Dating back to 1965, the laser cutter was mostly used for drilling holes in diamond dies. Over time, it found use and application in various industries, including aerospace and manufacturing industries.
Top of the list of the uses of laser cutters is cutting and etching. Laser cutters use laser beams to trim excess materials or cut out complex shapes that would otherwise be difficult to achieve with conventional drills. In addition to trimming and cutting materials, the laser cutter also comes in handy in raster and etching designs onto workpieces — making it an ideal tool in prototyping and manufacturing industries.
Having mentioned “prototyping”, hardware companies and startups use laser cutters to create cheap and quick prototypes that can be used for digital fabrication (like 3D printing).
How do laser cutters work?
Unless you are just joining at this point, you should already have an idea of how laser cutters work. To shed more light on what we have discussed so far, there are different types of laser cutters, and even though they vary in design and application/function, they work on the same principle — they use a beam of laser to cut through materials.
Not to sound too technical, the laser cutter sends out intense light that is focused with the aid of a lens in the cutting head. The laser is focused is then narrowed down to an extremely concentrated beam that is projected at the material and used to trim or cut down the material.
The distinction between different laser cutters is the type of laser the machine has. And as you can imagine, it is the type of laser that determines the thickness of the material you can cut through. Why? Laser have different power ranges.
And this brings us to the million-bucks question;
What is a laser cutter?
You may already have an idea of what a laser looks like and how it works. What you may not know is that a laser cutter is a type of computer numerical controlled machine or CNC machine for short.
What that means is you can create a design on software and send it to the cutter to be cut. The laser cutter then uses the command from the software to cut or etch into the material on the cutting bed ( with the aid of a laser beam.) Depending on the power range of the laser cutter, they can be used be used to make a variety of designs (both simple and complex) and can cut into materials like wood, acrylic, paper, and cardboard, among several other materials.
Factors to consider when buying the best laser cutter
Like virtually every other type of tool out there, buying a laser cutter also demand that you make adequate research before reaching for your wallet. It is always best to have a checklist of factors to consider while choosing the right laser cutter.
What are the types of laser cutters?
Before we dive into the factors you should consider while scouting for the best laser cutter, let’s quickly touch on the types of laser cutters out there. There are two main types of laser cutters: CO2 lasers and neodymium lasers.
CO2 laser cutters make use of electrically stimulated gas mixtures (mostly Carbon dioxide, CO2). These are the common types of laser cutters because of their efficiency and ability to cut through different types of materials ( wood, leather, acrylic, glass, and some types of plastic.)
Neodymium lasers have higher intensities compared to CO2 lasers. As such, making them suitable for cutting through thicker materials like metal, ceramic, and plastics.
Tips for buying the best laser cutter
Considering that different brands of laser cutters have flooded the markets, you should inquire about the ease of getting replacement parts, access to tech support, and tutorials/guide on how to fix the machine. And of course, can it be upgraded?
It’s always best to the power of the laser and the size of the bed before settling for any laser cutter. The size of the bed gives you an idea of the size of material you can fit in the machine to cut or engrave. Bigger beds give you enough room to cut or engrave larger pieces — they also let you cut multiple pieces at a time instead of one at a time if you are working on small projects like laser cutting jewelry.
Laser cutter power
Regarding laser cutter power, the strength of the laser cutter is measured in Watts. As such, the more watts, the more powerful the laser cutter is. While you are at it, you should have at the back of your mind that it’s not the power of the laser cutter that allows you to cut through thicker materials but the focal point of the lens. The power of the laser only affects the speed at which you can cut, etch or engrave.