What Is The Cost Of Running A Laser Cutting Machine

Laser cutting and engraving is an amazing hobby or small business idea to take up, but you need to understand the running costs. The cost of running a laser cutting machine depends on a number of factors such as laser power and ancillary equipment used. based on the prolific Chinese Laser machines you can typically expect laser cutting machine power consumption to range from around 250 watts for a 25W laser system and up to around 990 watts for a 150 watt laser system.

What Is a Laser Cutting Machine

In this article we are considering a laser cutting machine to be a CNC style chassis with a CO2 glass DC tube with a laser power output ranging from 25 watts up to 150 watts. Typical bed sizes for this type of laser cutting machine are from 200 x 300mm for the K40 type entry lasers up to about 1200 x 900mm Red Sail Clone type laser machines.

You can get 150 Watt laser machines with bed sizes of up to 2500 x 1250mm but this type of machine typically has high powered ancillaries such as a dedicated chiller and Fume extraction system. Both of which can be high power consumption devices.

My Laser Cutting Machine

My own personal laser cutting and engraving machine has the following specifications:

  • 330 x 520mm bed size with stepper motors
  • Ruida 6442S-B Controller
  • 50 watt SPT laser tube
  • Powered Z-Axis
  • Built in 240V extraction fan
  • LED Lights
  • Aquarium pump for water circulation
  • Minimum laser activation occurs at 8% laser power
  • Maximum safe operating current occurs at 58% laser power
The Cost of Running a Laser Cutting Machine
The Cost of Running a Laser Cutting Machine – 50W CO2 Chinese Laser

Not the most powerful machine, but it is capable of engraving at 600mm/s and cutting 10.5mm thick acrylic. It is capable of running at 1050mm/s but the higher speed offers no performance benefits when engraving.

The Laser machine has 6 sets of switches:

  • #1: Mains in for a 12V power supply to run the internal LED Strip
  • #2: Control Switch for powering up the Ruida controller and HMI Screen
  • #3: Laser Switch for turning on the high voltage laser power supply unit
  • #4: Air Pump switch for turning on the air assist pump
  • #5: Water pump switch for turning on the aquarium pump.
  • #6: Up and down buttons for the powered Z-Axis

Measuring Procedure

Nothing too difficult as I used an Energie: Energy Saving Power Meter, model No: ENER007 that I purchased from ToolStation in the UK. However, I wanted to catch all working modes of the Laser Machine and from this to determine the power consumption of individual components.

How much electricity does a laser cutter use - Power Meter Measurement
How much electricity does a laser cutter use

Procedure

  • I plugged both mains input cables into an extension lead and plugged the extension into the Energy Saving Power Meter.
  • In LightBurn, I then made up a test program that consisted of a 450 x 150mm bi-directional fill block with a 0.5mm line interval. This was downloaded to the laser and would be run at different laser power percentages.
    • The full job took 4 minutes and 11 seconds to run, for a total distance of 135,000mm (300 scans). The average running speed of the head was just under 538mm/s.
  • I measured the power consumption at the following switch settings:
    • Switch 1 only – Laser lighting only
    • Switches 1 & 2 – 5V & 24V PSU and Controller added
    • Switches 1, 2 & 3 – Laser HV-PSU added and extraction fan
    • Switches 1, 2, 3 & 4 – Air pump added
    • Switches 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 – Water pump added
    • Switches 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 with Switch 6, the Z-Axis activated
    • Switches 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 with the laser pulsed at 8% power.
    • Switches 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 activated running the test program at 600mm/s and 8% power
    • Switches 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 activated running the test program at 600mm/s and 10% power
    • Switches 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 activated running the test program at 600mm/s and 20% power
    • Switches 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 activated running the test program at 600mm/s and 30% power
    • Switches 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 activated running the test program at 600mm/s and 40% power
    • Switches 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5activated running the test program at 600mm/s and 50% power
    • Switches 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 activated running the test program at 600mm/s and 58% power

