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What is the most affordable laser cutter for a beginner? Answered

I really would love to try out laser cutting. ..But have no idea what knowledge it requires. I want to be able to design and cut custom wooden puzzle, laser cut fabric and also to cut felt and foam. I would like to start up a small home business.
Keeping in mind that I have no clue what knowledge it requires and also know that I have 4 kids and will have to have this machine in my home. I do own a silhouette cameo but unfortunately it does not cut felt or wood. It’s a fun machine for cardstock and all…but nothing heavy duty.
So is it safe to have a laser cutter at home with kids?? I mean will the light or whatever that comes off the machine be harmful for my children?
Also how much is the cheapest desktop version?
Will it be able to cut large fabric?
Can it cut 0.5” or 0.75” hard wood?? Would that be pushing my luck??
Please let me know…so I can start saving up for it.
I really really love crafting….but availability of items and affordability is a big issue.

24 Replies

Sus_L (author)2017-11-21

Perhaps you can find the answer here:

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Antzy Carmasaic (author)2016-08-01

The most affordable laser cutting to meet your requirement is the chinese K40 laser cutter series. It is waaaay cheaper than what you get for most laser cutter.

But no one will ever suggest going for it because you get what you pay for. It is mostly junk requiring huge amount of effort, knowledge and money to get it working. You're better off buying the ones Kiteman suggested. I liked vanillaforge for to-the-point design and features and low price point.

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shazni (author)Antzy Carmasaic2016-08-04


That of couse is a no brainer....I have no knowledge or the money to spend on something I have no clue about!

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Antzy Carmasaic (author)shazni2016-08-04

Well, the cheapest glowforge is $2,395 and Vanillabox is about $1,313. The K40 is about $300. No brainer or not, a lot of people end up buying it and getting trapped wasting money and time trying to make make it work.

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Regretfully Just Add Sharks Ltd has closed at the end of
September 2017. Over the last year Just Add Sharks Ltd has faced
challenges with the vanillabox crowdfunded Open Source laser cutter
project and with leads times from their suppliers. Demand for low cost
laser cutters has outstriped the supply. Lack of timely supply causes
delays and disappointments to customers. This is further exasperated by
the drop and fluctuating value of pounds sterling. Just Add Sharks Ltd
will honour all customers manufacturers warranties.

Customers should continue to email their requests for
technical support, software support, spare parts and warranty enquiries
to info@justaddsharks.co.uk or using the contact form below.

Just like 99.999997% of Crowd funded projects they get your money then close down.

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shazni (author)Antzy Carmasaic2016-08-07

$1313? Where is that figure? I could not find anywhere where the price was
mentioned....neither did I find a video of the Vanillabox in process.
Would you mind posting the links to both please?

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Antzy Carmasaic (author)shazni2016-08-11

Kiteman's link gives an estimate of £1000 which google says is $1313 once they launch on Kickstarter. I couldn't find any video either. It might be a few months before they launch on kickstarter and many more before they finish and ship it out.

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shazni (author)Antzy Carmasaic2016-08-12

Oh, if the price is in that range. ....I can just managed to save up for one. Can't wait to see the video! Hopefully it will be like the Glowforge. !

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DIYJRAY (author)2016-08-12

Use a makerspace to learn how to use the laser cutter before investing in one. You don't want to spend a lot of money on something that will end up collecting dust, and you'll have the knowledge needed to make an informed purchase.

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shazni (author)DIYJRAY2016-08-12

Unfortunately there isn't a makerspace here....wish there was. Every thing I have learned so far...in using machinery and stuff has been by online research and hands n hands on experience. I'm sure there would be online help for that too. ..else I shall ask help from this wonderful community in instructables.com :-)

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Downunder35m (author)2016-07-26

First off some facts:
For what you want a small diode laser won't do it unless you want to spend an arm and a leg on a high power module.
CO2 lasers are the next best thing and quite affordable.
You can cut wood but 0.5" is over what you would usually do on a hobby level laser system.
Most people work with 3-6mm arcrylic or wood.
Reason is simple: The laser beam won't be a thin line, it forms a cone.
Cheap china models can do what is asked of them but most will require a new controller to fully utilise them.
If you go a bit bigger, in the 50W range you can find machine with a working area of around 40x50cm, some even bigger.
But for those you need to invest far over 2000$ just for the basics.

As for safety:
As long as the machine is closed you won't have to worry about the laser light.
But the fumes need to be handled properly.
Only way to do this is with strong exhaust fans to the outside, if you want to do the right thing for neighbours and nature with some filters.

