Buyer's Guide to Laser Engraver and Cutter Products
I want to buy a laser engraver - what should I start with?
Are you beginning your adventure with laser engravers? This page will help you find the information you need. It will provide you with tips and help you choose an appropriate laser engraver and cutter for your needs.
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When it comes to the selection of the laser itself - it is important to decide for what purposes you intend to primarily use it. Whether you need it for laser engraving or laser cutting or both. Other aspects important for the choice of your laser engraver or cutter are the thicknesses of the materials you want to laser process, their structure, density as well as heat transfer among other properties. All these parameters affect what laser head will work best for you. While this might sound complicated, we offer you this straightforward guide that will lead you through the process.
PLH3D-Series Laser Engraver and Cutter Products from Opt Lasers
PLH3D-Series Laser Heads are designed for laser engraving and laser cutting applications, for industrial, service and hobby uses. Our laser heads stand out with their small dimensions, long life, sturdy and user-friendly design as well as resistance to pollution and damage. What’s more, PLH3D-Series laser engravers and cutters can be mounted on almost any CNC router and CNC machine.
PLH3D-Series engraving laser heads are designed to process materials such as wood, plywood, balsa, cardboard, paper, leather, ceramics, stone, rubber, plastics and foams.
These blue laser heads also work well for marking and engraving stainless steel, tool steel, carbon steel and Titanium.
Cost-Efficient and Versatile: PLH3D-6W-XF+
It is a highly versatile laser head that enables you to laser engrave or laser cut thin and thick materials alike. Furthermore, it can be used to mark stainless steel and Titanium. It is a great choice laser engraver and laser cutter that doesn’t cost much. In addition, this laser head allows focusing lens exchange and is compatible with all available accessories, two most important of which are the uSpot Lens Upgrade and the High-Pressure Air-Assist Nozzle. This laser head allows laser processing of a wide range of materials over the largest span of material thicknesses. This is achieved by the small size of the focused beam spot (and consequently high power density) as well as a relatively low-angle cone of light that doesn’t scorch cut edges for thick materials. You can also learn more about the XF+ laser engraver in the PLH3D-6W-Series laser heads article.
Please bear in mind that XF+ laser heads can also be bought as a part of our CNC Machine Laser Upgrade Kits. Buying a full laser upgrade kit significantly lowers the price of all the necessary components and provides a plug-and-play solution!
The best-selling 6 W laser from PLH3D Series. Professional engraving laser designed for industrial applications. Features a robust design, compatibility with all types of control signals used in CNC and 3D printing market. It can be powered with a wide range of PSUs and ...In stock
The Beast: PLH3D-15W
This is the highest power laser engraver and cutter on our offer. It is better in every respect than any lower power PLH3D-Series laser head. The only downside is that it will not be as good for laser cutting thick materials. On the other hand, it has the precision of the XF+ with the uSpot Lens Upgrade combined with three times as high optical power density. This enables you to laser process more problematic materials and achieve high throughput. Unlike lower power PLH3D-Series Laser Heads, PLH3D-15W can laser engrave stainless, carbon and high-speed varieties of steel as well as Titanium. Metal engraving is defined here as removing a layer of the metal being processed. Additionally, it can laser mark metals 10 times as fast as the XF+ laser head.
It is currently the best compact blue laser head in the world.
Specialized Laser Heads: XT-50 and XT-10
Our XT-Series were designed to push the boundaries in terms of the resolution that can be achieved in laser engraving and cutting. XT-Series engraving laser heads are devised with the most demanding clients in mind, especially if your application requires a specialized approach. XT-Series laser engraver and laser cutter products possess an additional special optical system that makes the focused beam spot 4.5 times smaller. This results in a significant increase in optical power density because the same optical power reaching the material is spread over a smaller surface.
The XT-50 laser engraver combines the most powerful laser diode on the market with the smallest focused beam spot in the world among high-power laser heads. And, overall, the only laser head in the world with a smaller focused beam spot size than XT-50 is XT-10, also produced by Opt Lasers.
