam that can cut thicker and durable materials. However, due to its powerful laser cutting performance, some parts of the neodymium laser cutter are prone to wear and tear. If this happens, immediate replacement of parts is recommended for the neodymium laser cutter to function well. The neodymium laser cutter can cut ceramics, metals and plastic materials.
Can a laser machine cut and etch glass?
Yes, a CO2 laser machine can efficiently etch glass. The CO2 laser machine is perfect for a wide variety of glass etching projects such as wine glass engraving and commemorative plates. Laser machines are extremely delicate in the way that the laser beam interacts with the material. This makes it the perfect solution for etching glassware and creating outstanding works of art.
Can a laser machine cut metal?
No, a CO2 laser is not intended for metal cutting. You would need a fiber laser to cut metal.
Why buy a laser cutting and engraving machine?
There are numerous advantages of owning your own laser machine. We’ve outlined a few of our thoughts on how a laser cutter engraver could be an improvement to your projects:
- Increased productivity
One of the biggest advantages of a laser cutting and engraving machine is the ability to cut at a much quicker rate than traditional cutting devices. This means increased productivity and more time for you to be creative when working on additional projects. Spend more time designing with easy to use laser machine software and spend less time worrying about the final outcome of your project. From tiny project pieces to repetitive customer work, a laser cutter will improve your project flow dramatically.
Another advantage of a laser cutter is it reduces the risk of injuries (accidental cuts) than traditional cutting equipment. Tired of cutting tiny pieces with traditional equipment? Cut out as many tiny project pieces with a simple click of a button. Watch from behind the safety glass and let the machine do it’s magic.
- Cut with precision
Some materials are hard to handle and cut with precision, especially with traditional cutting tools. But, with a laser cutter, the cutting process delivers a flawless result. With the powerful laser beam that laser cutters produce, cutting of materials like metals decreases the impact of loose materials impacting precision while cutting.
The great thing about laser cutters is the versatility to cut various types of materials from paper-based products, wood, metal, plastics, and much more!
Are there disadvantages of using laser cutting and engraving machines?
Although laser cutters are regarded to be highly efficient in precision cutting, these special cutting devices do have some disadvantages to be aware of.
- Are laser machines dangerous?
Without proper orientation on how to operate a laser cutter, you can be exposed to hazards that might be detrimental to your health. Before using your machine, make sure to read all safety guides and become familiar with the best practices and uses of your machine. With the proper setup and familiarity, there is nothing to worry about. Laser machines have become quite safety conscience over the years and with proper handling are quite safe.
- Limitation to cut on thicker materials
Laser cutting devices have the capability to cut through a wide variety of materials, but they still have limitations with thicker materials. Each machine we sell is rated for certain thicknesses of materials. Be sure to consult that information or give us a call to determine if your considering the right machine for the job.
How much does a laser cutting and engraving machine cost?
The cost of a laser machine will depend on the brand, wattage, and size you buy. Every laser machine has a wide range of available features, additional accessories, power usage, service life, processing performance (format and set), and warranty coverage. Expect to pay more on a premium laser cutting machine with a large surface area.
We advise our customers to consider the projects that they will be doing with their laser machine. What materials will you be cutting? How thick will these materials be? How big of a surface area do you need? No sense in over buying a laser cutting and engraving machine if your not going to need the extra size or wattage! Below is a list of factors that will have a huge impact on the price.
- Laser Machine Accessories
Similar to other tools and machinery sold in the marketplace the accessories for laser cutters do vary. A laser cutter with a top-performing laser lens can cost more than a standard laser cutting tool with an ordinary laser lens. Same applies with additional accessories that a laser cutter can include. The more accessories, typically the higher the cost. Among the accessories that a potential buyer may consider adding to a laser cutter are the laser lens, tubes, control system, and water coolers.
- Laser Cutter and Engraver Models
Laser cutters are released with various models based on power and/or cutting size. Depending on your needs and budget, you may not need the largest model on the market. The latest model usually comes in at a higher price than its predecessor.
- Cutting quality
Another factor that will affect the pricing of laser cutting equipment is the cutting quality. Our laser machines at Thunder Laser produce outstanding quality results. Precision parts and a standard of excellence plays a huge role in the quality that a laser machine can produce.
- Quality of Materials
Some manufacturers of laser cutters cut corners and use less than desirable materials in the design and manufacturing of their machines. If you are planning on putting your laser machine to work and plan to keep it in reliable condition, make sure to invest in a laser machine that boasts quality parts. Thunder Laser Machines deliver laser cutters and engravers with time tested parts that will withstand time and your choice of materials.
- Reviews and Time Tested Quality
- Laser Machine Accessories
The functionalities of laser cutters differ from one model to another. Don’t simply rely on the physical appearance of a laser cutting machine, instead spend more time on what it can do for you. A laser machine that has been tested and rated to perform well in the market is a wise choice. You may also read reviews shared by customers, both positive and negative prior to the purchase, then, compare prices. Sometimes, paying more will save you from worries of frequents breakdowns or untimely replacement of parts due to inferior materials used.
We wrote a complete guide on pricing that can be found here: https://thunderlaserusa.com/how-much-do-laser-cutter-machines-cost/
Looking for more information about laser machines and their capabilities? The use of laser cutting technology is very diversified and if you still have questions on what it can do for you or business, then feel free to contact us at Thunder Laser for personal advice and guidance. We would love to discuss your options with you!