Choosing the Best CNC Laser Cutter - A Complete Guide

CNC Laser Cutter While Doing a Laser Cutting Job

Just like any major investment for your business, selecting the right CNC laser cutter requires careful consideration and research. With a wide range of options available in the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the ideal laser cutter that meets all your specific needs. Whether you are a beginner looking to add a laser cutter to your workshop or a seasoned professional in need of an upgrade, this complete guide will help you navigate through the key factors to consider when choosing the best CNC laser cutter for your business.

From understanding the different types of laser cutting technologies to evaluating the machine's power and precision capabilities, this guide will provide you with necessary insights to make an informed decision. We will explore the importance of bed size, laser wavelength and wattage, cooling systems, software compatibility, and maintenance requirements to help you narrow down your options and find the perfect CNC laser cutter that aligns with your production goals. By the end of this comprehensive guide, you will have the knowledge and confidence to invest in a CNC laser cutter that will enhance your workflow, improve efficiency, and take your business to the next level.

Discover the Best CNC Laser Cutter Kits from Opt Lasers 

Understanding CNC Cutters

Any discussion about CNC laser cutters must start with the basics of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) technology. CNC machines are automated tools that operate in accordance with pre-programmed commands. These commands dictate the movement and cutting parameters of the tool mounted on a CNC machine, allowing for precise and consistent results.

Definition of CNC Laser Cutter

A CNC laser cutter is a device used to laser cut materials in a computerized manufacturing process using G-Code commands and a highly concentrated beam of light to vaporize or melt away a given material. In practice, CNC laser cutter refers to either a cutting laser head tool (a laser head for short) that can be mounted on a CNC machine to perform laser cutting, or a CNC machine on which such a laser head has already been installed. A CNC laser cutter is a user-friendly technologically advanced device that allows reaching much higher manufacturing precision than other CNC processing tools.

How It Works

The suitable G-Code is outputted by a CAD/CAM software - which can be for instance Lightburn or Vectric. The G-Code tells the CNC controller where to move a cutting laser head, how to move it and when to turn the cutting beam on and off. Thanks to the G-Code, the laser control signal is produced by the CNC controller. The CNC laser cutter then executes the control signals from the CNC controller which is supplied as a PWM/TTL modulation signal, or an Analog control signal.

Overall, the laser control process is akin to how the CNC controller uses the spindle. However, unlike cnc milling, cnc laser cutting is a non-contact process, which is better and safer than other cnc cutting methods. Utilizing focused laser beams, it enables detailed manipulation of material surfaces without direct contact, preserving the material's integrity while ensuring unparalleled accuracy in design execution. Effectively, the CNC laser cutter streamlines the manufacturing process, allowing for quick adjustments and the development of detailed designs, textures and motifs.

Beautiful Motifs Cut in Wood with Blue CNC Laser Cutter

Overview of Most Effective Solutions

Most efficient cnc laser cutters utilize blue lasers, which offer a technological leap over CO2 lasers (or fiber laser) for almost all applications. The only materials that blue lasers cannot cut are metals - ultra-short-pulse fiber CNC lasers are the only lasers that can achieve it. Blue CNC lasers are excellent for cutting materials such as wood, leather, and textiles and can be used for almost any material. The best example showcasing the effectiveness of blue CNC lasers at cutting is Opt Lasers' 45 W XT8 CNC laser head. It can be set up on almost any CNC machine - for instance Shapeoko 5 Pro, OpenBuilds LEAD CNC or X-Carve. Alternatively, you can find a cutting cnc laser kit for various CNC machines, by visiting our Plug&Play CNC Laser Kits for All CNC Machines webpage.

Being designed especially for cutting and deep-engraving means the cnc laser cutter typically has higher laser power (or laser power density) than a laser engraver. In addition, a CNC laser cutter's focused beam is typically slimmer with lower beam divergence than a laser engraver's one. This however depends on its application as thinner materials such as textiles or leather still respond very well to laser beams with high divergence, but very high optical power density at the focus. An example of that is XT-50 from Opt Lasers.

Types of Lasers and Their Cutting Applications

Blue CNC Laser Cutter Shown While Cutting Textiles

There are three types of lasers commonly used in CNC laser cutter machines, each with its own unique properties and applications. Understanding the differences between these lasers can help you determine which type is best suited for your specific cutting needs.

Laser TypeLaser Type's AdvantagesLaser Type's DrawbacksMaterials That It Can Cut
Blue Diode CNC Laser Cutters Highly energy-efficient, fast and precise. Low upfront cost, negligible upkeep/maintenance. Lower laser power blue CNC lasers will struggle with cutting blue or white materials. As of 2024, they also cannot cut metals. Blue CNC laser can cut wood, leather, textiles, marble, and plastics as well as almost any other material apart from metals.
Fiber CNC Laser Cutters High energy efficiency. As of 2024, the best laser type for cutting metals. High upfront cost and space-consuming. Fiber lasers can cut sheet metal including aluminum, carbon steel, stainless steel, brass, copper, and titanium.
CO2 Laser Cutters Readily available in different laser power ratings. CO2 lasers are an obsolete technology since the advent of high-power blue cnc lasers in 2024. CO2 lasers waste 95-96% of supplied electrical energy (including chiller), leading to noticeably high energy bills. They are also large in size, and require frequent and difficult calibrations. CO2 lasers are the best for cutting bones, but they also perform well in cutting thermosoftening plastics. CO2 lasers can also be used for cutting wood and leather, although with worse results than high-power blue lasers.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a CNC Laser Cutter

There's a multitude of factors to consider when selecting a CNC laser cutter that will be the perfect fit for your needs. From material type and thickness to cutting speed and precision, each aspect plays a crucial role in determining the efficiency and effectiveness of the laser cutter CNC machine for your specific applications. Perceiving the importance of these key factors will help you make an informed decision that aligns with your production requirements.

