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Laser Cutter VS 3D Printer: What's The Difference?

Laser Cutter VS 3D Printer: What's The Difference?

Wenting Wang |

What is a 3D printer?


3D printing (3DP) is a kind of rapid prototyping technology, it is a digital model file based on the use of powder metal or plastic and other adhesive materials, by printing layer by layer to construct the object technology. 3D printers deposit layers of fibers to build 3D objects, a process called additive manufacturing. Using a digital 3D model created on a computer as a template, the 3D printer recreates objects by stacking layers of filaments. Filaments can be made of several different materials, usually plastic types such as PLA or ABS. The 3D printers that typically fit the average home or tech enthusiast are relatively small, closed models. Large 3D printers use a giant robotic arm that looks like something out of a sci-fi thriller and can 3D print houses as a whole using materials such as concrete. In addition to architecture, 3D printing could find its own promising uses in the fields of medicine and robotics. It has formed a variety of printing processes such as molten deposition modeling process, laser stereo lithography process, electron beam melting and laminated object manufacturing process.



The difference between 3D printer and laser engraving machine

Different materials:

Common 3D printing materials include nylon glass fiber, durable nylon material, gypsum material, aluminum material, titanium alloy, stainless steel, silver plating, gold plating, rubber materials. Some 3D printers can make objects from other materials, such as metal or biocompatible plastics. However, you usually can't switch between materials. If you are printing both the filament and the metal design, you may need a separate 3D printer to process each material.

Laser cutting machines are most commonly used in glass, wood, gemstones, paper, plastics and metals. If you're looking for something to use with a variety of materials, a laser cutter is a better choice. Laser cutters are suitable for a variety of different materials, including wood, fabric, acrylic and composite materials. Laser cutters can also etch glass and metal. You can quickly switch between materials without replacing any parts on the machine. There may be material waste in the laser engraving process, which will inevitably produce some material waste, but 3D printers will not exist such a problem. 3D printing creates no waste because liquids are processed or materials are added layer upon layer, while laser cutting creates cutting materials and contaminants during production.


Different speeds:

Laser cutters are usually faster. Laser cutters tend to deliver finished products faster than 3D printers. The high precision with which the laser beam cuts the material gives you complete control over the appearance of the final product. Laser engraving a work usually ten minutes or even a few minutes can be completely completed. Although 3D printers are much faster than the typical manufacturing molds used to produce objects in the traditional way, anyone who knows anything about 3D printing knows that it takes a lot of time to make a complex model, and that the slower the printing speed, the higher the precision, and the longer the printing time. You need a lot of patience to make a complete product. Sure, it's a long wait, but you can do something else while the 3D printer is working without having to watch it all the time.


Different working areas:

The size of a 3D printer limits the size of the objects you can create, as you can only make objects as large as the tray or chamber on the machine. 3D printing is usually a closed environment, and small businesses who want to buy a 3D printer will usually not buy a huge industrial type, but will usually print in a closed box. Therefore, its working area and the size of the items that can be printed are limited, and the laser engraving machine, especially the CO2 laser engraving machine, the general working area can be increased, even unlimited expansion.


Different costs:

Both laser cutters and 3D printers come in a variety of price options, but 3D printers tend to be cheaper than laser cutters. However, 3D printers tend to be more expensive to operate because the filaments can be expensive and some parts, such as extruder nozzles, may need to be replaced over time. You will also need to use a different spool for each color you want to use, and you may need to clean the extruder when switching between different types of filaments, which can be wasteful. Because of the expense of creating a single 3D-printed object, these machines are typically used for prototyping rather than mass manufacturing.


Different industry maturity:

Laser engraving machine industry has developed into a relatively mature industry, but the 3D industry is still an immature industry. In addition, 3D printers generally can not form continuous consumer production, the quality of their carved products is usually not good enough to sell, and the production speed is slow, unable to create multiple 3D objects for sale. But laser engraving machine cutting speed is fast, can mass production of a variety of goods, if you are in the spare time to do a small business, then laser engraving machine must be more suitable for your business needs than 3D printers. The perforation process, which is crucial in fusing and flame cutting, must be performed before the actual cutting process begins and is of less importance. The material is converted directly to gas, so it does not cause any damage to the machine or produce any melting or oxidation residues. However, this method is more commonly used for other materials such as wood, textiles or leather. Evaporating the metal directly is almost impossible. As you can see, these processes are much harder and more industrial than 3D printing. Now 3D printers and laser engraving machines are in the home and are popular with technology enthusiasts and artists alike.


Final Thoughts

If you already own a 3D printer, a laser engraver might also be a good tool for you, as the techniques of the two machines complement each other. 3D printing makes it easier to do some of the work of laser cutting. And laser cutting can still provide the precision and materials needed for many materials and tasks.


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