If you’re a hobbyist that builds models or a small business owner creating memorabilia and souvenirs, a hobby laser cutter is just what you need to give your business that much needed boost. Gone are the days when building parts or carving out a souvenir meant long hours with unwieldy tools and sweaty brows. These days, laser cutters do most of those intricate jobs and much more in a fraction of the time it used to take previously. Carving a small statue out of a piece of wood? No problem. Throw a block in the laser cutter (you can find desktop hobby lasers for sale at Epilog, Universal, Trotec, Gravograph, Camfive, Full Spectrum, or www.morntech.com to name a few) and watch it cut the design you have ready on a computer. Now here are some important things you should know and look for when you buy your first laser cutter.
Find the right combination of price and utility.
The truth is, a hobby laser cutter involves considerable investment and a fair degree of expertise to maintain and operate. This is why you need to be doubly sure about what you will be doing with your hobby laser cutter when you buy it. A 40 Watt laser cutter should be fine for most modeling jobs. A 50 to 60 watt laser is definitely better for speed and cutting power, but will be a fair bit more expensive than 40W due to the fact that 50W is has almost double the cutting power. A big factor is what materials you will be cutting with it and how often you think you will be using it. But, at the same time don’t short change yourself, what you NEED now changes as you realize the almost endless possibilities as to what you can design create.
The size of the engraving area matters.
This is where you cut, and the size of the engraving area defines what you can cut and the size of the models/parts you can create. Most cutters have a material area that is more than their cutting area, but this is only relevant if you plan on etching photographs or designs into blocks of wood or plastic with a frame around them. The laserable work area is what you need to be looking at if you’re more into building parts or models. This differs among various brands and it is a wise decision to get a hobby laser cutter with the maximum engraving area if the price is right for you. A 14″ x 15″ engraving space usually works great for most hobbyists.
The right software is a must.
When it comes to laser cutting, having the right software matters as much as your ability to visualize the end result. The software is what communicates with your hobby laser cutter and the design software you are working on. Having a trustworthy and capable USB controller like LaserCut 5.3 is essential if you want to churn out good quality models with perfect dimensions and finish. If a brand is bundling it along with your cutter. It’s a great choice.
The CO2 Laser tube and what you need to know about it.
This is virtually the heart of your hobby laser cutter. It’s the edge of the knife, the place where everything gets done. Most hobby lasers have CO2 laser tubes and their power is stated in watts. Now more wattage is definitely better, but the quality and make of the laser tube is more important. Since it’s the part that does most of the work in your laser cutter, it’s also the one that wears out fastest. Choose a laser cutter that has the sturdiest CO2 laser and you will be cutting with a peaceful mind for a long time. Lasers with higher wattage also let you cut thicker and denser material and they generally cut with more precision than lasers of lower wattage.
Rotary attachments are great.
Rotary attachments are roller type add-on’s that let you engrave or cut designs into cylindrical objects like wine bottles, aluminum cylinders etc. They rotate the cylindrical blocks on a horizontal axis and let the laser etch as the they’re being rotated.These are not standard on most laser engravers and are mostly offered as an add-on. This is highly essential if you’re planning on engraving cylindrical objects and ones that need to be turned in order to etch correctly.
Focus lens for the laser.
Lasers are simply light, which means they can be focused for better results. In a hobby laser cutter, focus lens of different focal lengths come as add-on’s. They’re usually classified in inches and all of them serve different purposes. A lens with lesser focal length can be used to cut thin materials whereas a medium and higher focal length lens may be used to cut thicker material with more sharpness of finish. Ultimately having a set of focus lens is essential for a hobbyist that works with different materials and towards various purposes.
Why the air compressor in a hobby laser cutter is important.
An air compressor helps blow away tiny particles that result from cutting and generally keep the temperatures cool in the cutting area. This prevents fires while cutting plastic materials and wicks away toxic fumes before they can do any harm. They usually add to engraving and cutting quality because there is no more particulate matter interfering with the cutting process. Air compressors are also used to drive and circulate water to the laser and keep it from overheating.
The importance of having a photo engraving tool.
So you have a brand new hobby laser cutter and you’re raring to etch some photographs into a block of material. Having a software tool like Photograv is definitely essential to be able to etch or engrave photographs into solid material. This software gives you many parameters to control the etching process and this results in great looking engraving that is of the finest quality. Buying software like Photograv is essential if your cutting mostly involves etching photographs onto solid objects.
What a Hobby Laser cutter can do.
When it comes to a hobby laser cutter, it’s simply a tool that can make your creation process faster, more efficient and precise. Instead of spending long hours chipping away at materials or hiring a CNC machinist to convert your designs into solid objects, you can simply design whatever you want on your computer and cut it on a block of material of your choice. It’s as simple as that. With obvious limitations in the size of models and material they can cut, hobby lasers still are a great choice for hobbyists and small business owners who want a machine that can build their models in the fastest time possible and at the lowest costs imaginable.