Material Type and Thickness

When choosing a CNC laser cutter, it's crucial to consider the type and thickness of the materials you will be working with. Different laser cutter heads are designed differently to handle specific materials and thickness ranges more effectively.

Regarding the material type, each material behaves differently when exposed to a given laser. And vice versa, each laser causes a different cutting effect for a given material. There is also a variation, based on factors such as color, coatings used, and the material's manufacturing process. As a result, it is highly recommended to send material samples for tests of laser cutting, which can be done after filling out Opt Lasers' Material Laser Cutting Tests form.

As for the material thickness, different cnc laser cutter heads will be able to handle different thicknesses better. For instance, XT-50 laser head, with its tightly focused blue laser beam works great for cutting thin materials like nylon. Nevertheless, the XT8 laser head is still a better choice for it, unless you need ultra-high cut precision. Overall, as you choose your cnc laser cutter, you should bear in mind the maximum thickness that a given laser head can cut.

Laser Wavelength and Power

Another crucial factor to consider is the wavelength and laser power of a considered CNC laser cutter. The laser's wavelength is the single most important factor. The vast majority of materials respond much better to lasers with lower wavelengths like blue laser's 445-450 nm wavelength than to ifrared and far-infrared wavelength ones. Having high laser's wavelength absorption on the material that you want to laser cut is crucial. For instance, as shown in the table below, you could engrave stainless steel with CO2 laser but the efficiency is so low that it would simply be slow and non-economical. Effecively nobody even does it in practice. Overall, it is almost always better to find a commercially-available laser with high absorption on your chosen material, and scale the power according to your needs.

CNC Laser Cutter Efficiency Comparison for Different Laser Types

Apart from sheer speed and high efficiency, the laser's wavelength also plays another significant role in the performance of the laser cutter. Certain materials require specific wavelengths for optimal cutting results. For instance, a CO2 laser is much more likely to leave burns on leather surfaces and evaporate water content, necessitating an application of a humidifier after the cutting is finished. The blue laser however does not affect the water content and water is transparent to blue lasers. Understanding the relationship between laser power and wavelength will help you select a CNC laser cutter that meets your production requirements with precision and efficiency.

The power of the laser also determines its cutting capabilities, with higher power levels allowing for faster and more precise cuts. This is also not a linear process, as higher laser power yielding progressively better returns. While not laser cutting, this is particularly visible for engraving stainless steel, which can be engraved much faster with Opt Lasers' 45 W XT8 laser head than with three 15W blue laser heads used simultaneously.

Cutting Speed and Precision

One of the critical factors to consider when choosing a CNC laser cutter is the cutting speed and precision it offers. The ability of the machine to cut through materials quickly and accurately can significantly impact your production efficiency. Selecting a laser cutter toolhead that strikes the right balance between speed and precision will help you achieve optimal results for your projects. However, you should also ensure that the machine the laser head is mounted on can also accurately position the laser head to fully utilize its capabilities.

Factors such as laser head quality, positioning accuracy, and motion control system all contribute to the cutting speed and precision of a CNC laser cutter. It's crucial to assess these factors to ensure that the machine can meet your specific requirements for speed and accuracy.

Work Area Dimensions

Consider the dimensions of the work area offered by the CNC machine you want to use the CNC laser cutter head on to ensure it can accommodate the size of the materials you typically work with. Having a spacious work area allows for flexibility in handling various material sizes and shapes, giving you greater versatility in your production processes.

Elevated Wooden Logo Being Cut Out on a CNC Laser Cutter Machine

In general, this is where having a laser CNC upgrade kit (rather than a standalone machine) comes in handy. This is because you can easily disattach Opt Lasers' laser kit from one machine and subsequently mount it on a new machine - which can be larger or of higher quality. It is also normally near-impossible or difficult to repurpuse a fiber or CO2 laser cutter head from a standalone CNC laser machine to a new machine.

Any limitations in size can also impact the scalability and efficiency of your projects. Therefore, ensure that your cnc laser cutter machine's work area dimensions align with your production needs to avoid any restrictions in your workflow.


Question: Why is it important to choose the most suitable CNC laser cutter?

Answer: Choosing the best CNC laser cutter ensures precision, efficiency, and reliability in your laser cutting tasks. It guarantees high-quality results and saves time and money in the long run.

Question: What factors should I consider when selecting a CNC laser cutter?

Answer: When identifying a suitable CNC laser cutter and an accompanying CNC machine, consider factors such as laser wavelength, power rating, cutting speed for your materials, bed size, software compatibility, support services, and machine durability to ensure it meets your specific needs.

Question: How do the blue CNC lasers from Opt Lasers stand out from other CNC laser cutters?

Answer: The Blue CNC Laser kits from Opt Lasers stands out due to its high power output, precise cutting capabilities, high components quality, compatibility with almost all materials for cutting, and excellent problem-solving customer support, making it a top choice for professional laser cutting applications.

Question: Can the blue CNC laser from Opt Lasers handle a wide range of materials?

Answer: Yes, the blue CNC lasers from Opt Lasers is designed to cut and engrave a wide range of materials, including wood, leather, fabrics, acrylic, fabric, and more, making it the most versatile laser for various applications in the fabrication and design industries.

Question: How can I ensure the optimal performance and longevity of my CNC laser cutter?

Answer: To ensure the optimal performance and longevity of your CNC laser cutter, regularly maintain and clean the laser head and the machine, follow recommended operating procedures, use high-quality materials, and seek professional service for any upgrades or questions when needed.