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Entry-Level Laser Cutter — Parallax Forums

Entry-Level Laser Cutter

Can anyone suggest a good entry-level laser cutter for cutting acrylic and similar materials? The Glowforge seems overpriced for what it is. I'm not even sure of a reasonable budget, since I see units on eBay for $450 for 30-40W units and $1,500 for 50W units.

Any help from those who own one would be appreciated.

Comments

  • No experience with laser cutting, but good to hear from you Chris- welcome back !

  • I've had an Epilog Zing16 for 10+ years now. Even though Epilog considers it to be an entry-level tool, it's been a workhorse for me. I bought it as a 35W demo unit for $7500. I've had to replace the laser tube once, so far, for $1500, and upgraded it to a 40W unit when I did. (BTW, replacing laser tubes is routine maintenance for all CO2 laser cutters. What happens is that the helium gas slowly leaches out, diminishing their output power.)

    One advantage of professional-grade laser cutters is that they use air-cooled aluminum laser tubes, rather than the glass tubes used by cheap Chinese units. Those need to be water-cooled.

    Some of the super cheap laser cutters on the market lately use semiconductor lasers. These are way under-powered for most jobs you might want to consider.

    I don't know anything about the GlowForge units being heavily advertised lately.

    -Phil

  • PublisonPublison Posts: 11,937

    Chris, good to hear from you!

    Shoot me an email.

  • I have had a Boss Laser (https://www.bosslaser.com/) 1630 for almost 4 years now with a 100 watt tube. It is a Chinese laser but was designed in the US and marketed by a US company with a US based warranty and support staff down in Florida. Before I purchased it I visited their showroom in Florida and got a demo down there. The laser has been amazingly troublefree and easy to use. It now comes with Lightburn laser software vs the Chinese RDWorks software. Lightburn software was created in the US and is much easier to use than RDWorks which is buggy as all get out. Let me know if you have any questions.

  • @"Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)" said:
    I've had an Epilog Zing16 for 10+ years now. Even though Epilog considers it to be an entry-level tool, it's been a workhorse for me. I bought it as a 35W demo unit for $7500. I've had to replace the laser tube once, so far, for $1500, and upgraded it to a 40W unit when I did. (BTW, replacing laser tubes is routine maintenance for all CO2 laser cutters. What happens is that the helium gas slowly leaches out, diminishing their output power.)
    One advantage of professional-grade laser cutters is that they use air-cooled aluminum laser tubes, rather than the glass tubes used by cheap Chinese units. Those need to be water-cooled.
    Some of the super cheap laser cutters on the market lately use semiconductor lasers. These are way under-powered for most jobs you might want to consider.

    I see they're around $8,000 on the website. That's a little out of my reach at the moment. I am still trying to get back up and running. Lost everything back in 2018. Had to start over. I guess I should start saving up. Thanks Phil.

  • @Publison said:
    Chris, good to hear from you!
    Shoot me an email.

    I'm sorry, I don't have your address...you can send me one from my site.

  • @DiverBob said:
    I have had a Boss Laser (https://www.bosslaser.com/) 1630 for almost 4 years now with a 100 watt tube. It is a Chinese laser but was designed in the US and marketed by a US company with a US based warranty and support staff down in Florida. Before I purchased it I visited their showroom in Florida and got a demo down there. The laser has been amazingly troublefree and easy to use. It now comes with Lightburn laser software vs the Chinese RDWorks software. Lightburn software was created in the US and is much easier to use than RDWorks which is buggy as all get out. Let me know if you have any questions.

    Looks like the base price is $7,000. Sadly that is out of my budget for a while. I guess I better start saving up based on the feedback I've gotten so far. Thanks for the information.

  • Are you interested in seeing YouTube reviews of various inexpensive lasers?
    Teaching Tech seems like an honest person with relatively good technical knowledge. Here's a list of his laser related videos. This one in particular is his "Buyer's Guide."
    Maker's Muse also has a few videos about laser cutters. I thought his video about the Flux Beambox Pro was interesting.

    I don't have experience with laser cutters myself but I watched a lot of YouTube videos on the subject. I'm pretty sure I could find some other videos on the topic if you'd like more links.

  • Duane,

    Often I do watch YouTube video reviews on hardware, but in those cases I am familiar enough with the subject to know what I am looking for. I guess in this case I should broaden my search a little. I will check out the video you linked and see what this guy has to say. Thank you.