The sheer optical power density of the XT-50 laser engraver is equivalent to a 25 W laser head with an optical system comparable to XF+ with µSpot Lens Upgrade. In other words, achieving this high laser power density would require 5 separate laser diodes in case of combining laser power from XF+ with µSpot Lens Upgrade equivalent laser beam sources. What’s more, the XT-50 laser engraver allows its user to engrave with the real-life DPI of more than 500 as the focused beam spot is just 50 µm wide. The XT-50 laser head is thus a state-of-the-art solution for rapid laser engraving with top precision as well as laser cutting thin materials. In addition, the XT-50 laser engraver can also be utilized for laser engraving Titanium as well as steel and its alloys (including stainless steel, tool steel, high-speed steel and carbon steel) just like PLH3D-15W!
The XT-10 laser engraver on the other hand utilizes a different laser diode with 0.5 W of optical power and 405 nm wavelength. This particular 405 nm wavelength is defined by higher laser absorption for many materials. However, the crucial feature of the XT-10 laser head is the minuscule focused beam spot size, which is just 10 µm wide! This feature allows its user to laser engrave readable lettering that is just 0.1 mm (0.0039”) high. The XT-10 laser engraver is a product for clients that require extremely high real-life DPI values around 2500. As a result of lower total laser power, this laser head is recommended for laser processing soft materials such as textiles, wood and plastics. It cannot be used for laser engraving metals or ceramics. The XT-10 laser engraver (and laser cutter) is designed for use in ultra-high precision engraving or ultra-high precision laser cutting of thin materials.
To assemble your plug-and-play laser upgrade kit with XT-50 or XT-10 laser head, you can use our Generic Laser Upgrade Kit Builder.
PLH3D-XT-Series engraving laser heads were created as a series of specialized laser heads for engraving with extremely high resolution and cutting thing materials with ultra-thin line. PLH3D-XT-Series engraving laser heads are build based on PLH3D-6W-Series engraving laser ...In stock
Hobby Use: PLH3D-2W
If you are looking for a light laser engraver and cutter that will not be used on a daily basis, PLH3D-2W is a great choice. It is a very compact laser head (particularly so for a 3D printer) that provides decent optical power and optical power density. It is quite versatile and, with some additional passes, it can be used to cut materials like balsa or leather that are approximately 3 millimeters thick. Nevertheless, you would have to take into account that it will require some time to cut through thicker or harder materials. The PLH3D-2W laser engraver will work very well for thin materials that do not conduct heat well, such as textiles or thin colored plastics. It will however not be able to mark or engrave any metals. PLH3D-2W can be installed with or without the PLH3D-CNC Adapter connected, depending on how familiar and skilled you are in basic electronics.
Smallest but still powerful laser head from PLH3D series. PLH3D-2W is a medium power laser head equipped with 450 nm laser diode and high-resolution lens. Compact design and very lightweight (70 grams) allow installing the laser head even in small and delicate machines. ...In stock
How to Choose an Appropriate Laser Engraver Based on the Material Type
The main factor between material types that decides if a particular material type can be easily laser engraved or not is whether the material is metallic or not. Some metallic materials cannot be engraved at all. To engrave metals, ie. to remove a layer of the processed metal, it is recommended to start with a 15 W or higher optical power blue laser head. As of now, PLH3D-15W laser engraver is the best compact laser head on the market capable of engraving steel as well as stainless, carbon, tool and high-speed subspecies of it. It still is not powerful enough to engrave on bare Aluminium, Copper or brass simply because these materials either conduct heat too well or reflect too much laser light. It is possible to laser engrave copper with 30 W (optical power) blue laser heads. XT-50 is another laser engraver that allows you to work with metals, and it does so with outstanding precision (as its 50 µm wide focused beam spot corresponds to >500 real-life DPI ). These two engraving laser heads allow you to laser engrave (not just mark) the metals mentioned above.
If you are satisfied with simply laser marking the metal, you can achieve it on stainless steel and Titanium (but not other metals) with 6 W laser engravers. Laser marking is defined here as changing the color of the metal surface as a result of overheating. Laser marking is however less durable than laser engraving because the depth of the color change is much lower. Laser-marked surfaces can withstand just a few scrubs with fine sandpaper. For this purpose, the XF+ laser engraver with High-Resolution Lenses or the uSpot Lens Upgrade will do a good job. uSpot Lens Upgrade will allow you to do it much faster than the standard High-Resolution Lens.