If have a big router or milling machine already you can "upgrade" most models with a strong diode laser, at least for fabric, foam and thin wood it would work.
Downside is the need for an enclosure with proper exhaust ventilation.

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shazni (author)Downunder35m2016-07-26

Thanks for the info...I think I shall
cry...I have a rooftop room with windoors all around...so I guess
ventilation shouldn't be an issue.

The cash is the issue ... and transport...I think if I sell up some stuff I can just get $1000 ...and I can try and save up another 500. Oh well...I can try.

Thanks again.

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Brooklyntonia (author)shazni2016-07-26

I agree with Kiteman's recommendation of the Glowforge. I don't know what the shipping would be like to your neck of the woods, but the price for what you get is a great value in my mind. I bought one during their first preorder period and should have it in December.

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shazni (author)Brooklyntonia2016-07-30

WoW ! lucky you. Now the cheapest is $2400 without air filter :-(

Please post instructables on it's use. Even if I can't have it, I would love to enjoy it's benifits from afar.

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Brooklyntonia (author)shazni2016-08-06

I certainly will. Mine won't have an air filter, so my first ible will likely be about creating some sort of venting system out a window that keeps the warm air in during winter.

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Good luck!
Can't wait to see your solution as all mine failed in this region.
Once you start doing srious cutting or engraving work even big filter systems struggle.
My last attempt was an air filter from a truck to keep the bigger particles out, it was filled with fine packing wool to increase surface area.
After that came a pro hydroponics charcoal filter of 40cm in diameter and 65cm in lenght.
Still no chance to keep the air clean inside.
IMHO the only real option would be to seal the machine and use two vents.
One to get clean air in and one to get the filth out.

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I'm not going to try to make a filter. The system has a spot for a venting hose. I'll likely just attach an in-line duct exhaust fan and run the hose through the window. The trick is figuring out a way to block the rest of the window to keep the air conditioning in.

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shazni (author)Brooklyntonia2016-08-07

You can easily keep the window open and the air condition in
by cutting a rectangle piece of foam that is the length of the window and just
wider than the tube. Then cut a hole the size of the tube in the foam. Place
this under the window. Then again, this will only work for the sliding window

For the open window type, you will have to cut an acrylic
sheet the size of the window and cut a hole for the pipe and seal it. See if
you can fix the acrylic sheet with magnets or some latch temporarily when you
are using it.

These are just some ideas….of course it might not work at
all as I do not know your set up ! :-)

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Kiteman (author)shazni2016-07-26

A rooftop room?

I have a relatively small laser cutter (A3 cutting bed), but it is the size of two washing machines. I struggled to install it in its ground-floor location alone.

You need to look for something physically smaller.

The Glowforge might be suitable, or something like the Vanillabox concept (although that's a UK company).

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shazni (author)Kiteman2016-07-30

Thank you so much! I watched a video of Glowforge and literally fell in love!

I did a quick check in my finance..with selling my siluhouette .. and let's just say it's too embarrassing to even mention ! I will have to sell body parts!

I guess like girls fall will super stars, I will have to just fall in love and admire from afar :-).

I have now sent a mail to them...seeking employment as a designer of crafts...I pray they employ me!! So whatever they pay, I can put aside for the laser printer. Please pray I get it :-)

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Kiteman (author)shazni2016-07-31

You could also sell crafts, and eventually the things you cut with the laser.

I run a small Etsy shop and my laser has now paid for itself (it took about two years with little advertising and a couple of lucky large orders).

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shazni (author)Kiteman2016-07-31

Yes, I am going to try Etsy...I couldn't earlier as my country does not allow me to receive money through paypal. It still doesn't, but now I have an aunt I trust living abroad with a paypal account. I will simply be using her paypal and bank to receive money. It is still on the process.

I have never taken a loan. I never deal in interest...also I have this fear that I would die when I take a big loan and then my family would be burdend with an unwanted loan to pay!

So I will have to save first....I guess by that time the discount will be off :-(

I really hope they are willing to employ me...but perhaps it's wishful thinking.

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SeamusFrederick (author)2016-07-27

Looking at the tech specs for the Glowforge it's probably best suited to your needs. If your business does well you can always upgrade down the road but the Glowforge is perfect as a starter pack.

In terms of safety...do you have a garage or a less accessed room in your house that you can store the laser in? I wouldn't be too worried about the light accidently hurting anyone unless you get a laser with a pass-through door where it is possible for a random reflection from the laser to make it outside the case.

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shazni (author)SeamusFrederick2016-07-30

Thank you so much for your reply. Glowforge is a dream. I just hope I could one day attain.

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