  • MicksterMickster Posts: 1,864

    My approach would be to build a good XYZ mechanism and adapt it to suit. I like that this one utilises ballscrews:

    https://indystry.cc/indymill/

  • Hi,
    last year I bought a "CNC 3018 Pro MAX 7W". In my opinion building was very easy and precision is quite good. The 7Watts Laser is at least capable of cutting 1,3mm birch (hard) plywood at 220mm/min in 2 cuts and 4mm poplar (soft) plywood with 5 cuts at 220mm/min.
    Important: The plywood has to have transparent glue! You have to buy plywood, which is suitable! Otherwise no chance!
    I have not yet tested milling. It is difficult to find values for rpm speed and feed rate.
    Christof

  • @Mickster said:
    My approach would be to build a good XYZ mechanism and adapt it to suit. I like that this one utilises ballscrews:

    https://indystry.cc/indymill/

    I know there's (at least) two different strategies with laser cutters. One strategy moves the entire laser another moves just a mirror and lens. I'm pretty sure the mechanism for the two types are significantly different. Based on my YouTube video watching education, I believe the type which just moves the mirror and lens has superior performance.

    There are gizmos which can be used for CNC routing, 3D printing and laser cutting but it's my understanding each of these type of machines benefit from a specialized movement mechanism.

  • MicksterMickster Posts: 1,864

    @"Duane Degn"

    Thanks for that....very pretty 👍

    However, it's everything that I don't like; leadscrews and steppers. Rigidity and reliable repeatability are my top priorities 😐

  • @Mickster said:
    Rigidity and reliable repeatability are my top priorities 😐

    I agree those are good priorities but a rigid laser cutter and rigid CNC mill have very different build requirements.

    I think the trade offs between rigidity, speed and price require different combinations of materials for each specific control task. I'm not positive, but I think there are applications where ballscrews aren't the best option.

    I have ballscrews on my CNC router but my 3D printer uses leadscrews and belts. The 3D printer would probably look cooler with three axes of ballscrews but I don't think the print quality would improve. A 3D printer with ballscrews would likely be slower and more expensive than one make with leadscrews and belts.

    I don't know enough about laser cutters to know if the one William Osman made is any good but I thought it was interesting to see it in action. I don't know if he documented his build of the laser cutter or not. My initial search of his channel didn't provide any meaningful leads. I'd be very surprised if there aren't many examples of DIY laser cutter builds on YouTube. The trick would be finding ones built by people who know what they are doing.

  • My Zing16 uses steppers driving toothed belts on both horizontal axes to drive a mirror-and-focussing-lens assembly. The vertical axis uses a stepper to drive lead screws in all four corners of the platform. The vertical axis is rarely used during cutting, but only as a means to focus the lens on the subject prior to cutting.

    I have noticed no issues with backlash on any axis.

    -Phil

  • MicksterMickster Posts: 1,864

    Oh, I was thinking about a rig that would handle some serious metal cutting, along with laser and 3d printing.

    Lead screws: When we are looking at a 5mm or 10mm lead, the efficiency is down in the 50% or 60% region and when you couple that with the poor torque characteristics of a stepper motor...nah.

    Belts: Great for high speed positioning and no real issues with lash but I prefer ballscrews for plowing through metal.

    Backlash is a non-issue with a dual-loop feedback system; feed the load feedback to the P & I and the motor feedback to the D 👍😎

  • Thing is, for laser cutting you want very fast mechanical response -- especially for engraving. So ball screws are definitely not the way to go due to their inertia.

    -Phil

  • MicksterMickster Posts: 1,864

    @"Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)" said:
    Thing is, for laser cutting you want very fast mechanical response -- especially for engraving. So ball screws are definitely not the way to go due to their inertia.

    -Phil

    Totally missed that....yeah those things really fly 👍😐

  • MicksterMickster Posts: 1,864
    edited 2021-02-18 03:25

    Double gantry it is then 😁

    Edit: Nope, still won't work, dammit 😂

  • I ended up buying a Makeblock Laserbox Pro. I got a pretty nice discount on it, so I went for it. It should suit my personal needs just nicely. Thanks for everyone's help and input.




    https://www.xtool.com/specs

  • Chris-
    I would love to see how good a job it does!

  • Shawn,

    I actually need it for cutting acrylic and engraving a few materials for custom enclosures. We'll see how things work out. I watched a lot of YouTube videos before making my decision.

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