Tool: LC40 Laser Cutter
Manufacturer: Dremel Digilab
Price: $5,999; $300 for booster fan; $2,000 for filtration system
A few years ago, Dremel started developing a new line of digital tools with the DigitaLab series of products. Recently they introduced their first laser cutter: The Dremel LC40.
This desktop-size tool has a couple of key features. First, there’s special emphasis placed on simplicity of operation and safety. With various safety switches and detectors, the LC40 is the first laser cutter to receive UL approval. Second, with a color, touch-screen control, a web-based interface and a single button to push, it’s an easy machine to use.
To set up an operation, no special software is needed. The Dremel is controlled through your computer’s web browser. Once you’re on the machine’s web page, you choose an operation (cutting, scoring or engraving), pick material presets for wood (plywood, MDF, acrylic, leather and more), send the file to the LC40, tap a few touch screen buttons for confirmation and double tap that one button, sit back, and watch it work.
A laser cutter needs digital drawings to cut, but they can also engrave photos, type, scans and sketches. Free, or low-cost designs are available online but likely you’ll want to create your own with CAD or design software. The Dremel reads common PDF, JPG, PNG, or SVG files. In my testing, I used the software I’m most familiar with: Adobe Illustrator and Rhino3D. I created designs that I cut on paper, cardboard, veneers, plywood and engraved photos and designs on plywood and solid woods.
The laser is cooled with a chiller unit and a stream of compressed air blasted across the cutting area to move smoke out the way. The LC40 has designed both functions into a small, outboard unit called the Hex box. Smoke removal is important. You need to place the laser and 4″ flex hose close to a window. The Dremel’s internal fan worked fairly well, but left the room with a noticeable burnt-wood smell. I’d suggest adding the available booster fan that increases airflow to the outside or the available filtration system that doesn’t require an outside connection.
The Dremel LC40 is a well-designed, engineered and tested digital tool. It’s simple to operate and small enough to sit on your desk. Like the Dremel 3D45 3D printer, the LC40 just works. Its only limitations are related to the size and power of this class of laser cutters. The 12″ x 20″ workspace feels a little limiting at times and the 40-watt laser limits how thick of wood you can cut through. But, neither are problems if you’re cutting veneers, inlays, thin wood or plywood. And, for that and many other woodworking uses, the Dremel is an excellent digital tool for woodworkers and makers.
This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine #246.