All laser engravers are the same. This phrase is only true for the uninitiated and uninformed. The truth is that there are different laser engravers to take on different tasks. There are engravers that can only be used on wood, while others with a more powerful beam can take on denser material like stone, crystal, and metals. Other factors come into play as well, design complexity is not only limited by the engravers imagination but in their ability to convert it into a usable data file that needs to be fed into the computer, read by the software and fed into engraver. Even in this, there are limitations. Is the computer powerful enough to render the design? Can the software make sense of the design and feed it properly into the engraver? Does the engraver have the mechanical capability of producing the design?
But, when it comes to producing actual works, bringing them from the idea and into the real world, there is a factor that is undeniable in its importance and that is the size of the engraver. Mention this seemingly benign fact to a casual bystander and they will undoubtedly agree, maybe going as far as saying that “it’s a no-brainer”. Laser engravers come in various shapes and sizes from small desktop hobby versions to ones that can take up an entire room. It is a fact that you cannot engrave a city pipe with a desktop laser engraver, well technically you can but it wouldn’t be fast, efficient or produce a high-quality engraving.
Larger jobs and larger objects, especially dense objects, usually require larger engravers that can not only accommodate the physical dimensions of the object but is usually also constructed to handle mass production. The construction of the laser engraver will be more robust and will able to take on the weight of these grandiose items, while the lens will be of a higher grade and size to produce a beam of light capable of engraving some of the densest industrial materials used.
The size of the device then decreases depending on the size of object being engraved. A locket for example does not need the same size of engraver as say a car. Laser engraver sizes decrease and is at its smallest at the hobbyist level. The recent years has seen a boom in this category especially after the release of some of the smallest and user friendly devices on the market. These devices can fit on top of a desk, with some no bigger than the size of a human hand. These may not be the most powerful or fastest laser engravers in the world, and they certainly cannot handle large tasks, but what they do allow is for the home-user to get their feet wet in the laser engraving world. They also allow people to customize small pieces and products, and in some cases they even allow craftspeople to rapidly prototype a product. So even though these devices are diminutive in stature, they still do serve a significant and important purpose.
For laser engravers of different sizes and applications, See Needham Coding first.