Choosing the best laser engraver for leather or fabric is challenging. Especially, if you have minimum knowledge about the critical areas of a laser engraver. This article focuses on various aspects of leather engraving with a laser cutter such as scope, difficulty, technical areas, procedures, and a lot more.
We have tested more than 17 different laser engravers on various types of leather and this is the top-voted one that we are suggesting. Besides, the overall screening process had 19 surveys and an 8-step examination process by true leather engraving enthusiasts.
Best Laser Engraver For Leather and Fabric
- Best Laser Engraver For Leather and Fabric
- Publishers’ Opinion
- Key Decision-Making Factors
- Glow Forge Plus (Best Overall)
- Gweike Cloud Pro – 2022’s fastest laser cutter
- OMTech 80W CO2 Laser Cutter & Engraver
- LaserPecker 2 Deluxe
- Ten High 3020
- Can you engrave leather by laser?
- What types of laser can engrave on leather?
- How does leather laser engraving work?
- Steps of Leather Laser Engraving
- Challenges of Fabric Cutting & Engraving with Laser
- Fabric Engraving Guide
- What’s the best leather for engraving?
- Laser Engraving Challenges in Leather
- Other technical aspects of laser leather engraving
- Leather laser engraving tips
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- How do laser cutters work?
- What’s the difference between laser cutting, engraving, and marking?
- How much power a laser cutter consumes?
- How fast does a laser cutter cut?
- What are the differences between a laser cutter & vinyl cutter?
- What are the differences between Control Software & Design Software?
- What are the common problems of laser engravers?
- What are the differences between a laser cutter & plasma cutter?
- Leather Laser Engraving Design Tips
- Laser Engraving Outsourcing in the USA
We have made a shortlist for the best laser engraver for leather and Fabrics. We considered different ranking criteria and quality measurements while making the list for you.
These are the best laser engravers for leather and fabrics:
1. Glow Forge Plus (Best Overall)
2. Gweike Cloud Pro 50W CO2
3. OMTech 80w
4. LaserPecker 2 Deluxe
5. Ten High 3020
Glowforge Plus is an amazing laser engraver suitable for fabric and leather and other materials. Glowforge is the most preferred one due to its in-built cameras and better precision. While considering other CO2 laser engravers, Ten High would surely be on the list due to its long operating hours and happy customers. Ten High may not offer such a long customer list and wide community engagements, still, this is on your list due to certain reasons. Apart from these two, Laser Pecker drew our attention for its work anywhere feature and 200+ remote work experience.
Gweike Cloud Pro is another amazing 50 W CO2 laser engraver having the fastest cutting speed of 600 mm/second. It features 3 linear rails for a faster and smoother cut along with air assist and rotary. Overall, Gweike is becoming the Glowforge killer due to budget-friendly prices and other qualitative issues.
OMTech performed really well in terms of laser engraving speed and price-quality calculation. It comes with automatic lid lifting along with 4 passthrough and a dual working area. The work time is anticipated to be 8000+ hours which stood higher than the Ten High.
LaserPecker is the one if you are looking for a dedicated laser engraver for leather. However, if you are a crafter, then go for any of these two between Glowforge & Ten High 3020.
Key Decision-Making Factors
In this section, we covered the key decision-making factors of each shortlisted laser engraver. It will surely help you make the final decision.
|Glowforge Plus||Gweike Cloud Pro||OMTech||Ten High||LaserPecker|
|Engraving Speed||1300 lines per inch||600 mm/s||500 mm/s||600mm/s||600mm/s|
|Runtime||700 Hours Plus||1000 Hours plus||800 Hours Plus||800 Hours Plus||400 Minutes / Single Charge|
|Precision||0.025mm||0.001 mm||0.025mm||0.025mm||0.05 mm|
|Work Bed||12 in x 20.4 in||20.08” by 11.8”||20×28 in||12" x 8"||4" *196" (Max)|
|Review||Click to Jump||Read Review||Click to Jump||Click to Jump||Click to Jump|
If you are looking for a multi-purpose laser cutter or engraver then the best choice would be to choose any one between Gweike Cloud Pro and Glowforge Plus. Other than that, OMTech is also another heavy-duty laser engraver for multi-purpose. LaserPecker can be the perfect choice id you need a ortable laser.
Glow Forge Plus (Best Overall)
Glowforge Plus is a premium laser engraver for leather with a lot of amazing positive points. It works great with fabric and no fraying has been noticed while engraving fabrics. This laser engraver is expensive but the engraving quality is just top-notch. We considered this laser engraver as the best overall for leather due to various factors such as speed, engraving precision, and laser head quality. It comes with an air assist kit and a closed lid system which makes the engraving procedure safer. It can engrave as thin as human hair and the sensitivity of the machine is ready to engrave softer materials like chocolate.
