Desktop cutout and engraver

VersaLaser is a desktop “printer.” However instead of printing on paper, this 20-watt laser device etches marble and ceramic, and precisely cuts thin sheets of wood, plastic, fabric, paper, glass, leather, and rubber, etc. (but not metal). For less than $10,000 you can fabricate complex parts in your shop based on a computer drawing. So now instead of struggling with a Dremel to carve out pieces for a dollhouse, I can compose my artwork on an ordinary drawing program (we’re using Corel Draw), then select “print” and the type and thickness of the material, and the magic begins. VersaLaser’s VL-200 can transform material as large as 16 inches by 12 inches. Their printer driver for Windows leaves a lot to be desired, and you’ll have to work around it until a better one comes along. Optional, but very wonderful, is the powerful base unit that vacuums away smoke or dust created in the laser burning process.

It is easy to recall how few people had desktop scanners only two or three years ago. Today, desktop scanners have dropped in price to a mere $100 or less and have become ubiquitous. It seems clear that in the near future, as more of these laser devices evolve and decrease in price, many people will be printing their own products at home!

— Dan Dubno

This device works wonderfully on thin sheets of non-metallic material, but its $10,000 price tag obviously makes sense only for someone doing frequent small part fabrication, serious engraving, or prototyping functions. It’s become a hit in architectural firms which need very detailed models, and for businesses personalizing almost anything — you can etch a logo, name or design onto almost any object. One very creative use was a stencil artist who uses it to create exact and complicated stencils. Because of its current high price this machine might be a co-op purchase for a model making club, or a cool addition for a school shop.

— KK