Nevertheless, if you want to do it really fast (>30 mm/s), then you will either need a laser with 15 W of optical power or the XT-50 laser engraver and cutter. Depending on the chemical composition and type of stainless steel you can assume speeds of 0.5 - 2 mm/s, 8 -15 mm/s, or 20-40 mm/s for the XF+ High Resolution Lens, XF+ Uspot Lens and PLH3D-15W respectively.
For thermoformed plastics, optical power density is significantly less important than optical power. The more optical power you deliver to the surface being processed, the faster it melts. For this very reason, 6 W laser engraver is a good choice. It is because it is built with the highest power laser diode available on the market. Nevertheless, higher optical power laser engravers and cutters such as 15 or 30 W multidiode laser heads will do an even better job. 2 W is generally not recommended for processing thermoformed plastics but it can do the job if lower cutting speeds are acceptable.
There are many dangerous materials, particularly plastics, for which you should research whether a given material can be safely laser processed before any laser processing takes place. For these materials, you should have a ventilation system set-up in place and well as use an air-assist nozzle to protect the lens if possible. As a result the most suitable laser engraver and laser cutter choices would be:
- Either PLH3D-XT-50 with the High-Pressure Air-Assist Nozzle;
- Or PLH3D-6W-XF+ laser head (with or without the uSpot Lens Upgrade) with the High-Pressure Air-Assist Nozzle;
- Or PLH3D-15W which has an air-assist nozzle built-in as a standard feature.
It is a good practice to have a ventilation system set-up for laser processing any plastics and additionally to remove the fumes with additional fan or direct fumex extraction tip from the cutting point. Remember that fumes are dangerous not only to humans, certain materials produces corroding gas or other substances that can influence your machines performance over time.
Unlike thermoplastics, white materials require a high optical power density laser head in order to be laser engraved or laser cut. The higher the optical power of your laser engraver and laser cutter is, the higher variety of materials you will be able to cut. Hence the best choice for such materials is either PLH3D-15W or XF+ with uSpot Lens Upgrade or XT-50 if ultra-hd precision is preferable.
Other Types of Materials
As a general rule, most laser heads can process similar material types. Only a few particular types of materials require your laser engraver and laser cutter to have specific properties. The most common problematic materials were mentioned above.
Other types of materials can be processed with all engraving laser heads that have at least 2 W of optical power, and the main difference in their application would be the throughput obtained.
Choosing Appropriate Laser Head Based on the Material Thickness
The maximum thickness of the material that can be laser cut is determined by a few parameters. The most important factor is the material itself. Secondly, it also depends on the optical power and optical power density of your laser as well as the angle of the light cone. Foams in general are the thickest materials that can be cut with a laser cutter.
As a general rule, PLH3D-XT-50 or PLH3D-15W laser engravers will perform better than XF+ at laser cutting anything thinner than 5-6 mm. For material thicknesses above 8-10 mm it is advised not to use PLH3D-15W, XT-50 or XF+ with the uSpot Lens Upgrade as they will cause edge burning as a result of light cone angle. PLH3D-15W laser cutter will perform way better than XT-50 working with themoplastics with around 3 times higher laser cutting speed. Meanwhile, the XT-50 laser cutter will perform better at removing thin layers or laser cutting very thin materials where heat dissipation effects have smaller influence on cutting speed. Thus for materials with 8-10 mm thicknesses it is advised to use standard XF+ laser head equipped with either G2, G7 lens or High-Resolution Lens. Standard XF+ can be used to cut quite thick materials up to 40 mm. It can for example be utilized for cutting 40 mm foam in just 4-6 passes. We have also tested cutting 10 mm balsa with PLH3D-6W-XF+ Laser Head, but it is definitely possible to cut even thicker balsa with additional passes.
The uSpot Lens Upgrade for the XF+ laser head is designed specifically for cutting thinner materials as well as high resolution engraving. PLH3D-6W-XF+ with uSpot Lens Upgrade has the same spot size as PLH3D-15W, but 3 times smaller optical power.
PLH3D-6W-uSpot will perform better than regular XF+ at cutting anything thinner than 4-5 mm. Adding the High-Pressure Air-Assist Nozzle to your laser head will help increase the speed of laser cutting and lower the number of required passes to process the material of choice. It will also increase the maximum thickness of a material that can be cut.