Glowforge Plus Key Takeaways
- A premium laser engraver suitable for leather and fabric
- The lid is transparent and scratch-resistant
- Holds the ability to carve up to a half inch
- This laser engraver works over 1300 lines per inch
- Laser power is 45 watts with a CO2 laser tube
- The entire process is fully automatic
- Can work with more than 100 types of different
Why Glowforge is Best?
- Features wide-angle and macro camera which are missing in both LaserPecker & Ten High
- It’s a pre-calibrated automatic machine whereas the Ten High 3020 needs to be calibrated after a few uses
- The cutting area is 279 mm deep / 495 mm wide which is higher than the LaserPecker
- Features air assist kit & HEPA filter which are not in the Ten High 3020
- Continuous operation is 37% higher than the Ten High and other similar CO2 laser engravers
Other Positive Sides
Glowforge is a well-established laser engraver manufacturer which developed one of the finest artificial intelligence. The integrated camera can capture the hand-made drawing and directly convert it to a machine-readable drawing for leather laser engraving. Such flexibility offers the crafters to engrave whatever is in their minds.
Another big advantage is that Glowforge owns the largest user community where everyone can help each other with troubleshoots and new lessons. It greatly helps someone who cannot afford to wait a couple of days for the support staff of the company. We have experienced that users from different corners of the world share innovations and even drawings with tricks and hacks which help other people as well.
The material recognition feature is another unique selling proposition of Glowforge that enables the machine to recognize the type of material and adjust the settings accordingly. This is helpful if someone is not sure about the engraving settings adjustment while working on the different types of material. Glowforge roughly owns more than 200 types of material whereas its nearest competitor does not even have half of them. Each material comes with a QR code that helps the laser engraver recognize it.
However, Glowforge’s material may be expensive compared to others from the local market.
The software accessibility of Glowforge is probably the easiest one with drag-and-drop functionality. If someone is not aware of the design can easily handle their drawing & operating software with a minimum prior knowledge of laser engraving.
Read the comparison between Glowforge Plus Vs XTool here.
It’s true that Glowforge recognizes the types of material and adjusts the engraving settings but the same thing may not be applied to the leather and fabric engraving since the material elasticity and material components vary widely.
The maximum capacity of Glowforge plus is 23 inches, in that case working on any pieces over 23 inches would be impossible with Glowforge plus.
The air filter cartridges are too expensive to replace.
Glowforge is also a noisy laser engraver which is very normal considering the mechanism they use. However, the enclosure helps to reduce the noise greatly.
Glowforge plus still cannot do the aligning automatically and also fails to separate layers while a laser cutting job is in process.
It also gets dirty very often which requires regular effort. However, no automatic cleaning facility is noticed.
The final point we would like to focus on is the customer support which is controversial. You might face some delay from having official support however most problems are often solved by the community itself.
Differences with Glowforge Basic
Glowforge Plus is the most updated version now. The main differences between Glowforge Plus and with basic model are as follows:
- Glowforge Plus is 3 times faster than the Glowforge basic
- It uses a class 4 laser whereas the basic Glowforge features a class 1 laser
- Glowforge Plus allows passthrough but the basic one does not
- Comes with an extended warranty (currently 6 months higher than the Glowforge basic)
- Shipping time is faster
- Offers larger engraving area
- The CO2 laser tube is more powerful than the basic Glowforge
Gweike Cloud Pro – 2022’s fastest laser cutter
Gweike is an excellent laser cutter with proven cutting & engraving results. From the price/quality assessment, Gweike Cloud Pro would surely be considered as the Glowforge Killer since the price of Gweike is almost half of Glowforge Pro.
Gweike did excellent with cutting speed, engraving resolution, and 3 linear rails with rotary & air assist. However, we found that Glowforge’s image recognition is fairly better than Gweike’s except for the other issues.
Key Highling Points of Gweike Cloud Pro
These are the key highlighting points of Gweike Cloud Pro. Follow this article to know more about Gweike Vs Glowforge Pro.
- Laser cutting speed is 600 mm/second which is significantly higher than Glowforge & Xtool D1 pro.
- Features 3 linear rail which helps in smoother & faster laser cut.
- Contains an in-built camera that can capture handmade drawings and convert them into engravable files.
- Gweike comes with an industrial-grade 50W CO2 laser tube along with a powerful internal cooling chamber.
- The noise produced by Gweike is lesser than the Glwoforge Pro.
- Supports more than 400 materials and also recognizes them like what Glowforge used to do.
- This is a desktop laser cutter and is accessible through USB & Wifi; however, no smartphone app is there to control it.
- Gweike Cloud Pro can be controlled through Lightburn which was a big limitation for Glowforge users.
- Gweike laser engraver can print at a resolution of Upto 1000 DPI at full power. This is great when someone is in need of high-contrast engraving output. However, there might be edge burns to soft materials.
- The Pro model comes with double rotary attachments which enables the laser head to work on uneven materials such as tumblers & Yeti mugs.
