Laser cutting and engraving is a popular hobby and manufacturing method for a small business. It is relatively simple to get a hold of, and with a wide range of affordable machines on the market can be affordable to try out. Many materials available to cut and engrave also allow using desktop laser CNC machines to produce diverse products from educational puzzles to home appliances. Thus, we picked out laser engravers worth checking out for starters, which won’t hurt the budget and can fit even into the smallest workshop.

MYSWEETY 2-in-1 CNC 3018-PRO

MYSWEETY CNC 3018-PRO is a desktop CNC laser engraver with a simple and sleek design. The machine has a compact engraving area of 11.8 x 7.1 x 1.8” (300 x 180 x 45 mm), which will be useful for starters. This specific engraver comes as a DIY kit for assembly, that may not work for everybody. However, if you don’t mind putting the machine together and being creative, MYSWEETY 3018-PRO will be a fine choice. An open-source system allows for changes and upgrades, and the machine itself can handle most of the commonly used materials like plastics, soft aluminum, woods, acrylics, PVCs, and PCBs.

The machine’s frame is made from PF, Aluminum and Nylon, which makes for an affordable but a bit wobbly structure, if increasing engraving speeds. Cable management is also as expected from a low-budget DIY router, though the motherboard has an ABS enclosure of its own.

Software-wide the machine runs on GRBL, a pretty standard option for an open-source CNC.

It is worth mentioning that a “3018-Pro” type of laser engravers and routers is a widespread model, which is present on the market from many different brand names, looking and arriving almost similar.

Summary: a good starter wood laser cutter and engraver for people, who aren’t afraid of tailoring it for themselves.

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Moski-MSQ Laser AS-5

Moski-MSQ Laser AS-5 is another affordable model for starters, which comes as a kit. The great side about this machine is its ability to engrave soft metal (like copper, brass and aluminum) and stone. It has a compact working area of 126 x 88 x 38 mm and a simple design. Like the previous pick, this laser engraver is based on open-source software.

The weird thing about this particular engraver is that after being originally available for purchase from China under Moski-MSQ brand, it disappeared but resurfaced under many different brand names like RATTMMOTOR, Yofuly, Benbox and more. Though, no differences are spotted about all these different models.

An important note about AS-5 is that owners report having a hard time assembling it as little to no instructions are provided with the kit. Aside from that, the engraver works decently and does its job.

Summary: compact and affordable metal laser cutter after some web search for assembly help.

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ORTUR Laser Master 2

ORTUR Laser Master 2 is our pick for a garage workshop and people, who need a bigger working area for projects. This engraver and cutter offers an effective area of 400 x 430 mm and can handle an S0-S1000 laser power range. While the frame design is, again, somewhat copied by a lot of clones, this machine remains a more popular version and has features worth spending money on. For example, the frame material is aluminum, which makes this CNC cutter more sturdy compared to plastic/plywood models. Cable management and protective features help make the process safer and reduce defects. ORTUR Laser Master 2 will stop engraving if it senses the motion of the frame or material in the working area, disconnects or experiences a stepper motor malfunction.

Disadvantages of the ORTUR as reported include troublesome assembly guide and being unfriendly to beginners due to poor customer support and requiring upgrades for better safety and quality.

Summary: great value for the money but requires some love.

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Glowforge 3D laser printer

While having a really confusing machine name, this unit from Glowforge is, in fact, not a 3D printer but a home laser cutter machine seemingly tailored for less tech-savvy users. Glowforge is a much fancier machine with handy features thrown in. It can handle an impressive list of materials such as glass, fabrics, wood, leather, metal and some others. The working area of the Basic model is fine for its purpose – 11” x 19.5” x 2” (279 x 495 x 50mm) This one will be great for newbies, who don’t feel like getting too involved in machine maintenance. The unit has a tough plastic enclosure, live camera preview, carbon and HEPA filters, preset engraving and cutting profiles, autofocus function. There are currently three models in the Glowforge range from Basic to Pro with speed and precision upgrades in each later version. This engraver comes with its own software, which is also has useful for starters functions of scanning images, reading common image formats and drag-n-drop layout.

Glowforge is ready for work right from the box and will be great for applications within more common/standard use cases. The only potential flip side we can spot here is a closed-source system and limitations of the machine, which come from it being baby-proofed from the owner.

Summary: a very beginner-friendly and safe option for those, who don’t mind spending more on a cutter (still not a 3D printer).

NEJE Master 2S Max

NEJE Master 2S Max is a low-budget CNC laser available in different sizes. All the versions consist of a simple metal frame sitting on 4 legs and the electronics. Despite being shipped as a kit, NEJE Master 2S Max has fewer pieces and appears to be relatively simple to assemble (with the manufacturer claiming that it would take only 6 screws to finish the machine). It can be connected to a phone and PC, while also supporting GRBL, Lightburn and NEJE software. The material range for engraving is decent, too, with fabrics, woods, thin metals and glass being present.

One thing to look for with this laser cutter is providing it with a stable stand or base to avoid wobbling and vibrations coming through the frame during the working process.

Summary: versatile and affordable engraver with an open-source system.

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Skima 9060

Skima 9060 CNC laser cutter ended up on our list for more established small businesses with greater production rates than a hobbyist may have. This machine is a more professional-tailored unit with great precision much needed for projects at low-batch manufacturing services or print shops. The working area of Skima is 900 х 600 x 10 mm and the material compatibility includes mediums from paper to metal and stone. Though being on a pricey side, this unit provides stable work with great speed, making for a good quality/production rate and saving funds on defective pieces or production downtime.

Summary: costly but worthy cnc metal laser cutter for an established small shop.

Flux Beamo

Flux Beamo laser cutter is another compact and fully-enclosed machine for home use with a beginner-friendly design somewhat similar to Glowforge. This CNC laser has a built-in High Definition camera for work process monitoring and a design preview, autofocus, drag-n-drop setup and wireless connectivity. Safety features on Beamo include pausing the laser if the machine is opened. The unit also has a water cooling system.

The working area with this desktop engraver is 615 x 445 x 177 mm, which will be enough for most of the usual engraving projects. It cuts wood, plastic, fabrics as well as metal, glass and stone. Beamo’s software also allows transferring drawings and pictures directly to the machine without a need for a specific file. The engraver can also handle cylinder shapes if purchase with a rotary module.

Summary: an alternative to Glowforge for a very beginner-friendly and safe desktop engraver.

Muse 3D

Muse 3D from Full Spectrum Laser is a desktop laser cutter and engraver for a bit higher price. For what it costs, the machine is well-built with a combination of glass and metal and integrated water-cooling. This unit is tailored for safe and easy use, much like the above-mentioned Beamo and Glowforge. It has an autofocus function and a working area of 20 x 12” (508 x 305 mm). The bottom of the machine can be removed to fit a larger piece into the cutter. Muse can engrave a wide range of materials from wood to stone and coated metal, though, for cutting options are more limited to plastics, woods and rubbers.

Due to its structure, Muse is a bit heavy to carry around, though, it will be sturdy in its place.

This machine is easy to start working with, and the resulting quality is impressive, even on the smallest and detailed pieces. Additionally, this cutter can work offline without the Internet connection necessary, which is a huge plus.

Summary: more expensive but safe and precise cutter for users that want a unit working right from the box.