Laser Cutter/Engraver

A laser cutter/engraver is a versatile machine that uses a high-powered laser beam to cut or engrave various materials with precision. It is a type of computer-controlled tool commonly used in manufacturing, prototyping, design, and hobbyist applications.

Laser Cutting:

In laser cutting, the focused laser beam burns, melts, or vaporizes the material along a specific path, creating a cut. The laser cutter follows the vector path provided by a computer file (e.g., a vector graphic or CAD design) to accurately cut through the material.

Laser Engraving:

In laser engraving, the laser beam removes a thin layer of material from the surface, creating a permanent marking or engraving. Like laser cutting, the process is controlled by a digital file that guides the laser's movement.

Materials Used:

Laser cutters/engravers can work with a wide range of materials, including but not limited to:

How It Works:

The laser cutter/engraver consists of the following main components:


Dithering is a crucial process used by laser engravers to create marks on materials. Laser engravers operate in a binary fashion, meaning they can either make a mark (represented as black) or leave an area untouched (represented as white). This limitation poses a challenge when engraving grayscale images or simulating colors.

To overcome this limitation, dithering techniques are employed. These techniques involve converting grayscale or color images into binary representations that the laser engraver can work with. Essentially, dithering algorithms analyze the original image and decide where to make marks and where to leave the material untouched.

Dithering achieves this by using patterns of dots or lines, known as halftone patterns, to vary the density of marks in different areas of the image. Darker areas of the original image will have denser patterns, while lighter areas will have sparser patterns. These patterns are the basis for how the laser engraver creates shades and details on the material.

Depending on the desired level of detail and the engraver's capabilities, the size and shape of these dots or lines can be adjusted. Smaller dots or lines allow for finer detail but might appear coarser if the engraver has limited resolution.

In essence, dithering is the technique that enables laser engravers to translate complex images into binary representations, guiding the laser's precise marking process on the material. This process makes it possible to engrave images, photographs, and intricate designs on various materials, effectively utilizing the engraver's binary marking capabilities.

There are different algorithms that laser engraver software uses to break an image down to just black and white points. Here's how dithering works in the context of a laser engraver:

Binary Representation: Laser engravers can only mark or not mark a pixel at a given location, which corresponds to binary 1 (mark) or 0 (not mark). This limitation means they can't directly reproduce grayscale or color variations.

Dithering Algorithms: Dithering algorithms are used to convert grayscale or color images into binary images that can be engraved using a laser. These algorithms analyze the original image and make decisions about which pixels to mark and which ones to leave blank.

Halftone Patterns: Dithering algorithms create halftone patterns by varying the density of dots or lines in different areas of the image. Darker areas of the original image will have more densely packed dots or lines, while lighter areas will have fewer dots or lines.

Size and Shape of Dots/Lines: The size and shape of the dots or lines in the halftone pattern can be adjusted to control the level of detail and smoothness in the engraved image. Smaller dots or lines can create finer detail but may result in a coarser appearance if the laser's resolution is limited.

Ordered Dithering vs. Error Diffusion: There are different types of dithering algorithms, including ordered dithering and error diffusion. Ordered dithering uses a fixed pattern to determine which pixels to mark, while error diffusion considers neighboring pixels to minimize the visual artifacts created by dithering.

Color Dithering: In some cases, laser engravers can simulate colors by using different dithering patterns for each color channel (e.g., red, green, and blue). By overlaying the patterns for each color, it's possible to create the illusion of colors. However, the result will still be limited to a two-color palette, typically black and white.

Dithering allows laser engravers to produce images with varying levels of shading and detail, making it possible to engrave photographs, grayscale images, and even intricate designs on various materials like wood, acrylic, glass, and metal. The choice of dithering algorithm and settings depends on the desired engraving quality, the capabilities of the laser engraver, and the characteristics of the material being engraved.


Laser cutters/engravers find applications in a wide range of industries and creative pursuits:

Laser cutters/engravers are valued for their accuracy, speed, and ability to work with a variety of materials, making them an essential tool in many creative and manufacturing processes. Safety measures are essential when operating a laser cutter/engraver, as the laser beam can be hazardous to eyes and skin. Proper training and adherence to safety guidelines are crucial when using these machines.

Check out some of our laser cutter projects here.


Operating a laser cutter/engraver safely is of paramount importance to avoid personal injury and prevent damage to equipment. Here are some safety considerations and guidelines for using a laser cutter/engraver:

By following these safety considerations and guidelines, you can operate a laser cutter/engraver safely, reducing the risk of accidents and ensuring a secure work environment for yourself and others in the vicinity. Always prioritize safety when working with any equipment involving lasers.