- There would be 18 months of warranty along with 30 days no reason refund facility which takes the laser cutter into the biggest appealing position in the market.
- The noise would be as max as 70 decibels. (20% lower than the OMTech laser cutters)
- Gweike is FDA certified and hereby comes with HEPA filter & duct fan. This laser engraver is fully enclosed so the risk of toxic fumes is lesser than the open version of Xtool D1 Pro & AtomStack S20 Pro.
These are the few negative sides of Gweike Cloud Pro
- Doesn’t have any smartphone app
- The user community is smaller than the Glowforge & X tool
- Y axis cutting speed is lesser than the X-Axis because the Y-Axis carried the laser head
- Doesn’t allow any batch processing
Differences between Gweike Cloud & Gweike Cloud Pro
Gweike is primarily having two models and the only difference between both is the availability of rotary tools. The Gweike Cloud Pro is coming up with double rotary attachments which enable the user to engrave cylindrical or uneven objects easily.
Differences with Glowforge Pro
Gweike is considered to be a Glowforge killer due to the heavy price differences between them. Here’s an apple-to-apple comparison of Gweike Cloud Pro & Glowforge Pro.
|Factors||Gweike Cloud Pro||Glowforge Pro|
|Size||38.2″ x 22.2″ x 9.2″||38″ x 20.75″ x 8.25″|
|Weight||25 kg (55 lbs)||42.6 kg (94 lbs)|
|Work Bed||20.08” by 11.8”||19.5” by 11”|
|Camera||one (in-built)||Two (one for focus)|
|Z Axis||20 inches||0.5 to 2 inches|
|Work Bed||Removable Honeycomb||Fixed|
|Laser Power||glass tube 50W CO2 lasers||glass tube 45W CO2 lasers|
|Speed||600 mm/s||330 mm/s|
|Precision||0.001 inch||0.002 inch|
|Hand Made Drawing Detection||Yes||Yes|
|Read Material QR Code||Yes||Yes|
|Price||Gweike Store||Glowforge Store|
OMTech 80W CO2 Laser Cutter & Engraver
OMTech has been doing great in the laser-cutting industry for a couple of years. It has plenty of choices depending on the laser cutting requirements. After in-depth research, we are suggesting this 80W CO2 laser cutter from OMTech which will also enable you to work with different tough materials along with fabric & leather.
What’s interesting in Omtech 80w?
These are the unique selling propositions of OMTech 80w CO2 laser engravers and the reasons why you choose this for engraving leather & other material:
- This laser cutter features an 80-watt CO2 laser which determines that you are not limited to cutting & engraver leather only. It will also allow working with other materials such as Paper, cardboard, fabric, plastic, and other non-metallic materials.
- It features a larger work bed than the Glowforge at an even lower price. The Work-bed here would be 28 x 20 inches which are perfect to cut & engrave large leather bags, leather belts, and other leather products.
- As a bonus, you will also get 4 pass-through doors that help. larger pieces of leather and fabric easily
- The engraving performance would be roughly 1.6 fps (500 mm/s) which is a great deal indeed.
- The cutting speed measures up to 3.1 ips (80 mm/s) along with a fully adjustable & automated work bed. This is a strong point that was missing in the Glowforge Plus.
- As per the experts’ opinion, the laser tube would last around 8000 hours, which is more than the average of what Ten High laser cutters offer.
- On top of that, OMTech brought an advanced security mechanism with a password and key protection that helped to be one of the finest laser engravers available in the market.
- The in-build air-assist kit keeps the work area safe from smoke and dust.
- The amazing deal was that the OMTech delivers an industrial-grade chiller with a strength of CW-5200 which helped to be ahead of the LaserPecker & Ten High laser cutters.
Here’s a list of laser cutters which come especially with rotary tool for oval or cylinder shape laser engraving
Here’s a leather laser engraving with OMTech 80W CO2:
Other Positive Sides
OMTech offers a dual work platform that enables the user to use a honeycomb bed for tinier objects and an aluminum knife blade bed for larger materials. Engraving focus just works great with the help of 86 stepper motor raiser and lowers.
The warranty is extended up to 24 months with a 12 months replacement clause. Glowforge’s & Ten High’s warranty was for 12 months when compared.
Another big advantage of OMTech laser engraver is that it comes with RUIDA digital control panel which is easy to use and compatible with most of the prominent software.
While talking about safety, OMTech did great on that with password protection and its automatic shutdown mechanism in case of any accident.
Engraving speed is 0-23.62 in/s which is great considering the price point.
Graphics format supported: HPGL; BMP; GIF; JPG; JPEG; DXF; DST; AI; etc and compatible with Flash Drive; USB to PC; Ethernet to PC.
- This laser engraver doesn’t work with Mac / Linux. There is other versions of the same product that work properly with Mac.
