Looking for a laser cutter for my mom who is a hobby enthusiast.
She will be using it for cutting small items like ornaments for holidays and will probably use it for engraving coasters and cutting boards etc.
Learning curve is not an issue as she has lots of different craft hobbies and lots of programing/computer knowledge.
Also: has a barn with plenty of room for exhaust etc.
Prefer to keep it under $600. Have looked into OmTech 40W as well as Ortur Laser Master 2 Pro. Have heard CO2 will cut much better and easier but will need a chiller and exhaust…
Thanks so much in advance!
This price range doesn’t afford you too many options. You’re really at the very bottom end of CO2 lasers and a much wider range of diode lasers.
For CO2 you’re really talking about a K40 of some type whether from ebay or OmTech. OmTech will likely have better support and QC. To me the major drawback of the K40 vs a diode laser is the working size. You can typically get much larger diode laser frames for much less than a K40. If size isn’t a major consideration then a CO2 laser is going to be much more flexible in terms of what can be done with it. The single biggest factors being the ability to cut material and faster cutting/engraving speeds. The CO2 laser will cut through material much more readily and can also cut things like clear/light acrylic that are not possible with a diode laser.
Having said that, CO2 lasers are much more finicky and require much more support with things like cooling, more elaborate ventilation, mirror alignment, more components to maintain, etc. Diode lasers are tidier, more compact, lighter, and simpler in construction.
My general take, if the needs and planned uses are fairly modest then a diode laser is cheaper and easier to maintain. Once you start pushing the boundary of what a diode laser is capable of, it’s better to switch to a CO2 laser than force a diode laser to work to the edge of its ability.
Take a read here for my thoughts on Ortur if you’re interested:
Suggestion for a small, desktop engraver? - Hardware - LightBurn Software Forum
If it’s unheated space, you’ll probably need a heater on your cooling loop and a thermal switch to circulate the water when temps get below 40F. An aquarium heater is all you need.
As stated by @berainlb $600 is the bottom of the co2 range.
The material you are using, usually dictates the best laser for your application. Small isn’t very descriptive when you talk about lasers and or parts, since you usually want to cut something out and that requires a known thickness.
The material also matters as with some material, like acrylic, can’t be cut with a solid state (ss) laser as the wavelength of the laser passes through the material. It is blocked for the co2 frequency and therefor does the damage to the material, generally vaporize it, such as for a cut.
The co2 laser has a power advantage, but many drawbacks for new users of laser that want them for just utilitarian or hobby use.
The ss laser is lightweight and easy to move around. Easy to set up and align/focus.
Both require ventilation and attention to what cautions to take for the materials you are vaporizing.
A co2 laser is usually much heavier and has associated high voltage suppies for it’s use. A co2 requires cooling/heating equipment with it’s associated connections. If the heat fails you and your tube freezes, is always a though. Depending on where you live and where the laser will reside.
I have a 30watt ss laser and a 50 watt co2. I’d suggest that you follow @anon88048707 suggestion as a low cost entry into lasers. You mom may become an addict, like most of us here, and eventually want something with more power or different capabilities. At that point, she will know what she wants.
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