CNC Routers vs. Lasers: What Are the Differences?
By Rylie Holt
Anyone who has ever tried to make something with machinery has probably wondered to themselves at some point or another about which machine is better, a CNC router or a laser. Of course, there are many possibilities, but the nod should always go to the machine that would best accomplish a given task.
A CNC router and a laser are not the same equipment, although both accomplish their purposes very well. Both offer great cutting abilities. Just as is the case with so many other tools, each has its benefits, which this article will outline. More information can be found at apa21.org.
What’s the Difference Between CNC Routers and Lasers?
Both CNC Routers and lasers cut materials, but from that point, virtually everything about both pieces of equipment is different. A laser cutter depends on power and wattage to work. By contrast, a router uses various bits to cut.
A laser cutter can cut through almost every material a CNC router can engrave, but a laser cutter can’t engrave some materials such as ABS, PVC, polypropylene foam, and others. A CNC router will do this job. Bottom line: a CNC router will cut more and different materials.
There isn’t much difference between a CNC router and a laser cutter when it comes to speed. There are many factors involved in determining how fast these machines work, including the type of material being cut. Lasers offer better precision since they don’t come in direct contact with the materials like a CNC router does, but a router is usually quicker since it can make larger passes while working.
Lasers use more power than CNC routers. Lasers also cost more. On the other hand, lasers can engrave with a much higher degree of accuracy than a CNC router. Lasers also give a user a greater degree of control and, as a result, more room for creativity.
Using a router to engrave is like using a marker pen to write. On the other hand, with a laser, there is much more control to over, resulting in feeling like a fine-tip pen. The smallest router bits have a width of about 1mm, while the radius depends on your engraving tool’s width.
Whenever you work with power tools, a user should always wear eye protection and have proper ventilation. A CNC router should never be operated without a good dust collection system in place. Both a CNC laser and a router present fire hazards, but a laser cutter is even more so. Never use the equipment on materials other than those the manufacturer has approved. And, never leave a machine on when it is unattended. Also, keep anything flammable, such as wood shavings, away from machines.
Just as is the case with virtually anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to using laser cutting and routers. It all depends on what a user likes and dislikes and the project that is being created. For example, a laser has the advantages of speed, precision, cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and more. By contrast, a router can work over extended periods without breaks. As a result, it has the advantage of efficiency and productivity. Which is best is a matter of personal preference. It’s all in what you like.