Differences with other versions of OMTech laser engravers
OMTech is a professional laser cutter manufacturer. Their product lineup includes plenty of different laser engravers. Here’s how this 80 Watt CO2 eengraver differs from other OMTech claser cutters:
- There are also 60W, 50W, and 100W CO2 laser engravers. The work area gets bigger with the incremental power of the machine. For example, the 100W machine would offer you 20×28 inches of work bed which are almost larger than this one.
- This 80W laser engravers have auto lifts which help you in leveling the machine for height adjustment automatically whereas the 50W & 60W doesn’t have auto lifting feature.
- Not all machine includes Lightburn software, better check carefully before making a purchase.
LaserPecker 2 Deluxe
LaserPecker 2 Deluxe is a power bank-based laser engraver suitable for leather & fabric. It offers an engraving speed of up to 36000mm/min which is amazing considering the other alternative choice within the same price range. This engraving machine can engrave on leather with an accuracy of 0.05 * 0.05mm for perfect detailing. You don’t need to assemble anything here for the laser engraving works.
Key Takeaways of LaserPecker 2 Deluxe
- Doesn’t matter wherever you need to work. This is a power bank-based laser engraver that you can carry anywhere.
- The engraving speed is amazing (36000mm/min) which is even higher than the Glowforge.
- Detailing is so accurate. It can engrave as tiny as 0.05 * 0.05mm with 3 resolution options.
- Perfect for leather & fabric engraving with fewer risks of edge burnout.
- Supports other materials such as wood, acrylic, stone, none, jewelry, and more.
- Battery life is excellent which is around 200 minutes at a full charge.
- With the auxiliary extender, you can engrave difficult objects such as tumblers or other cylindrical objects.
Other Positive Sides
Being the diode laser, LaserPecker 2 can engrave over the metal preferably the Oxidized Aluminum Alloys, Coated Metals, and 304 Stainless Steel. You can also engrave on brushed glass but not shiny objects as it reflects the laser beam and adversely affect the engraving process.
LaserPecker 2 also cuts the materials like paper or leather less than 5 mm. This is a professional engraving machine which is why the cutting is not prioritized. Overall, the dual lens galvanometer helps the engraver to work faster than other diode engravers.
This is literally a semi-professional engraver, mostly suitable for personal use. Here are some leather engraving works done by LaserPecker 2 Deluxe:
- No built-in camera to read hand-made drawings and deliver them as laser engraving objects. However, you may need to use your smartphone camera to make things easy. But, the camera resolution would surely impact the engraving quality.
- This is not a CO2 laser engraver like the Glowforge so, the flexibility is limited if someone needs to work with heavier material.
The difference between LaserPecker 2 and other LaserPecker engravers
LaserPecker 2 is an upgrade to LaserPecker 1. The Laserpecker 1 was so simple with no protective plastic outside. The earlier version had a precession of 0.15 mm which is lower than what the LaserPecker 2 offers.
Moreover, there are two premium add-ons to LaserPecker 2 which add more value but at a higher cost. For instance:
- At a higher price, you can add a magnet protective shield to Version 2.
- The manufacturer also offers a storage box as an add-on optional item at a premium price.
So far, LaserPecker’s laser engraving portfolio is not as big as others but its recent performance makes us hopeful about LaserPecker’s future growth.
Laserpecker has already released version 3 & 4 which comes with larger working area along with other flexibilities.
The Laserpecker 4 does also come with two laser that consist of one 10 watt diode laser and a 2 Watt fiber laser with controlled pulse.
This controlled pulse rate offers a laser weave length of 1064 nm that comes within infrared ray. This allows the user to engrave on sophisticated material types such as leather, tissue paper, soft fabric, green leaf, food and chocolate.
Also, the speed and precision is better in both the Laserpecker 3 and 4. However, the price is slightly higher than the Laserpecker 2.
Ten High 3020
This is another awesome laser engraver suitable for leather, wood, bamboo, and other acrylic materials. Precision is less than 0.5mm with 600mm/s engraving speed.
- It’s a 40-watt CO2 laser engraver which means you can engrave and cut leather along with other tough materials.
- It features non-contact processing which means that there will be no damage to the material.
- This laser engraver is insanely accurate with a precision of 0.01mm.
- Lid lifting is automatic that offers a better machine-handling experience than Glowforge Plus.
- The laser head is an industrial grade one that is heavily heat resistant.
- Produces very low noise while working.
- Heavily customizable and controllable as per the engraving material.
- Works on a variety of materials such as leather, wood, acrylic, steel, and other tougher ones.
Other things to know
Ten high laser engraver offers a working area of 12″ x 8″ / 300 x 200mm which is fairly acceptable for home users and crafters. With such a working area, you can easily engrave leather bags, belts, and other leather products without any trouble. This is a CO2 laser that comes with a closed lid option which means that you are heavily protected during the leather laser engraving.
However, we did not see any batch processing options like what Glowforge offered. Apart from this, the positioning accuracy and the circulating water cooling system would make this one a premium laser engraving machine ideal for leather.
