Buyer's Guide to Laser Engraver and Cutter Products


PLH3D-15W Specialized Engraving Laser Head

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.

For Opt Lasers, safety and quality isn’t just an empty slogan. It is the way we live and breathe. It transpires to every aspect of what we make. We always ensure that our clients are safe and satisfied with our service, and we strive to exceed our customers’ expectations every time.

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.

About Opt Lasers Brand and Company Origins

Opt Lasers established in 2014, is a brand of Tomorrow’s System Sp. z o.o., and a leader in providing compact engraving and cutting laser heads for the CNC machines and 3D printers markets. Headquartered in Warsaw, Poland, Opt Lasers is a respected European manufacturer of high quality optical and electronic devices. Opt Lasers’ portfolio encompasses industrial-grade laser heads for engraving and cutting, standard and custom laser modules, laser diode drivers and temperature controllers.

It is also an OEM manufacturer with extensive laser characterization capabilities and can provide laser modules for integration into larger systems at scale for a variety of applications. Opt Lasers’ headquarters contain electronics and laser R&D facilities, a full-service machine shop and a well-supplied stock of components.

Our customers include industrial and commercial integrators alike, original equipment manufacturers, universities and research centers, as well as end users of engraving laser heads.

Opt Lasers

Opt Lasers creates the possibility of changing the industry by using short-wavelength blue laser heads.

High absorption of light, low power consumption, low maintenance cost, and a size that fits in the palm of your hand makes Compact Laser Heads an out-ofthe-box solution in the production industry.

Opt Lasers

Our Values - We are devoted to providing our customers with high quality state-of-the-art products that help you grow your business and earn more money. Our clients can always count on us for excellent performance and lifetime support that takes your troubles away and gives you peace of mind. The three center values and pillars of our company are maintaining excellence in what we do every time, retaining and growing our clients' trust, as well as pushing the frontiers of what is possible to achieve.

Our Mission - Opt Lasers products always stay ahead of the curve and disrupt the established market around the globe. Our mission is to transform the laser industry and CNC production lines by offering durable high tech products that bring about noticeable change and are accessible to everyone. 


Discover Our Range of Laser Engraver and Cutter Products 

The categories below are designed to guide you through the laser engraver and cutter selection process based on your needs.


Engraving Product Showcase


Opt Lasers - Laser Engraver and Cutter



How to Choose an Appropriate Laser Engraver Based on the Material Type


Metals



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.

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,PLH3D-15W respectively.


Wood


When buying a blue laser for cutting and engraving on wood, you often need to decide about its power. Less powerful, 2 W laser is not only cheaper but also allows for more precision laser engraving on wood. The more expensive 6-watt laser can engrave images with large pixels, and can be used where 2-watt version cannot, like cutting hard leather, or marking stainless steel or titanium. 2 W laser can work with a size of the spot of light as small as 0.1 mm, which enables wood engraving of very small details.

Results of engraving heavily depend on wood type. Several parameters need to be taken into account like hardness of the wood, surface and growth rings.


Ceramics



As a general rule, it is recommended to use an image with a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch (DPI) for laser engraving. This will ensure that the laser is able to produce a detailed and accurate engraving, even at small sizes. However, higher resolution images may be necessary for extremely detailed or fine engravings.

By using a high-resolution image and considering the size of the engraving relative to the size of the ceramic plate, you can achieve the best results when engraving with a diode laser. There are a variety of software programs that can be used to create designs for engraving on a ceramic plate with a diode laser.

With PLH3D-XT-50 and it's capabilities to perform engraving with the 500 DPI allows for amazing quality engravings on materials like ceramic tiles. Higher power density reveals new engraving and cutting possibilities. Additionally, engraving and cutting processes are significantly faster comparing to laser heads without anamorphic optics.

Thermoformed Plastics



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.


Dangerous Materials


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 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.


White-Colored Materials


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 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+ 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.

Compatibility with Various CNC Machines and 3D Printers - And How to Connect Your Engraver

PLH3D-CNC Adapter


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.


3D Printers


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 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:



The High-Pressure Air Assist Nozzle

High-Pressure Air Assist Nozzle

The High-Pressure Air Assist Nozzle speeds up laser cutting and engraving by up to 6.5 times, but also greatly improves the quality of the processed material. By using the High-Pressure Air Assist Nozzle, the resulting material will have noticeably higher quality and uniform and well-defined features.

Read More

The LaserDock magnetic laser

LaserDock Magnetic Docking Station

Thanks to the LaserDock equipped with the laser attachment, you can effortlessly dismantle the laser unit when you are finished engraving or laser cutting. A clean focusing lens ensures consistent optical performance during subsequent laser engraving and cutting jobs. Keeping it clean also extends its lifespan.

Read More

How to Choose an Appropriate CNC Machine Upgrade Kit for a Particular CNC Machine?

Specially for you, we have prepared a website that guides the user through the process of selecting a laser head and then leads to the appropriate set for your CNC machine. Click the button below to visit this website.

Discover more

Get Inspired with Opt Lasers

CNC Laser Project Showcase with CNC Lasers


We are delighted with the designs our customers have sent us using laser engraving heads, and it is motivating us to continue creating and improving products. You can find a lot of useful information, creators' works and descriptions of their stories here. We publish the most interesting material on our website and social media profiles.

Discover more Laser Projects



Cutting & Engraving Wood with CNC Lasers


Cutting and engraving wood using a CNC laser depends on the type of wood, its hardness, as well as other parameters like humidity, or texture. Materials that are easiest to cut with a laser are balsa and aviation plywood. Plywood is made of two layers of slightly harder wood, and a filler - usually balsa. Laser cutting these materials is least problematic, and the process is highly repeatable, since the wood has no knags, and has a foam-like, homogenous structure. When selecting material suitable for laser cutting or engraving, you should check its uniformity. Some variants of balsa are cheaper but may contain splinters of harder wood that are more difficult to cut with a CNC laser. Similar guidelines apply to aviation plywood.

Discover more about Cutting & Engraving Wood with CNC Lasers



Laser Engraving Transparent Materials with CNC Lasers


Transparency is a physical property of materials, which means that light can travel through an object without scattering (on a macroscopic scale). A transparent material is a material that appears clear and of a single color. Examples of transparent materials include plate glass and amorphous plastics (e.g. acrylics, PEI, PC, ABS, PS, etc.). Films of certain crystalline polymers, such as PET and PP, are also transparent as a result of being stretched in two directions (and thus bi-axially oriented), which aligns the polymer molecules in the film’s plane. There is consequently no refraction because of this alignment.

Discover more about Laser Engraving Transparent Materials

Useful Links:


Website Links


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:

https://optlasers.com/material-laser-cutting-tests


Step-by-step laser engraver and cutter installation guides for a wide range of popular CNC machines and 3D printer can be found below:

https://optlasers.com/user-manuals


To familiarize yourself with our laser engraver and laser cutter products installation manuals, please go to:

https://optlasers.com/user-manuals


To find the answers for standard questions, please see the FAQ:

https://optlasers.com/frequently-asked-questions


Instructions, 3D files, Software, technical drawings etc. can be found here:

https://optlasers.com/files-download



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:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=opt+lasers


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:

https://www.youtube.com/c/OptLasers/playlists



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:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/optlasers

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:

https://www.facebook.com/OptLasers/


You can also follow our other social media:

Opt Lasers' Twitter

Opt Lasers' LinkedIn

Opt Lasers' Instagram



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