The Best Laser Cutters and Engravers of 2024

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$999 at Amazon

Best In-Office Laser Cutters

Glowforge Aura

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Glowforge Aura Glowforge Aura

Russell Holley/CNET

With more Americans identifying as makers than ever before, we’re seeing new products coming out every day to scratch that itch. Machines like 3D printers, vinyl cutters, and laser cutters are now available at prices that fit almost every pocket. They allow people to bring their creations to life in new and interesting ways. You can even make a profit on stores like Etsy and Shopify if you have the right materials and machines.

I’ve used laser cutters for about five years to create a variety of projects, ranging from tiny dog ​​tags to engraving a 7-foot workbench with elven runes. Each of the cutters I’ve used has several distinct advantages and disadvantages, so with my CNET colleague Russell Holley, I’ve developed testing criteria to assess the best laser cutters.

You may notice there are no open laser cutters on this list. After testing several I think they are too dangerous for the average user. They may be good for commercial spaces, but keeping an open laser in the garage is too dangerous for me.

Which is the best laser cutter?

xTool P2 Our top pick for the best laser cutter. It’s not the cheapest laser cutter, but with a number of 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 by a little. It’s pretty big, so make sure you have the space in your workshop to house 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 set of accessories that allow you to cut up to 3-meter long material and round tumblers and glasses, the P2 can cut or engrave any material you need, including glass and transparent acrylic.

The software is great and can help you better design your creations according to your cutting needs. The camera works well to help you align your materials, but be careful when working along the edges of the camera’s boundaries, as the fisheye tends to get a bit distorted. This bundle comes with some materials to get you started and a fire protection system to give you peace of mind.

Read our xTool P2 review.

The Glowforge Aura is the company’s first consumer laser cutter designed for the entry-level market. It’s smaller than other models, has a less powerful laser, but it works surprisingly well on small projects. We’ve created beautiful engravings, etchings, and other laser-cut projects on the Aura, and they’ve all been excellent.

Read more: Experience with Glowforge Aura

I haven’t had this much fun with a maker tool in a while as I have with the xTool F1. It’s lightweight and very easy to carry if you go to a lot of trade shows, conferences or farmers markets, and with the accessories in this bundle you can easily engrave multiple products at once. The software is also great, making it easy to line up projects or trace new projects from photos.

I recently took the F1 to a STEM fair for elementary school kids, and it was extremely popular as it cut the school logo onto metal business cards. While the price is pretty steep for this small cutting area, you can easily make your money back with a little effort at a farmer’s market stall or two. It’s well worth the investment.

The Beamo is the smallest in Flux’s impressive lineup of CO2 laser cutters, but don’t be fooled by the small size. The 30-watt laser, while weaker than some on this list, is powerful enough to engrave glass, though you may need an additional diode laser to engrave steel. It will also cut wood, leather, and acrylic with ease.

The Beamo comes with a handy touchscreen on the device, making it very easy to control it from your workshop without having to plug it directly into a computer. Flux also has an app that will let you control the Beamo straight from your phone.

The WeCreat is a fun little box saw that can cut and engrave many materials. It’s not going to cut thick wood or steel, but it makes a fun project to have fun with the family. I think it’s perfect for schools, especially with its exhaust filter, as the enclosure and air assist make it safe for classrooms and keep little fingers from getting burned. I made several projects for my child’s kindergarten class, and all the teachers loved it.
Although the software isn’t as good as Xtool or Glowforge, the camera is accurate and lets you mark where your material is. It also has test sections so you can try any material and see what power level you need. This is something all laser cutters should have.

Diode lasers are often low-powered, with no casing to keep you safe. The S1 solves both of these problems as it has a 40-watt laser that can cut 18mm of wood in one pass, albeit at a slower speed. It also has a great casing with a green lid to filter the laser light and an active exhaust to blow away any fumes. The basic kit has air assist – something all lasers should have – and a honeycomb cutting surface to help minimise 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 that’s true of most diode lasers.

Glowforge has made it clear from the start that its mission is to ensure that anyone can use a “laser printer,” and the Glowforge Pro is a great example of that. The fisheye camera gives you a view of the cutting surface from the web app, so you can easily click and drag the things you want to engrave or cut. And if you pay for the extra filtration system, you can use this laser anywhere. Of all the systems tested here, Glowforge’s focus on ease of use is a world apart.

With 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 if you pay a monthly subscription. If you’re not using the Proofgrade built in by Glowforge, the process of identifying the right settings for engraving or cutting becomes quite manual. Additionally, the fisheye lens used by Glowforge can sometimes cause accuracy issues when cutting or engraving small, perfectly centered surfaces.

You have questions and we have answers. We hope so!

Testing laser cutters is a mix of objective and subjective measures. We spend time measuring speed and accuracy as well as usability and the overall appearance of the finished product. These tests are performed in our labs and workshops over a period of over a month to ensure that the lasers can endure proper use.

Laser cutter specification

How these laser cutters match up

XTool P2 Glowforge Aura XTool S1 Flux Beam Glowforge Pro XTool F1
Laser Power 55 watts 6 weeks 40 weeks 40 weeks 45W 10W
Laser Type CO² Diode Diode CO2 CO2 Diode/IR
Work Area 26 x 14 inches 12 x 12 inches 498 x 319mm 24 x 17.5 inches 660 x 355 115 x 115
led display No No No Yes No No
attach Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Partial
accuracy 0.01 mm N/A 0.01 mm N/A 0.025 0.02
Maximum speed 600mm/s unknown 600mm/s 300mm/sec unknown 4000mm/sec
Max material thickness 20 mm 5 mm 18mm 5 mm 13 mm 5 mm

Speed ​​is tested with a good old fashioned stopwatch. I created a simple CNET logo design that can be cut on a number of materials. We time how long it takes for the cut to be completed. We use 3mm basswood, 3mm black acrylic, and 3.5mm cardboard for our test materials, so we can get a good overall view. We then compare the speed to the software to see how accurately it calculates the cutting speed.

The engraving is done with an image of my beautiful dog Indiana Bones. I imported that image into the workspace and used 3mm basswood for the material. I use the standard engraving settings from each machine to carve Indy onto the wood. My CNET colleague Russell Holley and I then check the engraving for image quality. We’re considering contrast, the level of detail captured and how grainy the image is, as well as our opinion on overall quality.

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

Indiana is the ideal 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 align the physical marks to the digital ones using the laser cutter camera and set the laser to cut. Once the laser is finished, we measure the offset using a micrometer to see how accurately the camera images the paper. This is especially helpful for laser cutters with fisheye lenses.

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