There are no in-built cameras to monitor the laser engraving process nor any artificial intelligence to read the hand drawings. You are still allowed to import handmade drawings by taking pictures and importing that into Coral Draw.
Here is some leather engraving works done by Ten High 3020 laser engraver:
Apart from all of the good things, Ten High has a negative side which is its user manual. Due to being a Chinese machine, the manual and the written instructions are challenging to follow. But, there are a few good videos on Youtube to get help.
Also, it does not offer a batch processing option in case you are in need of that.
Can you engrave leather by laser?
Surely, you can engrave leather with a laser engraver. Engraving over laser requires a cutting method that is precise and accurate.
Furthermore, engraving a predesigned pattern over leather requires an option that is computer controlled with a minimal percentage of wastage. From that point, there are no other suitable options for leather engraving except the C02 laser cutters.
These are the few advantages of laser leather engraving
- Laser engravers work faster with almost zero wastage
- Engraving depth is controlled by the computer which eliminates any potential risk of damage
- Laser engravers are easy to maintain
- There are no design limitations while engraving over leather
What types of laser can engrave on leather?
These are the three main types of laser cutters
- Crystal/diode laser
- CO2 Laser
- Fiber Laser
However, there are more different types of cutting mechanism people often practices. These are:
- Vapourization cutting
- Melting & blowing
- Cracking with thermal stress
- Stealth dicing
- Reactive cutting
CO2 lasers are the most suitable leather engraving option due to the fact that the leather has the ability to absorb the acumen of leather. Moreover, owning a laser engraver is expensive and you should not prefer to buy that for a single purpose. For the diversity of cutting & engraving material, CO2 laser engravers are the best thing to invest for.
These are the material that a CO2 laser engraver can work on
- Faux leather
- Natural Fabric
- Synthetic fabric
- Biological materials
- Stone, and many more
How does leather laser engraving work?
A laser engraver always works by the basic thumb rule. However, if you are a leather engraving enthusiast then it is equally important to understand how leather laser engraving works!
- The laser beam quickly increases the temperature and makes the material vapourising condition.
- As per the design and the set temperature, the exact portion of the leather starts vapourising.
- Such sublimation directly transforms the portion of the solid state into vapor and which is why there are fumes.
- The engraved portion is actually the burned area and due to this engraving looks great in light leather than the darker one.
Steps of Leather Laser Engraving
These are steps you need to follow while engraving on leather.
First, you need to cut the exact amount of leather or make the leather product ready for engraving. Make sure that the piece of leather is clean and that any stainless steel label is removed from that. Then you need to measure the leather and ready the engraving design for further processing.
If you want to engrave any handwritten drawings or signatures, make sure that the engraver has a built-in camera and processing mechanism to work with that handwritten drawing.
The third step is to adjust the settings and then you are ready to go!
Challenges of Fabric Cutting & Engraving with Laser
Laser cutting or engraving work through either melting or vapourising the material. So, working with fabric may become tougher since holding the fabric constant is essential.
Normally, we use plastic tape or magnets to hold the fabrics while working with the laser.
Choosing the appropriate laser plays a vital role while engraving fabrics.
Laser power is usually measured with wavelength and diode lasers” delivered wavelength is not suitable for cutting fabric, and transparent materials. However, blue diode lasers can become essential for fabric cutting and engraving.
In our opinion – CO2 lasers are best to cut and engrave fabrics since the artificial and natural fabrics can easily absorve the wavelength of laser cutters.
Fiber lasers are not suitable for fabric since the wavelength they produce is much higher than what fabric needs.
If someone wants to cut thicker fabrics, then he or she needs to use CO2 leasers (preferably a 40W version) and work slowly. The processing time affects the work because the laser beam needs time to melt or vapourize the portion of fabrics as per the instructions. (we found that a 45 W laser cutter can perform really well at a speed of 200 to 250 mm per second).
Fabric Engraving Guide
Let me first clarify what appearance will a laser engraver offer you if you engrave the fabric. For more, follow this fabric engraving guide.
Normally, there are two types of appearance and those are ‘Bleached Appearance’ and ‘Dark Contrast’. Usually, engraving on cotton and Denim will provide a bleached appearance that can be light or extremely bleached.
However, fabrics like velvet felt and microfiber would offer a contrasting appearance.
Due to its nature engraving over cotton becomes challenging since the inside fiber is fluffy and a laser beam makes fraying. Fraying can damage the fabric if its not stopped.
Also, due to the fraying, the engraved fonts may become unclear and the overall appearance would be affected adversely.
So, how to stop fraying?
Normally, we recommend using a fray-stop liquid while the lease engraver is working. You may also choose fabrics that are mixed between cotton and polyester. Polyester fibers melt and thereby stop the cotton fibers from edge burns and fraying.
You should not use a laser power of more than 30% of a 40 to 50W CO2 laser while engraving fabrics.
