laser cutterA laser cutter is, without a doubt, a really handy and cool tool if you or your company is into fabrication. Laser cutters are versatile, functional and if you’re willing to go the extra mile you can produce seriously impressive results. If you have one, you can easily go about producing or customizing your own products.

So, if you’re out there in the market looking to buy one, you’ll want to be sure you’re making an informed, smart purchase. So where do you start? Well below are 6 factors that will definitely help you make an informed decision.

1. What Type of Laser Cutters is Best for You?

Basically, there are two main types of laser cutters:

• CO2 Laser Cutter.

This type of laser cutter is ideal, especially if you plan to cut orgainic based materials such as paper, wood, acrylic, glass, fabric, stone, and leather – just to name a few. If you are on a higher budget, you can purchase a CO2 cutter with more power and technology that will even cut through sheet metal. Just so you’re aware, CO2 power under 150W cannot cut through metal that efficiently. Such cutters are better suited for organic or non-metal materials.

Note: CO2 powered lasers offer more diverse capabilities than fiber and more often than not – cheaper.

• Fiber Laser Cutters.

laser engraved IPadWhat makes fiber laser cutters advantageous is the laser wavelength is ideal for cutting and engraving metals both reflective and non-reflective. With fiber, you can process thin metals on a large scale, in a quick and more efficient manner. It shines a lot while cutting through thin metals. Also, it works extremely well for engraving and marking metals such as gold, aluminum, silver, and steel. This type of laser cutters can also etch on plastics as well, providing you with an advanced flexibility to offer more services.

2. Your Budget

You will, of course, have to decide what your top end will be as far as a laser cutter price.   Many companies that sell laser cutters have economical entry level CO2 machines that retail at less than $10,000. Fiber cutters, on the other hand, generally retail at prices starting from $15,000 depending on whether you will use the fiber to mark or cut metal.

Fiber machines are more expensive, but overall, the more power a cutter has and the larger it is, the more expensive it is – especially when it pertains to metal processing. If you have more than $10,000, we’d recommend buying a USA made machine  as you can get sizes ranging from 4×4″ all the way up to 5×10′ and larger. I just depends on the size sheet metal you’ll be routinely processing.  Most of these types of machines have other features, such as having laser heads with premium motion systems, which allow for very precise cutting and movement.

The maintenance required for your machine is, undoubtedly, crucial when determining your budget. If you’re able to give your cutter proper care, it can last a lifetime. Do know though, that even if your cutter lasts for a lifetime, there are consumables that will need constant replacing. These are such as mirrors, tubes, nozzles, and optics. Of all these, tubes are the highest expense as they are replaced more often.

You’ll need to talk to your manufacturer about the expected expenses relating to the required consumables. However, keep in mind that the costs vary from machine to machine. It is best that you find out these costs early enough so that you can be able to determine if its affordable to maintain your cutter.

3. Use of Laser Cutter

Consider the following questions in regard to intended use of your laser cutter.

• What type of materials do you plan to process?

• Will you be cutting or engraving or doing both?

• How thick are your materials?

Accurate answers to these questions are extremely important since different types of cutters perform different roles. For instance, if you want to process a wide range of materials, you might want to consider a CO2 cutter. Also, if you’re going to process thick materials, you’ll definitely have to consider a more powerful cutter.

Laser cutter power is typically measured in Watts. The higher it is, the faster you cut. However, the cutting speed is also determined by the thickness of the material as well as the application. You can get the information regarding the power you will require for whatever you want to cut from the manufacturer.

laser cutting paper4.  What Size Machine Works Best for Your Application?

Other than budget, consider the space available to install your laser cutter and the size of materials you intend to process. Needless to say, you must have ample space where you plan to install your cutter. There must be just enough space to move around the cutter comfortably.

Ample space around the cutter is important, particularly when you need to move the material on the bed and for maintenance purposes. The laser cutter bed must also be large enough to hold the material you will be cutting. Check all the doorways leading to the space, where you plan to install your cutter and ensure your machine will fit through each of them.

If you’re not sure of the size of the materials you intend to process, its best to get a larger size machine. While you can increase the power of your cutter, you cannot increase its size. You wouldn’t want to find out after buying that you have a cutter that is too small for your needs.

5. Type of Laser Tube

The laser tube is the heart of your laser cutting machine and the amount of ‘heart’ you’ll need is proportionate to they type of cutter that you will be operating.  Obviously, if you have a fiber machine, you’ll require a fiber laser tube.  And, the same applies to the CO2 machine, which will need CO2 laser tube. The CO2 laser tubes are quiet reliable and last between 5,000 to 10,000 machine hours while those for fiber machines last over 100,000 hours. Fiber tubes require less maintenance than CO2 tubes.  Make sure the company you buy the laser tube from offers a real, legitimate warranty as opposed to 3 months or less.

When shopping for laser tubes, be sure to consider the wattage as those with a higher value last longer. Tubes with a lower wattage are cheaper, but generally, have a shorter lifespan. It is important to always ensure the manufacturer has indicated that the tubes are lab tested.

The CO2 tubes wattage is usually between 40W to 200W. Replacement of laser tubes of lower wattage will cost you around $300 to $600. Higher wattage tubes can go for more than $4,000.

The fiber laser tube wattage ranges from 300W to 2000W for cutting machines, and 20W to 50W for engraving machines.

6. Reputable and Reliable Company

Although you can buy your laser cutters from a number of manufacturers around the world, manufacturers from the United States seem to be the best option. Laser machines supported in the United States by US citizens tend to adhere to higher-quality control standards; therefore, you’ll definitely get the best return on your investment.

Shipping from the US is efficient and your product arrives in excellent condition. Manufacturers also offer good technical support. Getting replacement parts is also not difficult.

We’d advise you to choose a company that qualifies on all aspects of quality and post sale technical service and support.  Do not underestimate the value of support for understanding and getting the most out of your machine.  You don’t want to have to wait days and weeks to replace a part either.  In line with this, I would recommend Boss Laser’s cutting machines, which is a reliable and reputable company that has high-quality control standards, good technical support and offers easy replacement of parts. It also offers the most competitive rates.

They are popular for their ‘over-the-top’ client support both before and after sales.  Boss’ support staff has received some great reviews. You’ll never go wrong with this company!

There you have it! A lot of people are apprehensive about how to buy a laser cutter.  If you follow the above buying guide you’ll be far and away ahead of most.