Cost of Running a Laser Cutter – Test Results

S1S2S3S4S5S6Speed
mm/S
Laser
Power %
Power
Reading (W)
Cost/Hr
10.4£0.004
27.3£0.009
77.2£0.026
102.9£0.035
126.5£0.043
153.5£0.052
0/pulse8172.0£0.058
6008194.0£0.066
60010217.6£0.074
60020291.8£0.099
60030342.4£0.116
60040389.7£0.132
60050423.4£0.144
60058443.7£0.151
50W laser with a 330 x 520mm bed size, internal fan, aquarium pump, LEDs & Ruida controller
Image showing the high voltage end of a glass CO2 laser tube
High voltage end of a glass CO2 laser tube

Based on the above figures I have calculated the actual running power requirements for the key components of the laser system:

  • Controller and laser PSU @ 16.9W
  • 50W HV-PSU plus extraction fan @ 49.9W (please note this is occurs even when the laser is not firing)
  • Air Pump @ 25.7W
  • Water Pump @ 23.6W
  • Z-Axis motor @ 27W
  • X-Axis motor at 600mm/s @ 22W
  • 50W laser tube at 58% laser power @ 295.2W
    • Estimated efficiency of the 50W CO2 laser tube is 16.9%

Additional Machine Test Results

While I did not carry out these measurements myself and I do not know the full test procedure, the results are helpful in that they cover a range of CO2 laser power values.

Cost per hour usage is based on £0.34 per kWh.

Efficiency is based on the subtracting the standby power from the 80% laser power setting value. This assumes that 80% is the correct power % to give the tubes rated power output.

Laser Machine A: 400 x 300mm bed size and 40 Watt CO2 Laser Tube

Operating ModePower Used (W)Cost / hourEfficiency
Standby100£0.0340
20% laser power setting150£0.0510
50% laser power setting240£0.0816
80% laser power setting350£0.119016%
Operating Costs for 40 Watt laser Cutting and Engraving Machine 400 x 300mm bed size

Laser Machine B: 900 x 600mm bed size and 80 Watt CO2 Laser Tube

Operating ModePower Used (W)Cost / hourEfficiency
Standby125£0.0425
20% laser power setting214£0.07276
50% laser power setting465£0.1581
80% laser power setting570£0.193818%
Operating Costs for 80 Watt laser Cutting and Engraving Machine 900 x 600mm bed size

Laser Machine C: 1200 x 900mm bed size and 100W CO2 Laser Tube

Operating ModePower Used (W)Cost / hourEfficiency
Standby140£0.0476
20% laser power setting250£0.0850
50% laser power setting580£0.1972
80% laser power setting690£0.234618%
Operating Costs for 100 Watt laser Cutting and Engraving Machine 1200 x 900mm bed size

Laser Machine D: 1400 x 900mm bed size and 150W CO2 Laser Tube

Operating ModePower Used (W)Cost / hourEfficiency
Standby190£0.0646
20% laser power setting350£0.1190
50% laser power setting868£0.2951
80% laser power setting990£0.336619%
Operating Costs for 150 Watt Laser Cutting and Engraving Machine 1400 x 900mm bed size

Conclusion

I trust this article has given you a better understanding of the cost of running a laser cutting machine. For my own 50W CO2 laser machine, I would estimate the average cost per hour would be around £0.10. This is based on a 50% machine utilisation. Giving;

  • Half hour in stand-by mode (@ 126W consumption) = 63W
  • Half hour running (@ 423W consumption) = 211.5W
  • Resulting in an overall power consumption of 274.5W and a cost of £0.093 per hour based on an electricity cost of £0.34 / kWh.

Hopefully, you will find an example included that mirrors the laser machine you wish to buy or already have to give you an estimation on it’s power consumption.

One thing I will add is that having a good quality laser tube will save you money through energy consumption. A tube that is low on power will result in you either pushing the laser power % up or slowing the job down. Both will result in additional energy consumption costs.