Silk and pure polyesters are not recommended to be placed on a laser engraver since they fray so quickly and the engraver cannot put the marks as per the design.
Thicker fabrics such as denim and velvet are very good for high-contrast engraving results along with sealed edge results.
What’s the best leather for engraving?
Leather is an organic material and due to this fact, its density varies. The laser engraving result might not be exactly the same on different pieces of leather even if they came from the same source.
So, no one can guarantee the end result of laser engraving on leather.
Again, you cannot apply the same engraving settings on every piece of leather due to density variations and other technical issues.
So, what is the best leather for laser engraving? The answer is simple. Only natural leather is best for laser engraving which is collected from deerskin, cowhide, sheepskin, and such.
Below are the different types of leather.
Full Grain Leather
Full-grain leather is the most durable and strongest leather among the other types. It comes from natural sources such as cowhide and the skin of other animals. We call it full-grain because the grain surfaces are not removed and this is why the strength becomes higher for having more amount of fiber strength.
Full-grain leathers are the thickest and hold the ability to expose more scratches and wounds.
This is water-resistant and mostly suitable for safety shoes, utility belts, and other sturdy leather products.
Top Grain Leather
Top-grain leather is mostly similar to full-grain leather. The only difference here is that the top surface is removed to offer it a smoother surface. Due to the removal of the outer part, top-grain leather is softer but there are chances of strength loss.
It can also be water resistant but not equal to full-grain leather.
Top-grain leathers are suitable for making handbags, wallets, belts, and other fashionable accessories.
Genuine leather comes from a particular layer of natural leather. It is less durable from top grain and full grain leather.
This type of leather is more flexible, smoother, and dyed in different colors.
Genuine leather went through different processing steps and that is why it becomes less durable than the earlier types.
Split Grain Leather
This is probably the lowest grade of leather. This type of leather is taken from the immediate layer above the flesh of the animal. This is softer and very difficult to apply laser engraving due to the density variation.
People usually make bags, hand gloves, and other light products with such leather.
Bonded leather is made from accumulated leather scrap. Often we call it artificial leather since there are different additional components added to form the ultimate leather shape.
Bonded leather comes in different colors and its durability of it is questionable.
Laser Engraving Challenges in Leather
There are a few challenges that you may face while laser engraving a leather piece. Let’s explore how should you handle those:
Leather is a natural subtract that is very sensitive to fire. Due to this fact, the edge of the leather often burns while the engraving is in progress.
Here are some techniques that help in reducing the edge-burning issue:
- A thinner lens reduces the risk of edge burning. We prefer a spot size of around 0.1 mm to ease this issue. However, a spot size of 0.2 mm is also good for engraving leather but not more than that.
- While engraving over leather, set a low-pressure air assist to reduce the risk of nozzle overheating
Laser cutters work by burning & vaporizing the material which leads to toxic fume. Reducing fume may not be possible but the toxicity can be diversified by implementing a strong ventilation system or placing the laser cutting workstation beside a window.
The process is not Straightforward
Laser engraving on leather or operating a laser cutting machine is not that straightforward. You may need to have some technical knowledge about the machine and its process.
Furthermore, knowing how the software works is an added advantage that helps in enhancing laser engraving quality. Often the users need to change the laser engravers’ settings depending on the material types and the design.
Sometimes, you may need to reduce the volume of flame as well as the focal point.
It all depends on that particular situation which requires a bit of expert knowledge.
The initial cost is high
Buying a laser cutter is not cost-effective unless you have a solid plan for that. We have seen many people who buys a laser engraver for some pieces of leather items and then they do not find enough idea to work with.
If you have a crafting business or intend to set up one very soon, investing in a laser cutter would definitely be the greatest idea.
Other technical aspects of laser leather engraving
These are the few aspects on which you should always focus while engraving leather with laser cutters.
Different types of laser
The cheapest version of laser engravers is diode type which may have the ability to engrave on leather but there is no guarantee that the engraving would be accurate on the first run.
Diode lasers are also slow compared to CO2 lasers which are expensive. However, a CO2 laser cutter has the maximum ability to cut and engrave on any type of material except aluminum & copper.
This is equally important for you to follow all the safety guidelines while operating a CO2 laser cutter. These were our safety guidelines from the last publication.
We always strongly recommend not leaving the laser cutters unattended since a single operation does not require a lot of time. This is also advised not to keep any flammable objects nearby the laser engravers which can lead to further accidents. Also, we do not recommend altering or changing any of the parts or modules of your laser cutter since an alternation can put the entire operation at a heavy risk.
However, maintaining all the safety precautions cus as wearing safety glasses, using fireproof gloves, and staying away from the laser beam is equally important. You should also keep yourself at a safe distance while the machine is working and freeing up the side places can give you better safety protections.
Lastly, never try to touch or remove the material immediately after the engraving is done. This is always better to wait until it gets cool.
