Laser cutting and engraving is a brilliant way to add some personal touches to your projects; whether to easily personalize something for a gift or to add a design you would not have been able to do before.
They can be used for a variety of projects but are particularly popular with jewelry makers. Using a laser, jewelers can engrave with much more precision than before, allowing for even more complex and detailed pieces to be designed and then easily and quickly produced. Lasers can cut into both flat and curved surfaces, which make them ideal for jewelry making.
Other creative functions for laser engravers include laser-etched mirrors and fine art. This is alongside its more industrial applications and functions.
They are now increasingly popular and there are many different machines out there on the market, but it can be difficult to know where to start when looking at the different machines.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through the main things you need to know before buying one and recommend our favorite models.
At a Glance: Our Choice of the Best Laser Engraving Machines On the Market
- Orion Motor Tech Premium (Best Premium)
- Morphorn Laser Engraving Machine
- Titoe CNC 3018Pro-M
- LaserPecker Compact (Best Budget)
Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices, and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.
What is a Laser Cutter Engraver?
Simply put a laser cutter engraver uses lasers to engrave a pattern, design, or word onto an object. They can engrave onto a whole variety of materials including stone, glass, metals, plastics, and natural materials. The machine consists of three parts: a laser, a controller, and a surface.
The laser is what draws onto your materials. It emits a beam that can trace your desired design onto the surface. This beam is controlled by the controller, this determines the speed, direction, intensity of the laser. The surface is chosen to match the type of material the laser can act on.
Buyer’s Guide – Things to Consider Before You Buy
The first thing for you to consider when looking into buying a laser cutter engraver is the size and the scale of the pieces you are wanting to produce.
For a machine to be effective for mass-producing larger pieces you will need to invest in a larger-scale laser cutting size bed. This will enable a continuous cutting process for a longer period compared to a small size bed. For smaller-scale production or for using within schools’ environments a small-sized laser cutting machine would be more suitable.
You should also consider your available workshop space, ensuring you have adequate space around your machine will prevent congestion that can hinder proper movement and working processes. There are machines available in varying sizes, from those that will fit on your desk, all the way up to those that are bigger than your desk!
As you add more features to your machine you will find that both the price and the size start to substantially increase, make sure to check the product specifications before committing to a machine. It is often difficult to be sure of the size just by looking at the pictures and there’s nothing worse than being excited for your order only for it to turn up and not fit where you want it to!
There are two options when it comes to the software you decide to use with your laser cutter and engraver.
The first is to use the software that comes with your chosen machine. On a positive note this software will cost you less, on the other hand it could come with limited creative options, and force you to have to use set fonts and designs within your work.
The second, and more expensive, option is to purchase an engraver that will work with software you already use, for example Cad or Adobe. Then you will be able to just transfer your completed design over to your engraver.
Laser cutters and engravers can work on a variety of different materials, but their effectiveness across certain materials can vary depending on the machine you chose. Some machines are only able to work on softer materials, for example, leather. Others can work with metals. What projects you are hoping to complete on your machine will affect what machine you should go for; working with metal means considering more specific machines.
The materials that you can engrave on include:
Burning images onto wood were some of the first known uses of engraving and the first type of ‘engraving laser’. The laser power required to work with wood projects is often less than 10watts. Mahogany, walnut, maple, and other hardwoods produce good results with engraving.
Some plastics, such as acrylic plastic, acrylic plastic sheet, and other cast resins, generally laser well. However, some plastics have a chlorine content that can produce a corrosive chlorine gas when lasered. This gas combines with Hydrogen in the air and produces vaporized hydrochloric acid which can damage the machine. So be aware with what you use within your projects and machines and make sure to do your research.
Engraving metal requires high-density laser irradiation since most metals are heat resistant. Average laser power can lead to melting and peak power can cause the evaporation of your material.
Stone and Glass
If the power, speed, and focus of your laser is set exactly right, excellent engraving results can be achieved when using glass and stone. When a laser hits the surface, it fractures. The pores in the surface expose the natural grains, and these, when heated quickly, can separate a tiny ‘chip’ from the material surface.
There are a variety of ways to connect your engraving machine to your computer. For some artists the software compatibility is extremely important so it’s good to know exactly what options there are out there.
Most laser engraver cutters connect via a USB connection. Although some use a Bluetooth or 2.4GHz wireless interface connection. If you are happy to use a wired connection, then you should not have any problems. However, wired connections can reduce movement and affect working processes, so if you are wanting to free up your workstation, wireless technology is the way to go.
Product Round-up and Reviews – Best Laser Engraver Cutters
Orion Motor Tech
The Orion Motor Tech engraves or cuts a huge variety of materials, including wood, rubber, glass, plastic, fiberglass, leather, aluminum, ceramics, and many more.
However, if you are desperate to engrave on metal surfaces this is not the machine for you.
