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View Full Version : Recommend me a Laser cutter.



Gasgasbones
03-06-2015, 07:52 AM
Hi

Im looking for a laser cutter powerful enough to cut through thinnish plywood, leather etc I dont need a very large machine.
Ive seen some crappy ones on ebay etc that look like they would fall apart as soon as you look at them and other that look a bit more substantial.

What and who should I be looking at gents ?

Many thanks

Carl

shoeswith
04-06-2015, 11:08 PM
We brought a HPC laser. They import and service Chinese lasers. They are more expensive than importing one yourself but as a company are reasonably reliable and there machines although still having a lot of the downsides of Chinese lasers (lacking the sophistication of epilog or similar) are workable and reliable although you will have to get your hands dirty. I'm sure there are other importers but I have dealt with these guys a lot for three years and they are good enough. I would say if you are unwilling to fiddle with the workings of a laser don't buy a Chinese one

gianluca_g
05-06-2015, 01:10 AM
I bought the usual cheap chinese laser from ebay, when it came i didnt even try to switch it on (i had another one in the past so i knew it was useless). I just stripped out all the electronic and refitted it with 2 stepper drivers and a breakout board, I now drive it with mach3 and im happy with it

komatias
05-06-2015, 10:13 AM
My girlfriend bought this one:
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/221429080646?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

I have to say, I am very impressed with the value of it, separate drives on each axis plus a onboard motion controller that has etherent connectivity.

aligned and focused it when it arrived and it is working very nicely.

They do produce smoke so adding a bilge fan in line is a must.

Jess
05-06-2015, 03:55 PM
We brought a HPC laser. They import and service Chinese lasers. They are more expensive than importing one yourself but as a company are reasonably reliable
An increasingly common trend for Chinese sellers I've noticed seems to be holding their wares in EU (including the UK) based warehouses, removing many of the usual worries of importing, whilst as a buyer you're still paying imported-from-China prices.

The result as far as we're concerns is that HPC laser's lowest end model (the LS3020 pro) is 1,125 (with shipping of 12.95+VAT) which appears to be very similar in both look and specification similar to ones that are 405 'all in' (including shipping etc.) As someone who's interested in acquiring a laser cutter (who isn't, apart from those who've got one? :biggrin:), that 735 premium is hard to swallow, especially if I can also expect to have to get my hands dirty either way.

Worse, if I go the way gianluca_g suggests (and ripping the existing controller out seems to be a rather common suggestion with these!), then I'm taking it apart and retrofitting it; and 700 buys a lot of fixing and retrofitting. On the other hand, if 735 is the difference between ending up with working hardware, and ending up pouring lots of precious time and good money into a bad purchase then it's it's worth every single extra penny - all 73554 of them!


I dont need a very large machine.
Large is in the eye of the workshop owner. :tongue: Seriously, though, given you know what you want to do, you can just look at the working area and know whether it'll fit. The cheapest machines seem to be able to cut an area of about the size (well, a little less) than an A4 sheet. A larger machine, like the one that komatias linked, will do more like twice that - two A4 sheets (aka A3).

Depending on how much engraving/cutting you're hoping to do, you might find the larger machine works out cheaper in the long run. The larger cutting area means you may be able to get more efficient use out of your material (less important for ply, more important for leather?) and, of course, the more powerful laser should allow you to get jobs done slightly faster.


Ive seen some crappy ones on ebay etc that look like they would fall apart as soon as you look at them and other that look a bit more substantial.
It's difficult; whilst it's often a good guide, I've bought enough polished turds in the past to be cautious. They looked great, but the internals were cheap trash. Equally, I've found enough rough diamonds to hold out hope!

lateAtNight
06-06-2015, 12:13 AM
Probably not what you were after but are you aware of this open source project: Lasersaur (http://www.lasersaur.com). Its a lot bigger than what you're probably after and the BOM is very pricey, but you could use some of the ideas for a version cut down in size / power. But I guess by the time you bought parts + time you're just as well buying a Chinese machine.

shoeswith
06-06-2015, 12:23 AM
Worse, if I go the way gianluca_g suggests (and ripping the existing controller out seems to be a rather common suggestion with these!), then I'm taking it apart and retrofitting it; and 700 buys a lot of fixing and retrofitting. On the other hand, if 735 is the difference between ending up with working hardware, and ending up pouring lots of precious time and good money into a bad purchase then it's it's worth every single extra penny - all 73554 of them!


Im not sure Hpc is selling the same machine as an eBay machine. I am assuming they have had to do things to meet UK health and safety legislation and its hard to imagine that they could survive and expand selling basic eBay machines. Yes buying from an importer is more expensive but they are supplying a degree of service you can't get from an eBay seller such as a guarantee and serviceguarantee. We haven't had to mess with the motion control stuff and when things went wrong (not their fault) they repaired it under the guarantee. When I said getting your hands dirty I was referring to the water cooling and alignment. I know people who have epilog machines and they just don't have these kind of issues. I understand someone buying cheap who is willing to invest a lot of time repairing but we need certainty and Hpc provided a balance between price and convenience.

Jess
06-06-2015, 05:08 PM
Im not sure Hpc is selling the same machine as an eBay machine. I am assuming they have had to do things to meet UK health and safety legislation and its hard to imagine that they could survive and expand selling basic eBay machines.
Yes, I'm not sure either; which is why I said it looks and is specified similarily. For instance, the only machine so far to get banned in the EU (http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/images/rapex/2014-w15/2014-w15_14965-1f.jpg) isn't the same one komatias linked but looks very similar.

I'm not sure how much they'd have to do; at least to each machine.For the banned one, the issues were that you could reach the laser whilst it was on - presumably through that big hole in the front![1] - some warning stickers were missing and it didn't have localised documentation.

