The laser cutter is a device that allows you to burn off or scorch the surface of a material with a laser beam to create a pattern.
I once participated in a workshop for making coasters using a laser cutter at FabCafe in Shibuya, Tokyo, and it was a very enjoyable experience.
There are two main types of laser cutters, depending on the light source of the laser light.
Semiconductor laser cutter
This is a relatively inexpensive laser cutter that is small and can be purchased for less than 1000us$. It is cut with a laser beam of a few watts of power with a blue color. The light source is a semiconductor laser (laser diode).
With this type of laser cutter, the only material that can be cut cleanly is thin material like paper. Wood and acrylic can be engraved, but not cut.
Cutter by CO2 laser
CO2 lasers are several dozen times more powerful than the semiconductor lasers mentioned earlier. This makes it easy to cut wooden planks and acrylic boards. However, it was a laser cutter that was too large and expensive to be owned by an individual.
Laser cutters with CO2 lasers can be found in FabLab and home improvement stores and are available for about $10 every 10 minutes. However, if there is no FabLab or home improvement center nearby, you cannot simply try it out.
In fact, a cheap CO2 laser is sold by Aliexpress
Expensive CO2 laser-based laser cutters, but the ones that looked like they could be owned by individuals were actually sold befor several years.
It's a laser cutter with a name like JK-K3020 or 3020 or K40, and it's sold at Aliexpress. Even though it has a 40W power CO2 laser, you can still buy it for $500-$600, including shipping.
With this much power, it can cut wooden boards and acrylic plates that are several millimeters thick.
However, as cheap as it is, there is no detailed manual, no easy-to-use software, and it is very difficult for a beginner to use.
CO2 laser cutter for home use!
It has been difficult to introduce CO2 laser cutters to individuals, but in 2020, a compact, easy-to-use model has been introduced that is easy for even beginners to use.
The Beamo, developed by Taiwan's FLUX Technology, and the Etcher Laser Pro, developed by Japan's SMART DIYs.
It came out in early 2020. The world's smallest CO2 laser cutter. It's compact enough to fit on your desk at 445mm (H) x 615mm (W) x 177mm (H).
The 30W CO2 laser is equipped with a 30W CO2 laser, so it can cut wooden boards and acrylics with thicknesses of up to 5mm, and the area it can process is about 210mm (length) x 300 (width), which is about A4 paper.
Beamo has dedicated software that seems to be easy to use and can import Illustrator AI files, SVG, DXF, PDF, and JPG and PNG files for image files, and convert them into processed data for cutting and engraving.
If you have illustrator and Photoshop, you can design the processed data.
There is also a camera inside the enclosure, and the image of the material inside the enclosure is displayed on the processing software. The software allows you to specify where to cut or engrave while looking at the displayed material. This revolutionary feature eliminates the need for the difficult task of aligning the laser beam with the material.
Thus, basically, as long as you buy the Beamo itself, you will be able to cut wood and acrylic boards at home.
Etcher Laser Pro
This is a laser cutter from SMART DIYs. SMART DIYs sells semiconductor laser radar cutters for the hobbyist market and CO2 laser cutters for larger businesses, and I think it's safe to say that they were the first company in Japan to commercialize a laser cutter that is easy to use.
In November 2020, we launched the Etcher Laser Pro, a small, all-in-one laser cutter with a 30W power CO2 laser.
Since it's 30W, like Beamo, it can cut wood and acrylic boards up to about 5mm.
The size of the case is quite large at 786 x 600 x 325 mm, but with a processing area of 450 x 300 mm, it is twice the size of the Beamo and about the size of A3 paper.
The great thing about the Etcher Laser Pro is that it is equipped with a dust collector. As the laser cutter burns through wood and acrylic during processing, it produces smoke and a burnt smell. This required either ducting and blowing the generated smoke outdoors, or getting a dust collector separate from the processing machine, which cost about $1000.
Because of its built-in dust collection capabilities, this means that smoke and odor are not as much of a concern when used in a room. (I asked one of the exhibitors who was exhibiting the laser cutter at MakerFaireTokyo2020 about it.)
There is also special software that seems to be easy to use, allowing you to create cut data from SVG and DXF files, engraving data from PNG and other image files, and manipulate processing machines. I cannot read the file of the illustrator directly, but I can convert it to SVG and DXF, and the fact that the software is Japanese is very good.
Like the Beamo, there is a camera inside the housing that allows you to view the images as you decide where to process them.
Thus, Etcher Laser Pro is a practical CO2 laser processing machine that is also equipped with dust collection capabilities, and if you really only buy this stand-alone, you can easily cut and engrave at home.
Deciding to buy
Both CO2 laser cutters are priced at around $3,000, which is a brave price to buy, but I was determined to buy one because it will allow me to do things at home that I couldn't do before.
I've decided to buy an Etcher Laser Pro
Both the Beamo and Etcher Laser Pro have the same 30W CO2 laser, so the thickness and type of material that can be processed will be the same. They also both have a built-in camera for easy positioning.
The deciding factor was the presence or absence of a dust collector. In the case of the Beamo, I would probably buy an additional dust collector in my case. Then it is no longer compact.
I ordered Etcher Laser Pro
Sales are now open, but as of November 2020, the product is on pre-order. Until December 4, you can get 15% off. I ordered mine on November 4, when the pre-order opened. Orders can be placed through the official SMART DIYs Shop website.
Register and add the Etcher Laser Pro to your basket.
Moving forward, shipping costs have been added. It costs 4,576yen for shipping. How big and heavy is it? The price of the unit is so high that it doesn't bother me much, which is a funny feeling for me.
It was an expensive purchase and it took me a long time to press the button to confirm the order, but I decided to buy it because of the new possibilities, so I gathered my courage and clicked. I was able to order successfully.
They plan to ship in mid-December.
I was quite worried, but I finally bought a laser cutter. I'm looking forward to receiving it. But I haven't mastered the use of illustrator.