It has a great positioning accuracy of 0.01mm and has a maximum engraving and cutting depth of 5mm for acrylics or wood, this reduces to 4mm for harder materials.
The engraver is compatible with Windows 2000/7/8/XP/10 but is not compatible with an IOS system. This machine is compatible with CorelDraw and AutoCad software, however, this software is not included with the machine.
The machine dimensions are 47.2” x 36.6” x 34.3” and the working size is 20” x 28”.
Included with this machine are an exhaust fan, a ventilation tube, a water pump, a manual, software, and a USB key and cable.
- Comes with everything needed to get started
- Huge number of materials can be engraved or cut
- Compatible with lots of Windows programs
- Cannot engrave or cut any metal surfaces.
Morphorn Laser Engraving Machine
The Morphorn is a machine that is budget-friendly but still comes with plenty of positives.
It has a smaller working area than that of the Orion, coming in at 12” x 8”. This does limit the size of your projects but does mean the machine itself is smaller than the Orion.
It uses a USB port for connectivity and includes the CorelDraw software. It works with multiple graphic formats including EMF/ JPG/ PLT/ WMF.
This machine cannot cut or engrave metals or ceramics. It has a positioning accuracy of 0.01mm and is compatible with computer systems Windows XP/7/8 and 10.
It has two LCD displays: a temperature display and a laser power display. It can engrave rubber, acrylics, bamboo, wood, and paper etc.
Included with this machine are a water pump, smoke pipe, smoke fan, power wire, USB key and cable, accessory bag, instruction video and a user manual.
- Can engrave a variety of materials
- Included software of CorelDraw
- Lots of different graphic formats.
- Cannot engrave or cut metals.
- A big, not easily portable machine.
The Triumph comes with software installed and ready to work, and is compatible with CorelDraw, AutoCad and Photoshop.
It is one of the more high-end machines on this list and its list of features reflects this.
It offers high peak power and an excellent beam quality as well as a good touch interface and powerful control system. It can engrave on multiple different surfaces including aluminum, copper, gold, and silver.
The Triumph has an advanced digital high-speed scanning galvanometer, small volume, quick speed, and good stability making it a great machine for detail engraving, or those who need multiple pieces engraved quickly.
- Engraves metals
- Comes with software already installed and is easy to figure out.
- Comes with a two-year warranty
- It is a large machine, so not easily portable and it will need its own area to work.
Titoe CNC 3018Pro-M
This machine has been upgraded from a previous version and the manufacturers have improved the lower plate installation mode to improve the accuracy and installation speeds.
It has a working area of just 300 x 180 x 45mm making it much smaller than other machines on the list, this does however mean it will fit on desks and not take up too much space.
It supports Windows XP/7/8 and 10. It will also work well with a Mac using a Java based controller.
The machine will be suitable for carving wood, plastic, acrylic and soft metals (like copper or aluminum).
It is not able to carve hard metals, jade, and other hard materials. The machine comes with an offline controller, which has a large 1GB capacity.
- It has an offline controller so no need to be connected to computers.
- Will engrave multiple materials including soft metals.
- Small machine so not suitable for large projects.
This is a great little machine. It is completely portable and can be used anywhere and powered by a power bank.
There is no limit on the engraving height, and it supports multiple file formats including, JPG, BMP, PNG, and G-code. The LaserPecker is wirelessly Bluetooth controlled by a smartphone and has a positioning accuracy of 0.01mm.
It is an exceedingly small machine though and only has an engraving range of 10 x 10cm.
There are four engraving modes, import text, drawing, images or painting directly.
It has many safety features including a working warning alert, motion-triggered stop, overheat shutdown and password lock.
It can engrave wood, bamboo, paper, leather, rubber, and coated plastics. However, it will not engrave metals, stone, white paper, jewelry, reflective material, or silver so be aware of what projects you will be wanting to make before making your purchase. The LaserPecker comes with a one-year warranty.
- A variety of different color machines available.
- Great budget, starter machine.
- Portable and lightweight.
- Great safety features.
- Only has an exceedingly small engraving area.
- If you do not have a smartphone it may be limiting for you.
All the machines reviewed above have many positives and the one you choose really will depend on you and the projects you have in mind. For example, if you are hoping to do lots of metal engraving, not all the machines one this list will be the best one for you.
The best, budget-friendly machine for me would be the LaserPecker Compact, as a starter machine for those looking for something that is easily portable, it is ideal. It does have its limitations, such as the small size and the lack of engraving metals, but that is reflected in the price. It is easy to set up and still has a great positioning accuracy, plus the safety features included offer real peace of mind.
Should you be willing to splash out a little more I would look further into the Triumph. It comes with plenty of features and would still be workable for a beginner due to it arriving ready to work. The fact it engraves on multiple surfaces including metals is a definite plus. Its biggest drawback for me would be its large size, although if you have the space and are serious about your engraving it offers an awful lot of positives to consider.