Buying a Laser Cutter - Recommendations?


I’m spec’ing an interior design installation which calls for hundreds of laser cut tree leaves. The leaves will be made out of 1/4" plyboo and will be slightly larger than life-size.

I’m going to make some calls to laser cutting services for quotes, but it occurred to me that I might do just as well if I purchased an entry level laser cutter and cut them myself (I have a shop). Then, if I get the job, I’ll have a laser cutter when I’m done. :slight_smile:

I’m just wondering if anyone can start me down the path of laser cutter research - what are the good brands, sizes, wattage, etc. I’d appreciate any recommendations anyone might care to share.

Thanks very much,

You could consider building your own cnc router also.

I am in the process of building one of these for my parent’s business. Depending on the size you can build one for as little as $700-$800 up to around $1500. That’s including every component needed.

I bought my plans off of this site.
They have plans for the following sizes:
13" x 13" x 5"
25" x 25" x 6"
24" x 48" x 8"

If you wanted to go for a cnc router that can cut 4’ x 8’ sheets you can go with these plans.
The Mech Mate will probably run you closer to $10,000 to complete.

I’ve used the Epilog Laser Cutter/Engraver for smaller projects. It can be used with for wood, plastic, marble, or metals (with the industrial series).

I think you should talk about stuff you know. Apparently not laser cutters. Well laser cutters for this type of project. Also stay positive, your whole post has the wrong inflection to it.

I used a Universal Laser systems x-660 with the honeycomb bed for years. It was very nice, ran it off of Adobe Illustrator. Once you got the hang of it and make a materials thickness library you can do all sorts of things so quick. I may still have my guide and the spread sheet for materials, I can share it with you if you get one. Also we never had a problem with ours and we used it all the time for all sorts of projects. Just keep the lens clean and the vent fan on. No PVC at all and there are a few other materials you should stay away from as well.

We had the x-660 in 32" or 38" by 18"(maybe). There are like three different lenses, we only had 2.0, 2.0 would be prefect for your application. I would say get the honeycomb bed insert as well it is like a grand but well worth it. Total you should be able to get a NEW unit for like $12,000 or less. If you call Universal Laser systems I bet you can get an off lease or refurbed one for much less. Also sign up for their email, you can get “coupons” for wattage upgrades, you could also just try shmoozing them over the phone for a hook up on that.

I want to get one, you could also start doing stencils for people, and etching ipods.

Be sure to talk to your local dealer, show him what you want to do and have him show you it can be done.
Depending on the material and thickness, you’ll need a certain wattage machine.
Prices go up drastically from a 30-watt unit to 60-watt unit.
Don’t let them show you a 30-watt unit when they demo’d a 60-watt on your sample.
In this economy, equipment resellers are desperate to move product. You should be able to get a nice price.
Other option is eBay. I noticed a lot of laser engraver/cutter machines from China in the $3-5K range.
Way less than Epilog or Universal, but I’m sure the quality isn’t there.

He’s not cutting 2" steel plate here… a small “benchtop” machine might even get the job done.

But, you make a good point regarding what you’re being paid, and how much you’ll need to spend on a laser cutter setup.


I have used Epilog Laser and a Universal Laser. I like Universal because you can control certain laser thicknesses in one pass, for instance, you can cut 3 layers at one time!

Good luck on your venture. I like the engraving feature and making some bad ass graphics in Corel Draw to cut the acrylic from.

Do it!! The potential is limitless - prototypes, products, random design projects, stencils, etc. I was just looking at some on ebay a week or so ago (more from a daydreaming perspective as I don’t have the space) and the prices seemed relatively affordable. It will pay itself off after a few big projects.

Definitely do what you can to get some time on equipment you’re considering to try the work you foresee doing. Even then, you won’t find the limitations until later. I bought an Epilog Helix 60 watt and while it’s a good entry level machine, it has jitter in the tracking at high speeds so for super intricate paper cuts which have become my specialty, I have to run it at 20% speed to get the quality I want. If you’re doing heavier materials, go for as much power as you can afford. While you can slow it down and cut thicker materials, it’s harder to do it affordably. Epilog makes good equipment, but unfortunately they have no desire to customize anything for you, or grant access to software capabilities that aren’t part of their stock builds. So if you can do what you want with it as-is, great. But if you can’t, don’t expect them to make you a special build or customize the hardware for you, even if it hinges on your buying more equipment from them. Not the relationship I expected from an equipment manufacturer.


I have used boss Laser and a Monport Laser. I prefer my Monport 80 watt laser because Monport has high quality beyond price. Depending on your material size requirements, you may need a laser engraving machine with a large working area.

Wondering if anyone has gone down the path of building their own? I’ve watched (and bookmarked) a pretty neat Youtube series from Further Fabrication where he walks through building his own. Haven’t found the space/money yet…