Laser Engraving Speed
Powerful CO2 lasers can cut at a greater speed. Modern laser engravers can also adjust the engraving speed accordingly to the quality of the material you are intended to use.
However, you cannot apply the same engraving speed settings unless the materials are exactly the same as earlier. As we have already mentioned that every single piece of leather may be different due to having a diversity of inner elements, a few test runs can give you some hints about the perfect cutting speed.
The tricky part is that you can not so slow due to the risk of edge burning and a higher cutting speed may not offer you the best engraving experience.
While you make some test runs, try to keep the speed at around 52 mm per second. Again, this cutting speed may vary if you run with any CO2 laser cutters above 40w power capacity.
Air Assist Kit
Air assist is highly essential if you work on leather. Air assist helps in protecting the laser nozzles from overheating. Also, it contributes by decreasing the smoke generated from the burning.
Some laser cutters come with an air assist kit but you may need to buy extra if not provided. One thing you should always keep in mind is that lowering the pressure of the air assist kit always helps because the high pressure can leave some black smudge on the fresh piece of the work area.
Leather laser engraving tips
These are a few tips that may significantly help you in laser leather engraving.
- You can cover the working area with masking tape like you do a temporary painting while working with any stainless steel tumbler.
- Engraving from the back part of the leather can offer you a smoother cut with less edge burn due to the technical advantage.
- Low air assist pressure and a good ventilation exhaust can keep the smoke away from the material and prevent it from any black smudge.
- If you want to work with any handmade drawing, laser engravers like Glowforge Plus can directly capture the image can import it into a workable format with its artificial intelligence.
- Always buy a laser engraver that has a larger user community. Sometimes, the community can solve many queries and also offer you new techniques.
- Buy a laser engraving with rotary attachments which may help you in the future to work with any round objects.
- A laser cutter with batch processing capacity can allow you to leave many small pieces of work at the same time.
- We always prefer to buy a laser cutter with a closed-lid system. Such a product will only allow you to open the lid when the job is completely finished.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
These are the frequently asked questions that we see from most laser engraver enthusiasts.
How do laser cutters work?
Laser cutting or engraving is a laser beam-based mechanism that burns, melts, or, evaporates any material such as wood, board, and even steel with the help of electricity, gas, and laser light. For instance, an initial laser beam gets connected with several gas & reflectors and becomes stronger. For more, read the laser engraving illustrations here.
What’s the difference between laser cutting, engraving, and marking?
Laser cutting, laser engraving, and laser marking are the three different tasks done by laser cutters. The main difference is the cutting thickness. For instance, if you cut and separate one material into several pieces then it is called laser cutting. Similarly, if you put a logo through a laser cutter for a small thickness then we say it is laser marking.
When the laser beam helps to vapourize or melt a certain thickness (for example 6 mm) and makes the patterns identical then this is a laser engraving. Read this for more.
How much power a laser cutter consumes?
CO2 and fiber lasers consume a lot more power than diode lasers. However, the power consumption of a laser engraver depends on the types of material and the laser-cutting settings mentioned in the drawing.
Here is an illustration of a CO2 laser cutter’s power consumption depending on the material thickness:
|0.51 mm||1.0 mm||2.0 mm||3.2 mm||6.4 mm|
It appears that cutting Aluminium consumes power compared to other materials such as steel, mild steel, and titanium. A 6.4 mm thickness Aluminium takes 10 thousand watts of CO2 lasers while steel of the same thickness would require of fourth of that. (Information Source)
Cutting and engraving leather would not require much power like tough materials. So, electricity consumption is should not be a priority over laser cutting safety requirements.
How fast does a laser cutter cut?
The cutting speed of a laser cutter depends on various factors such as laser type, laser power, source of power, thickness and design pattern. This is not possible to comment on the matrix without knowing the variables. However, the cutting speed (CM/Second) based on the material thickness of CO2 laser cutters is presented below:
|0.51 mm||1.0 mm||2.0 mm||3.2 mm||6.4 mm||13 mm|
|Boron / epoxy||−||-||−||2.5||2.5||1.1|
Information Source: Wikipedia
What are the differences between a laser cutter & vinyl cutter?
Vinyl cutting or the cutting plotters cuts the sticker paper or vinyl using blades or a thin sharp knife at the given pattern. This is not versatile as the laser cutters. Below are the core differences between both.
- Laser cutters can work on various materials which is not possible with cutting plotters.
- Cutting plotters or vinyl cutters are less efficient.
- Laser cutting is faster and more accurate.
- Vinyl cutters are less expensive.
- Vinyl cutters cannot work on small edges whereas laser cutters can.
Earlier, we published a separate article on these differences.
What are the differences between Control Software & Design Software?
Control software is used to control the laser cutters whereas the design software is responsible for making designs to be worked with laser cutters & engravers.
Some control software is associated with a default design software and some are not. It totally depends on the laser cutter manufacturers and their pricing policy.
