Laser Engraver Costs
Desktop lasers became commercially marketed in around 2019. Unless I miss my guess, Ortur was first to the commercial market with their Laser Master 1 followed up shortly by the Laser Master 2. Laser Engraver Costs were fairly inexpensive at this early juncture and you could go all in for $200 to $300 or so depending on where you ordered it from. That would get you 4.5 – 5.5 watts of output power. In my opinion, these were the golden days of desktop lasers in regards to cost vs. capability.
Laser Engraver Costs Today
Conversely, an Ortur Laser Master 3 with a 20 watt output power laser costs $1199 just to get started. The xTool D1 Pro with a 20 watt laser head costs $1169.99. Their 40 watt kit (bundle) costs $1799.98. I can make similar cost comparisons with competitor pricing.
Even at these prices there are accessories that you may want to buy. And for years I have said that while running a laser business having one operational laser is like having one shoe. If it breaks, and they break, you are out of business for a week or three or more.
In just a few years the cost of running a laser side hustle have increased nearly four fold. But what of that term I used earlier? Cost vs. capability. What exactly can you do with a 40 watt laser that you cannot do with a 5 watt laser?
Here’s my bold statement in response to that question: NOT MUCH!
Yes you can cut thicker material……….but do you need to cut thicker material? The answer to that question of course depends on what YOUR needs are. From the day that I bought my first laser in 2019 or so, until today my laser engraving needs have not evolved much. Cutting wood or other materials over 5mm thick involves more power and slower speeds which results. in more heat and more charring and discoloration.
There a ton of users out there who purchase blanks. And by blanks, I mean purchasing:
- Leather patches for ball caps
- Tumblers or cups
- Credit Card Wallets
- Pet Tags
- Pencils and Pens
- And many more……..
There’s not one thing on that list above that I can’t do with a 5 watt laser. While I might be able to do it faster theoretically, faster can shake things around especially when using alignment jigs. Slow and steady wins the laser race.
Is It Cool To Have A Strong Laser?
Yep. It sure is. I have:
- xTool D1 Pro 10 watt configured for rotary operations
- xTool D1 Pro 20 watt with extended bed kit for larger items
- Ortur Laser Master 3 10 watt in an enclosure for smelly and smoky operations
- Sculpfun S9 upgraded to 33 watt laser head for higher power operations
- OMTech 50 watt CO2 laser for acrylics and thicker cuts requiring more power
Having said that I firmly believe that way over 95% of the stuff I do is simple engraving. I recently owned and sold two Ortur Aufero AL2 lasers. The first one I purchased for $169. I submit to you that as someone who lasers for the occasional side hustle that I could run my entire operation with an Aufero AL2.
I reviewed the Ortur Aufero AL2 here and basically said it was the best budget laser ever. And that is saying something because I basically believe Ortur quality control has slipped to an unacceptable level. The AL2 design is basically that of those lasers from the 2019 golden age of desktop lasers. The AL2 does not have limit switches but almost 100% of the time I manually position my items to be lasered in Lightburn to “Current Position” and don’t use limit switches or auto-homing anyway. Your mileage may very.
While I have some higher powered desktop lasers I probably don’t NEED them. And probably neither do you. I personally don’t think that most users need anything beyond a 5 watt laser output or 10 at the most. If you think that statement is ridiculous ………I won’t dispute that because your needs may be way different than mine. But I know what I need. If I were just getting started in the desktop laser side hustle I would buy an entry level machine such as that Ortur Aufero AL2 or a TwoTrees TT-25. Or maybe a Sculpfun S9.
Once I mastered my craft and PAID FOR THAT MACHINE and established a solid side hustle, then I might upgrade. For that path I recommend the xTool offerings. Specifically a D1 Pro.
My needs aren’t your needs but if you are new at this and just putting in the research I stand by every single word I have written here. Start cheap. Get good. Make some money and then, and only then………upgrade. And then ONLY IF YOU NEED TO.