We use a CO2 laser cutter.
What the heck is a CO2 laser cutter?
A CO2 laser cutter is a fairly straightforward machine. A glass laser tube fires a beam of infrared light  that is reflected around a series of mirrors [2,3,4] before passing through a focusing lens and ultimately through the material being cut/engraved . CO2 lasers can cut mild steel, aluminium, stainless steel, titanium, fiber board, paper, wax, plastics, wood, and fabrics, depending on power and a few other tricks like pumping in Oxygen. Our machines are only able to cut organics and plastics. Yes, we've cut flat foods, and yes, they tasted burned and gross.
What to think about when buying one
Size and power are the two main specs besides price to look at when selecting what will work for you. We highly recommend getting the largest, most powerful machine that your budget will allow. You can throw a wider variety of projects at a more capable machine.
There are a number of manufacturers out there, with various pros and cons. We have two machines, one from Full Spectrum Laser, and another from LightObject. Both are great machines. We use the FSL machine mostly for etching, and the LightObject machine for cutting.
Chinese imported lasers like our own can be a little hit and miss on some of the components. If you’re not one to twist a wire or two together, you may want to consider finding a machine that either includes some support, or add a support package to your purchase. We’ve done a little tinkering to get our machine working the way we like, such as adding extra lighting inside, additional cooling for the water, and replacing one of the power switches after burning out the original.
We get a lot of people asking how we like our machines. The performs like champs, running several hours every day over the last few years. Our FSL machine shipped with LaserCut 5.3 software, which can be pretty finicky to work with but does a decent job. With a bit of tinkering we've been able to run it on Windows 7,8, and now 10 without any issues.
The LightObject machine runs LaserCad, which is very similar to LaserCut, but feels a bit more streamlined and powerful. It gets less bogged down by larger files or distressed artwork.
Youtube is a great resource to see examples of what different lasers are capable of. Think about what type of projects you’d like to complete, and where you might source your materials from. For example, if you’re really interested in cutting 3/8″ thick hardwoods, you’d do well to look at the high power machines.