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Laser Engraving as a Hobby – Laser Cutting Machine Buying Guide

A Quick Background

Say hello to your next hobby — laser engraving and cutting, which has been on the rise due to its increased demand within the crafting community. With careful research and just a little investment from your savings, you can own a CO2 laser engraver and start new projects on your chosen materials. And now, some categories of CO2 laser machines are classified as the perfect hobby laser cutting machines due to their affordability, portability, and ease of use for domestic purposes.

But in the process of trying to buy the best CO2 laser cutting machine, quite a number of factors have to be considered. The truth is, these factors are flexible yet subjective, as it’s entirely your call to make on the nature of the laser machine you would purchase. These factors would help answer the question- what should I look for when buying a laser engraver? Once you can carefully scrutinize your options based on these factors, then be rest assured of getting the best laser machine your money can buy. I guess you really want to know more, so let’s delve into this detailed buying guide!

7 Key Factors to Consider

What materials can you laser engrave?

As a hobbyist, you certainly have some materials in mind that you want to work with constantly. This is extremely important because different laser machines are compatible with different materials. Common materials like wood, rubber, leather, glass, etc. have different properties hence the machine that will effectively work on them would vary. The appropriate laser cutting machine should be suitable for your material in relation to cutting speed, engraving depth, resolution etc. Don’t forget that CO2 laser engravers are not capable of engraving on metal. A CO2 laser can mark designs on metal with the application of laser marking spray.

What is the best wattage for a laser engraver?

Just like materials, power must be duly considered as it also links to the thickness of the material being cut/engraved. Having the machine with the right power requirement for your material will give you the best productivity and result. For instance, if you want to work on 6-10mm thick wood, the recommended power starts from 40W for the best working speed. In another case for rubber stamps of 6-10mm, the recommended power is 60W upwards. Any CO2 lasers of 30W and under can result in underwhelming results and a flaw in your investment. This shows that your hobby laser cutting machine must be able to cater to the likely material specification you would frequently work with.

What size of work area do I need?

The available work area is yet another important feature to consider. When working with a small-sized workpiece then you should also go for a small-sized laser cutting machine to save cost. For example, OMTech categorizes their CO2 laser machines based on the size and power as Desktop, Mid-Range, and High Power laser cutting machines. Their Desktop models have a work area of 8” x 12”, perfect for small-scale projects such as jewelry, keychains, coasters, etc. Their Mid-Range models can be an even better fit! Their work areas range from 12” x 20” to a colossal 24” x 40”. This can tackle large-scale projects such as tumblers, signage, cutouts, and more. Mid-Range models also have a pass-through installed to allow larger materials to enter the workspace.

How much is a hobby laser cutter?

Typically, a small laser cutter with a 40W laser costs around $500 and up. Most hobbyists start with one of these K40 laser engravers. Professionally capable machines usually start around $2000 and go all the way up to $10,000 or even more. You can simply say the more versatile the machine is, the more it would cost. That’s not to say that there are no overpriced machines in the market today. When shopping around, concentrate more on the specifications and ability of the machine than just the price. CO2 laser engravers from OMTech have been found to be a blend of great features and affordable/fair pricing for the value they effortlessly deliver.

How much maintenance does a laser engraver need?

For all equipment, a time for routine maintenance always comes. And the ability to get this done easily and safely should never be undermined. When buying your laser machine, observe how complex the design is. This would inform how easy it is to dismantle and re-assemble within the shortest possible time for routine checks. Also, while preparing to purchase your machine, it is recommended to ask the company representatives some cogent questions such as:

  • How frequently does it need maintenance?
  • Can it be done by a beginner like myself?
  • What is the cost implication of typical routine maintenance?

If the responses you get are satisfactory and points towards easy maintenance and repair, then you should likely settle for that machine. But we’re not done yet!

Replacement Parts

Asides from the ease of maintenance, the ability to easily access replacement parts in your locality when needed is paramount. You do not want to buy a machine that will not serve your purpose due to prolonged downtime. Especially if this prolonged downtime is usually a result of unavailable spare parts. Keep in mind that some replacement parts can be quite pricey! So, it’s best to get your facts right before purchasing a machine.

How often should a laser cutter be serviced?

Last, but certainly not least, ensure the company has good customer and technical support, as well as a great reputation. In fact, after-sales service is just as important as the pre-sale service you received; therefore, you should look for companies like OMTech. You stand to gain from their training, virtual technical support, quick resolution of problems, and a 2-year machine warranty as a part of their impeccable after-sales service.

Lessons to Take Home

It is important to note that when it comes to laser engravers, a high price tag does not necessarily guarantee quality and customer satisfaction. You must bear in mind that there are several overpriced brands out there. Hence, pay attention to specifications and features that matter to you as a hobbyist. As discussed above, OMTech has the best product line of Desktop and Mid-Range CO2 laser engravers that will meet and beat your expectations, as well as perfectly fit in as your first hobby laser cutting machine.  You too can also achieve the dream of having a CO2 laser cutting machine – just follow the steps above to help you get the best buy!



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