To make sure your laser tube is performing to expectations, I would suggest carrying out a mode burn test (check out How Laser Cutting happens – this video shows how to do a mode burn test) to make sure you have a “sharp” laser beam. Another suggestion is that you get yourself a laser power meter, such as our Range of Mahoney Laser Power Meters and make regular checks on your laser tubes performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much electricity does a laser cutter use?

How much electricity does a laser cutter use - Power Meter Measurement

Your standard home/hobby or Light industrial CO2 laser cutting and engraving machine does not use as much electricity as you may think. While the Glass DC Laser tube only has an efficiency of 15~20%, the tube outputs are typically only in the range of 25~150 Watts. This means that the overall power usage of a laser machine ranges from around 250 watts for a 25W laser system and up to around 990 watts for a 150 watt laser system.

However, this does not take into account ancillary equipment such as a dedicated fume extraction system (300~2200W), a dedicated water cooling system (100~720W), an air assist pump (60~160W) or a PC (100~250W) .

If your laser system uses a standard 240V / 150mm extraction fan and the aquarium pump that comes as standard with many systems, you will only be adding around 120W to the total.

Do laser engravers use a lot of electricity?

Chinese Laser Cutting Machine and electrical power meter

Laser engraving requires low laser power at high speed in order to leave a mark on the materials surface. This means that laser engraving is more energy efficient than laser cutting due to the lower laser power requirement. During laser engraving, you are running the X-axis stepper motor quite hard, however the stepper motor is reasonably efficient and should use less than 30 watts. Laser tubes are typically only 16~20% efficient, so running at high power settings will result in much higher power consumption.

The overall power usage of a laser engraving machine ranges from around 150 watts for a 25W laser system and up to around 350 watts for a 150 watt laser based on 20% laser power.

The overall power usage of a laser cutting machine ranges from around 250 watts for a 25W laser system and up to around 990 watts for a 150 watt laser system.

How much does it cost to run a CO2 laser?

How Long Does a Laser Tube Last - Image of fitted glass CO2 laser tube

The overall power usage of a laser machine ranges from around 250 watts for a 25W laser system and up to around 990 watts for a 150 watt laser system. Based on a £0.34 / kWh rate, this would equate to around £0.08 ~ £0.34 per hour of continuous use. However, it’s rare that you would be running a laser machine continuously for so long.

So, you may only have a machine utilisation of around 50~60%, so the running cost will be reduced accordingly. Don’t forget, the laser will still consume power in stand-by mode.

You will also need to add in the cost of ancillary equipment such as a dedicated fume extraction system (300~2200W), a dedicated water cooling system (100~720W), an air assist pump (60~160W) and a PC (100~250W). This will add an additional £0.19 ~ £1.13 to the hourly cost.

How much does it cost to run a Laser Cutting Machine?

Laser Cutting Machine: Tangerine Tiger

Your standard home/hobby or Light industrial CO2 laser cutting and engraving machine dos not use as much electricity as you may think. While the Glass DC Laser tube only has an efficiency of 15~20%, the tube outputs are typically only in the range of 25~150 Watts. This means that the overall power usage of a laser machine ranges from around 250 watts for a 25W laser system and up to around 990 watts for a 150 watt laser system.

This does not take into account ancillary equipment such as a dedicated fume extraction system (300~2200W), a dedicated water cooling system (100~720W), air assist pump (60~160W) and a PC (100~250W) .

If your laser system uses a standard 240V / 150mm extraction fan and the aquarium pump that comes as standard for many systems, you will only be adding around 120W to the total.

How does a laser cutter work?

Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving Corian

A laser cutter works on the basis of generating an intense laser beam that interacts with the material being cut. Where the laser intensity is sufficient, the interaction results in the vaporisation of the material leaving a clean cut with a kerf (width of the cut) of around 0.1~0.4mm for a CO2 laser system.

Is laser engraving the same as laser cutting?

Relief engraving with a laser

Effectively laser engraving and laser cutting are the same process. However, the differences are based on the relationship between the power and speed settings.
Laser cutting requires high power and low speed, while laser engraving is typically low power and high speed.

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Last updated April 25, 2024

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