If you've got the documentation handy, what could be informative is who is listed on your Declaration of Conformance (you're required to be given one under the Machinery Directive), whether it's the Chinese manufacturer or HPC. If HPC have fettled it, and not just ensured it's working, then they're the ones needing to make the declaration.


When I said getting your hands dirty I was referring to the water cooling and alignment.
Ah, not so bad then. I think in fairness though, most of the people who decide to rip out the electronics seem to be doing it because they hate the supplied software.

The experience of most of the people who buy a laser from China is that the machine works, there's just the water cooling and alignment - an unlucky few have to get their seller to send over a new tube.


I understand someone buying cheap who is willing to invest a lot of time repairing but we need certainty and Hpc provided a balance between price and convenience.
Yup, agreed. I slightly touched on this issue in the bit about pennies, but I should have been a little clearer that that section was from my perspective - I can see myself getting incredibly frustrated with Mochidraw and I'd enjoy the process of getting it to work - so long as it works in the end.

If it's about a working equipment, say for a business venture; then the extra money for the certainty and support may very well be worth it. Plus, if you've got employees the liability issues of a hacked up Class IV laser device just won't be pretty, meaning you need to buy from somewhere reputable.

[1] I think the hole's function, aside from allowing the users to burn themselves, is to allow airflow across the cutting surface and thus better remove fumes.

Gasgasbones
07-06-2015, 09:12 AM
Cheers fellas

Such minefield. I suspect most come from china at some point ? But as the saying goes you generally get what you pay for. I certainly dont mind doing general maintenance but I dont want to be faffing about daily with constant problems as I need it to work for me. I need it basically to plug in and play, be of good quality and have a good spares and phone backup from where I get it from.

Quite liked the look of this one http://www.mantechmachinery.co.uk/laser-cutting-machines/desktop-laser-engraver-and-laser-cutter
Any one know about these ?

Youtube brings up tons of the cheap looking ebay stuff but not much else it seems apart from some big industrial ones !

Gasgasbones
07-06-2015, 09:15 AM
Cheers Komatias,
Im concerned about backup if things go wrong, spares and email help etc. Not sure if all ebay sellers can provide this, any experiences with your girlfriends model ?

Gasgasbones
07-06-2015, 09:29 AM
Im not sure Hpc is selling the same machine as an eBay machine. I am assuming they have had to do things to meet UK health and safety legislation and its hard to imagine that they could survive and expand selling basic eBay machines. Yes buying from an importer is more expensive but they are supplying a degree of service you can't get from an eBay seller such as a guarantee and serviceguarantee. We haven't had to mess with the motion control stuff and when things went wrong (not their fault) they repaired it under the guarantee. When I said getting your hands dirty I was referring to the water cooling and alignment. I know people who have epilog machines and they just don't have these kind of issues. I understand someone buying cheap who is willing to invest a lot of time repairing but we need certainty and Hpc provided a balance between price and convenience.


Are these quality machines ?

Gasgasbones
07-06-2015, 09:39 AM
They look pretty good to me !! Nice website and professional.
https://www.epiloglaser.co.uk/index.htm

komatias
07-06-2015, 02:13 PM
Cheers Komatias,
Im concerned about backup if things go wrong, spares and email help etc. Not sure if all ebay sellers can provide this, any experiences with your girlfriends model ?


Hi

The machines are minimal in terms of elelctornics so most parts can be sourced on ebay. The only expensive part and maybe difficult to get is the laser tube. The sellers are pretty good at responding too. As for the software, it is basic but good enough for the job.

see example 6mm pine, cut at 90% power 20mm/sec, engraving 30% power 200mm/sec:

http://www.mycncuk.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=15464&stc=1

The good bit is you can send data to the machine through USB, Ethernet or just plug a usb stick in.

Jess
07-06-2015, 03:24 PM
I suspect most come from china at some point ?
That it was made in China tells you almost nothing about the quality, TBH - China produces some great stuff as well as total rubbish.


Quite liked the look of this one http://www.mantechmachinery.co.uk/laser-cutting-machines/desktop-laser-engraver-and-laser-cutter
Any one know about these ?
I'm pretty sure it's a Chinese import. You can tell from a few things - the graphic formats it supports, the Chinese character examples work, the control panel and the mention of 'imported' bearing and mirrors.


Youtube brings up tons of the cheap looking ebay stuff but not much else it seems apart from some big industrial ones !
I heard Epilog (https://www.epiloglaser.com/) and Full Spectrum Laser (http://fslaser.com/) a lot. As I understand it, Epilog's the Rolls-Royce. Full Spectrum Laser produce something a little more affordable.

One of the less obvious differences is the software that you get with these. There are a lot of complaints about Mochidraw (the stuff that comes with the Chinese ones) but I've seen a few spirited defenses.

Also, if you need features like grayscale engraving, I think the Full Spectrum will and the Epilog definitely can, but the Chinese ones I've seen can't. (From what I've seen, the Chinese ones lack the hardware features you'd want for this - the DSP board has no control over laser power and Mochidraw doesn't support it anyway).

I think what you really need to do is to go see these working.

komatias
07-06-2015, 03:33 PM
Mine has RDworks and works fine withe changes to the power output, you can grey scale no problem. The contorl board inside the machine is specifically made for elaser work and seems very reliable.

Before commiting, do your own research.

shoeswith
07-06-2015, 05:45 PM
They look pretty good to me !! Nice website and professional.
https://www.epiloglaser.co.uk/index.htm

Yes epilog are amazing machines if you are willing to pay many thousands of pounds for even their smallest model. Look for a company who can actually serviceor repair a machine in the Uk and who carry spares when buying a Chinese machine. Its great if you can find a company who will deliver and help set up the machine.