A plotter is considered a conventional laser. The head moves on an x and y axis, so there is a need to position the laser head to where the cutting area will be. The beam is generally positioned 1 to 2 inches above the surface. A plotter bed can be as large as 5 feet wide by 5 feet long. This contributes to the slowness of these machines by comparison to the galvanometric units.
Plotters cannot etch or engrave as well as galvanometric nor can they process raster files. They range from $8,000 to $100,000 with an average price for a reliable laser being between $25,000 to $65,000.
Galvanometric lasers are more advanced and work at higher speeds, but they have size limitations. The work area of a galvanometric machine ranges between 6 x 6 inches and 48 x 48 inches. The beam is usually 12-14 inches above the substrate.
The galvanometric laser has a scanner head that identifies the object(s) to be cut and is significantly faster (up to 10 times) than a plotter. Its beam comes down in a conical shape like a pyramid. A galvanometric laser can do more things than a plotter. It has greater sensitivity control, which enables it to do more intricate, sophisticated work.
The cost of a galvanometic laser starts at the $45,000 mark and goes up to $150,000 with an average price of around $60,000 to $70,000 for a comprehensively equipped machine with high power 50 watts and an above-average 12-square-inch to 16-square-inch work field.
The limitation of galvanometric technology is that the larger the field size becomes, the lesser the sharpness of the cutting beam. So the challenge is finding the right balance between the size of the cutting field and the beam’s power.