Compatibility with Various CNC Machines and 3D Printers - And How to Connect Your Engraver
PLH3D-CNC Adapter allows you to quickly connect your laser head to almost any CNC machine, including 3D printers. You may require basic electronics skills to connect it to more complicated controllers. Nevertheless, common controllers such as BlackBox controller, Duet 3D or xPro v4/v5 are quite easy to connect. We also have a controller connection database showing how to connect your PLH3D-CNC Adapter to a wide range of controllers.
CNC Milling Machines
Basically, with the help of the PLH3D-CNC Adapter, it is possible to connect the laser head to almost any CNC machine to turn your CNC machine into a laser engraving machine. One of the most important things, besides the connection, is generating an appropriate G-Code. G-Code for a laser engraver differs from the standard G-Code. The laser needs to be switched off for the duration of any idle movement while a spindle could be left spinning. The two most similar aspects of the laser and spingle g-codes are the power and the rotation speed. The same PWM signal that controls the rotation speed of the spindle can be used to control the laser power of your laser engraver and cutter. Typically, this is done with the S0 - S255 command (0 for 0% power and 255 for full power), but depending on your CNC Software and Controller, you might end up using different values, for example, S0 - S1000.
While it is possible to connect your laser engraver (and cutter) without the adapter, it requires basic electronics skills and an additional power source.
Connecting your laser to a 3D printer is somewhat more problematic than connecting it to a CNC machine. This is primarily caused by the fact 3D printers don’t have a dedicated output for spindle control. As a result, you don’t have a PWM signal designed specifically for the purpose of controlling an additional accessory such as a laser engraver. Nevertheless, a 3D printer has a few additional outputs for heater and fan control. These outputs can be used to control your laser. Using the PLH3D-CNC Adapter adds additional safety features and allows you to use enable signals. While the connection can typically be done in a few different ways, adding PLH3D-CNC Adapter significantly simplifies the connection and allows you to easily connect your laser engraver and cutter without the need for familiarity with basic electronics.
Other CNC Machines
Opt Lasers Laser Heads are designed to work with any CNC machinery and connecting them to your system is pretty straightforward. To fire the laser head, you need to provide it with a 5V or 10V analog signal, or you can use a PWM signal. Opt Lasers laser heads can be mounted on robotic arms, robots, rovers, lathes and all kinds of CNC machinery that can operate a modulating signal or a 0/1 digital signal.
What lenses should I choose?
For a given lens, the focusing effect will be similar for a 6 W and 2 W laser head. PLH3D-15W nad PLH3D-XT Series laser heads are shipped with premounted lenses that cannot be exchanged. You can also familiarize yourself with an article comparing different lenses and their capabilities. Depending on your application please keep in mind that we can customize a laser head for you depending on your laser cutting or laser engraving application.
What Accessories should I buy?
All main accessories (LaserDock, High-Pressure Air Assist Nozzle) can be found in the product details section in the main menu. All other accessories as well as descriptions of their applications can be found on the Opt Lasers Accessories webpage.
The most important accessories you should consider for your laser engraver and cutter are:
uSpot Lens Upgrade
This is the main accessory for PLH3D-6W-XF+ laser engraver and cutter. To put it simply, this accessory speeds up laser engraving speed up to 3 times the base speed (and by 30-40% on average). uSpot Lens Upgrade also increases the resolution of your laser engraving because it generates 3-4 times as small focused beam spot. It is also an ideal choice for laser cutting thin materials. You can also discover more information about it on the uSpot product page.
High-Pressure Air Assist Nozzle
Simply put, this accessory can speed up laser engraving and cutting speed by up to 6.5 times the base speed. The typical speed increase for laser cutting applications that this accessory gives is 2-3 times the base speed. The laser engraving speed is only slightly higher. The High-Pressure Air Assist Nozzle also enhances the quality of obtained edges and protects your lenses. You can also discover more about the High Pressure Air-Assist Nozzle accessory here.
LaserDock - Magnetic Docking Station
If you work in a dusty working environment and you are not planning to buy a whole kit, then the LaserDock will help you to keep your laser clean by allowing you to quickly attach and detach your XF+, XT-50 or XT-10 laser engraver and cutter. If you possess more than one CNC machine, you can purchase additional laser docking stations and adapters to quickly move your laser head from one CNC machine to another.
Laser Safety Glasses
If you want to show your work with laser as it happens to anybody else, you will need an additional pair of Laser Safety Glasses or Goggles for each visitor you want to show it to. Every person present in the laser processing room must avoid eye or skin exposure to direct or scattered radiation (400-480 nm).
