Best Laser Cutters and Engravers of 2024

Best Laser Cutters and Engravers of 2024

There are many ways to bring your artistic creations to life. I love to use. The best 3D printers to create art, but I also enjoy using laser cutters — sometimes called laser etchers or laser engravers — to work with other materials. Engraving designs on glass and leather, or cutting wood and acrylic, can create objects that are simply stunning.

Glowforge Ora

Russell Hawley/CNET

Being creative has never been easier than now. More and more people are identifying as makers, people who want to create, and entire industries have sprung up around homemade creations. Machines like 3D printers, vinyl cutter And laser cutters are now available at prices to fit any pocketbook. They allow people to bring their creations to life in new and exciting ways. You can also make a profit on stores like Etsy and Shopify if you have the right materials and machines.

I've used a laser cutter for about five years to make a variety of projects, from small dog tags to carving a 7-foot workbench with elven runs. Each cutter I use has its pros and cons, so I've teamed up with my CNET colleague Russell Hawley to develop testing criteria to evaluate the best laser cutters.

What is the best laser cutter?

gave xTool P2 Our top pick for the best laser cutters. It's not the cheapest laser cutter around, but with amazing accessories, fantastic software and a cutting size and speed that's hard to ignore, it takes the crown from the Glowforge Pro, but just barely. It's pretty big though, so make sure you have room in your workshop to keep it.

The Best Laser Cutters of 2024

The Xtool P2 is the complete package for fast, powerful laser cutting at home or in a small workshop. With a full suite of accessories that let you cut materials up to 3 meters long and round tumblers and glasses, the P2 can cut any material you could hope for, including glass and transparent acrylic.

The software is excellent and can help you design your creations to best fit your cutting needs. The camera does a good job of helping you align your subject, but be careful when working near the edge of the camera's range, as the fisheye distorts a bit. This bundle comes with some materials to get you started and a fire safety system to give you peace of mind.

Read our xTool P2 review.

The Glowforge Aura is the company's first consumer laser cutter aimed at the entry-level market. It's smaller than other models, with a less powerful laser, but it works surprisingly well on smaller projects. We've created beautiful carvings, etchings, and other laser cut projects on the Aura, and they've all been great.

Read more: Hands-on with Glowforge Aura

The Beamo CO2 is the smallest in Flux's impressive lineup of laser cutters, but don't let the small size fool you. The 30-watt laser, while weaker than some on this list, is still powerful enough to engrave glass, although you may need an additional diode laser to engrave steel. Although it will happily cut through wood, leather and acrylic.

Beamo also comes with a handy touch screen on the device, making it very easy to control the computer from your workshop without plugging it in directly. Flux also has an app that will let you control Beamo directly from your phone.

Diode lasers are often low-powered, with no enclosure to protect you. The S1 solves both of these problems by having a 40-watt laser that can cut 18mm wood in a single, albeit slow, pass. It also has a spectacular wall with a green lid to filter the laser light and an active vent to blow away any fumes. The basic kit has an air assist — something that all lasers should have — and a honeycomb cutting surface that helps reduce scorching on the underside of your material.

The S1 doesn't have a camera — I think it should — so everything is handled very manually. But this is true for most diode lasers.

Glowforge has made it clear that its mission from the beginning is to ensure that anyone can use what it calls “laser printers,” and the Glowforge Pro is a shining example. The fisheye camera gives you a view of the cutting surface from the web app, allowing you to easily click and drag the objects you want to engrave or cut. And if you pay for an additional filtration system, you can use this laser anywhere. Of all the systems tested here, GlowForge's focus on ease of use stands out.

With this ease of use comes some limitations that you won't find anywhere else. Many of the features that make Glowforge Pro great are only available when you pay a monthly subscription. If you're not using Glowforge-produced proof grades, the process of identifying the correct settings for engraving or cutting becomes quite manual. Additionally, the fisheye lens that Gloforge uses can sometimes cause accuracy issues when you're cutting or engraving small, perfectly centered surfaces.

You have questions and we have answers. We hope!

Laser cutter testing is a mix of objective and subjective measures. We spend time measuring speed and accuracy as well as usability and the overall look of the finished product. These tests are conducted in our labs and workshops over a period of one month to ensure that the lasers can withstand proper use.

Laser cutter specifications

How do these laser cutters match?

Xtool P2 Glowforge Ora Xtool S1 Flux Bemo Gloforge Pro
Laser power 55 watts 6 watts 40 watts 40 watts 45 watts
Type of laser CO² Diode Diode CO2 CO2
Work area 26×14 inches 12×12 inches 19.6×12.6 inches 24×17.5 inches 26×14 inches
LED display no no no Yes no
Attachments Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
related to health 0.01 mm N/A 0.01 mm N/A 0.025 mm
The ultimate speed limit 600mm/s unknown 600mm/s 300mm/s unknown
Maximum material thickness 20 mm 5 mm 18 mm 5 mm 13 mm

Speed ​​is tested with a good old-fashioned stopwatch. I created a simple CNET logo design that can be cut on multiple materials. We time how long it takes to complete the cut. We use 3mm basswood, 3mm black acrylic and 3.5mm cardboard for our testing materials, to give us a good overall look. We then compare the speed with the software to see how accurately it calculates the cutting speed.

The engraving is done with a picture of my beautiful dog Indiana Bones. I import this image into workspace and use 3mm basswood for the material. I use the standard engraving settings from each machine to engrave the indi on the wood. My CNET colleague Russell Hawley and I then evaluate the etching for image quality. We're looking at contrast, the level of detail captured, and how grainy the image is, as well as our opinion of the overall quality.

A beautiful brown dog named Indiana Bones. A beautiful brown dog named Indiana Bones.

Indiana is the perfect test subject for laser engraving.

James Bricknell/CNET

For laser cutters with cameras, I created an accuracy test. I designed a file with 10mm and 5mm increments. The file is printed on standard paper and imported into the laser cutter software. From there, we use the laser cutter camera to align the physical markings with the digital ones and set the laser to cut. After the laser is finished, we measure the offset using a micrometer to see how accurately the camera represented the paper image. This is especially useful for laser cutters with fisheye lenses.

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