In this article we review a cheap 3000mW laser engraver for around 80 bucks. We want to test what it is able to cut and add some important safety features.
Let’s first get some things out of the way. I bought the laser engraver with my own money and this article is not sponsored. If you decide to buy one of these using the affiliate link at the end of this page will help to support me at no additional cost for you. The laser comes packed nicely with all the necessary cables and a stick with the software.
I bought this laser engraver for a very specific reason — to use it as a branding iron or maker mark to put my sign on furniture. We will cover this specific use case in a separate video and for today will focus on a general review of what this little box can do and what it can’t do. One thing it definitely can do is to destroy your eyes and make you blind.
Laser engraver safety
You should therefore not use the laser as it comes out of the box. You can find a free template for covers on the 3 open side here that add an important safety feature. I am cutting these on the K40 laser cutter from plywood.
As you most likely don’t own a larger laser cutter you can simply cut them from cardboard and cover the inside with aluminum foil. This is going to create a cover that the laser can’t pass through to protect your eyes.
Here we glue dowels into the small levers so that we can open and close the lids. You could be more pragmatic and just glue the covers with a piece of duct tape to the sides.
With a bit of sanding and paint the cover look quite nice.
Even with this protection you should always wear glasses that work for the wavelength of 450 nm.
The protective glasses for this wavelength are cheap and usually cost around 10 bucks.
With these precautions we are all set and prepared for running the laser.
3000mW laser engraver software setup
Installing the software started with a positive surprise. Installing the driver and the software in Linux worked without any issues using wine.
We connect the laser engraver to the power supply and the USB port of the laser to the computer and start the software.
At the lens of the laser module we make sure that the focus is on the surface of the piece we want to engrave.
We load an image in the software and let it engrave on a piece of MDF. The engraving is a lengthy process.
Even such a relatively small image takes about 10 minutes to engrave.
However, the result looks actually quite nice.
All the details of the logo are crisp and clear and the result looks good.
After MDF let’s try to engrave on a piece of plywood – which works even better.
The result is a clear engraving with some depth.
The software contains a few options to modify the graphic. The outline option is not really working for engraving as the outline is only one pixel
The sketch option is producing a nice effect with a thick outline and some pixels in the larger areas.
There is however a neat feature of the laser engraver. With the “download” button in the software you can actually save an image on the laser engraver itself
and then engrave the image with the laser not connected to a computer.
Acrylic failure and metal engraving win
Next I was curious if the laser could engrave acrylic. After removing the piece of acrylic we can see that the laser actually nicely engraved my logo in the coating of the IKEA metal cabinet.
While the acrylic doesn’t show any sign of an engraving this shows nicely that paint on a metal surface can be engraved with this laser.
Let’s try this again with reflecting aluminium foil, adjusting the laser focus and the maximum laser power and caving depth.
Again the acrylic piece doesn’t show any sign of the laser. So it seems that the laser is not able to engrave acrylic.
Besides wood the laser engraves also cardboard. Paper however does interestingly not work when using 100% laser power and 10% carving depth.
With 100% carving depth it is possible to burn the paper – although this will not result in a clear cut it might be possible with some patience to create small stencils.
3000mW laser engraver review summary
- You can’t cut anything with this laser engraver — even paper can’t be really cut.
- I was not able to engrave acrylic.
- It is very well suited to engrave in MDF and plywood.
- Nevertheless for the purpose of using it as a maker mark this seems to be a great fit.
- In one of the next projects we will add some changes to this tool.