How to Choose an Appropriate CNC Machine Upgrade Kit for a Particular CNC Machine?
The majority of our laser heads are available in ready-to-buy kits that contain all the most important accessories you would need. Each kit is clearly described in terms of what products it contains. You can also create your own kit with our Generic Laser Upgrade Kit Builder. depending on what accessories you need.
In our offer, you can also find Eco Saver kits with XF+ laser engravers. These kits do not contain Laser Docking Station and they have a simplified connection. Since some machines require additional Enable Signal, Saver Kits cannot be installed on some machines due to a lack of PLH3D-CNC Adapter. You can find our Saver kits here.
Opt Lasers’ 15 W laser engraver (and laser cutter) can only be bought as a part of a relevant laser upgrade kit to ensure the unambiguous and reliable installation of this product. On the PLH3D-15W product page you can choose the wiring of choice and then add a relevant kit to your cart. If you cannot see your CNC machine on the list, please get in touch and we will quickly advise you which one you should choose. On such occasions, it is typically sufficient to choose a universal laser add-on kit and have a correct adapter program set.
The rectangle below depicts where exactly you can choose a PLH3D-15W set that is suitable for your machine:
We also highly recommend taking a look at the PLH3D-15W product release video:
Add-on Kits with PLH3D-6W-XF+
PLH3D-6W Laser Heads are available in kits for numerous CNC machines. These kits include, but are not limited to kits for CNC machines such as LEAD, Workbee, Onefinity, i2R, X-Carve, Stepcraft, Openbuilds as well as other machines. In case you have a ShopSabre CNC machine, you should purchase your laser upgrade kit directly from them.
You can also create your own laser add-on kit by choosing relevant products of interest and adding them to your cart. However, you would lose out on an attractive discount that comes with buying a full kit.
In case you cannot see a laser engraver and cutter kit for your machine, please try using the search window and type in the name of your machine.
Nevertheless, if you still cannot find anything relevant, please contact us and we will help you find a laser engraver and cutter kit that will work for your CNC machine. It is quite common for us to release new kits starting out from the point of a customer being interested in adding a laser head to his CNC machine.
Upgrade Kits with PLH3D-2W
If you add a 2 W laser engraver and an appropriate adapter kit for your CNC machine, our team will send you a suitable wire to connect PLH3D-CNC Adapter to your PLH3D-2W laser. You can also buy a ready universal 2 W laser engraver kit, which can be connected to all CNC machines. You would just need to connect it appropriately and set a correct Adapter Program.
You can find a lot of useful information in the same tab this article is.
To find out about typical achievable laser engraving speeds as well as laser cutting speeds for different materials, please visit:
Step-by-step laser engraver and cutter installation guides for a wide range of popular CNC machines and 3D printer can be found below:
To familiarize yourself with our laser engraver and laser cutter products installation manuals, please go to:
To find the answers for standard questions, please see the FAQ:
Instructions, 3D files, Software, technical drawings etc. can be found here:
Useful Laser Engraving and Laser Cutting Related Videos on YouTube
There are a lot of videos on Youtube that show laser engraver and cutter installation for different machines or present various interesting laser projects. You can also visit our Youtube Channel, which you are more than welcome to subscribe to.
There are a lot of related videos made by professional users as well as hobbyists. You can check them out here:
We have a few playlists that differentiate our videos based on the topic discussed. These for example include playlists related to specific CNC machines, Opt Lasers Educational Series or laser projects. In the link below, you can find lot of useful information about how to use laser engravers, how to install them or find an exciting inspiration for a new project:
Facebook Group and Fanpage for People Interested in Laser Engravers and Cutters
We highly encourage you to join our Opt Lasers facebook group. You can use this group to show your laser work, exchange laser processing experience as well as ask any questions you might have:
Build a supportive community together with us!
You are also recommended to give our Facebook fanpage a thumbs up. By clicking like, you will gain the added benefit of first-hand information about our exciting new product releases, interesting laser processing movies, handy tutorials and other materials:
You can also follow our other social media:
Additional YouTube Videos of Use to You
Below you can find our YouTube videos showing laser cutting and laser engraving tests, technical explanations and reviews as well as other valuable content:
Tests of PLH3D-15W - Videos
YouTubers Tests and Reviews