For instance, Glowforge has its own control and design software which also supports other design platforms such as light burn, illustrator, AutoCAD, coral draw, etc. On the other hand, The Ten High laser cutters do not offer design software neither they wished to.
The main responsibility of the design software is to create vector files with custom color pallets.
A short comparison of Laser Cutting Software
|Lightburn||Adobe Illustrator||Draftsight||Inkscape||Solid Edge 2D|
|Operating System||Windows, Mac, Linux||Windows & Mac||Windows & Mac||Windows , Linux & Mac||Windows|
Draftsight is one best 2D modeling software due to its image trace function which helps a lot during cutting a pattern. We recommend Draftsight for getting the sharpest edge while cutting with a laser. Adobe Illustrator is another amazing masterpiece for creating vector lines. It also allows getting integrated with 3d party plug-ins for converting the vector lines into G Code.
Inkscape is the most readily available free alternative tool to Adobe Illustrator specializing in tinkering the designs. Inkscape is also capable of converting vector lines into G Code with the help of third-party plug-ins.
LightBurn is a paid tool that handles various file formats. LightBurn is both the design and control software which means that you just need to complete the design and directly instruct the laser engraver by the same platform.
What are the common problems of laser engravers?
Followings are the commonly faced issues of a laser engraver. Check out this for detailed guidelines on troubleshooting those common issues.
You may face that the laser is not emitting or the engraver may be off due to a lack of power supply. Or, the laser linings may go wrong and the final output may be different from the original design. There could be volatility in laser temperature and inaccuracy in laser engraving depth. You may also experience any abnormality in engraved font and even the laser head may become insolvent. Mostly, these are commonly faced problems with laser engravers. We have also written about some additional common issues in our earlier publication.
What are the differences between a laser cutter & plasma cutter?
Below are the differences between a laser cutter and a plasma cutter.
A plasma cutter cuts the heavy material with a plasma torch which comes from electrically conductive gas by a highly focused channel. On the contrary, a laser device generates a laser beam which further gets reflected several times by the different reflectors.
- Laser cutting is more flexible with better precision.
- A plasma cutter will operate at 1.5m/min speed whereas the laser cutters would do around 1.2m/min.
- In terms of cutting the gap, the laser cutter stays one step ahead of plasma cutters because The laser beam is focused into a small spot so the cutting gap is smaller.
- plasma cutter’s material compatibility is always limited to High alloy steel such as carbon steel, low alloy steel, and stainless steel.
There are a few more points that we have already covered in a separate article.
Leather Laser Engraving Design Tips
The followings are the key tips that help a lot while creating a design for laser engraving.
- Use software with much more flexibility. Usually, a laser engraver would require a vector file to operate accordingly. The file formats can vary between step, .ai, .eps, and .dxf among def. A paid design software would definitely offer you a lot but good-quality laser engravers also do have their own drag-and-drop software to make amazing designs. You need to conduct a small web research and decide accordingly.
- You should always scale the finished size before starting the laser engraving process. For instance, 12 inches design should not be given for an 11.5 inches material. We have seen that there are a lot of people who often forget to scale the final design and experience material wastage.
- Bridging designs are equally important. By adding bridges, you can ensure smoother cuts. You should also avoid submitting text files to the laser engraver since the machine cannot read .txt.
- Never submit a vector file with unfinished steps. An engraver can never cut unfinished lines so, you should check this before bridging the design. Similarly, larger cut-outs are always more effective than smaller cutouts. Also, check the laser nozzle size and air assist kit speed in accordance with the design requirements and material compatibility.
- Always double-check the material thickness and types of that before submitting the final design to the laser engraver you have. Often, the design needs to be adjusted based on the material.
- Never forget to adjust the resolution as it can have a severe impact on the end result.
- You should always aim to take advantage of color mapping to avoid white space so that the engraver can work on a single column and then move to another. For more, check this out.
Laser Engraving Outsourcing in the USA
You may have already come up with the question that whether you can outsource the laser leather engraving service without buying a machine. Outsourcing can even be a better idea for saving money if you do not have a regular engraving job.
If you are a resident of the USA, NYC Engraving Service can be a good option. Their pick-up and drop-off along with the lead time is so fast with a moderate charge. You can also check out Custom Laser Engravers in Dallas as an alternative to the NYC Engraving Service. They offer both designing and engraving services within 24 hours of time.
These are the questions you may ask before outsourcing your laser engraving job:
- How experienced is the company?
- What is their key specialization area?
- What are their professional fees?
- How fast can they do the laser leather engraving?
- What is the refund policy why did that is void?
- Who bears the transportation cost and how much?
For a better experience, you may check out the google review and have some customers’ insight regarding the services.
Laser engraving comes from passion. Many of us have converted that into regular business due to higher margin and better sustainability. No matter what is the price of the laser engraver which you have been searching for, the payback is always roughly 2 years.
We always recommend you to own a laser engraver and find what else can do in the home.