View Full Version : Versalaser 30w Vs Epilog Mini 35w

Pete Simmons
01-03-2005, 4:00 PM
Any comments on these two machines. Universal says their laser tube costs $800 to recharge. Epilog says they have the best laser that cannot be recharged but lasts a long time then you replace it - big $$$.
The Aztec Calendar Epilog sends out as a sample looks about as good as anyone could ask, while some of the other companies samples do not look as sharp.

Servo motors Vs Stepper motors any clear winner or do both have problems be it cost, accuracy or long life?

Now I hear that the supplied driver for the Versalaser does not allow for complete power and speed control and that you must buy the upgraded driver if you want total control. For >$10K I would expect total control.

I am also concerned when a company lists color options of the case in their specs as seemingly more important than info on the laser tube.

The engraver would be used mostly for wood and black marble.

Any comments will be appreciated.

Mike Mackenzie
01-03-2005, 4:47 PM

Let me start out by saying that I am a Universal rep. With that said I will try to answer your questions.

First off the laser tubes Universal has been manufacturing there own laser tubes for almost 10 years now they are well prov-en and they have in excess of 15,000 units in the field both in systems and in OEM applications. The advantages of the ULS tubes are the after purchase costs that all laser tubes will have. Not to mention some of the other technical improvements that have been made versus other laser tube MFG's.

It is true ULS used to use other mfg laser tubes in there systems, But it became imparent that the cost and the modifying of these tubes was getting out of control so they set out to develop and mfg there own. Universal has 8 US patents and several International patents pending. This is certainly not an easy process.

To answer the question the laser tube recharge cost is $850.00 exchange. What this means is when the laser tube runs out of the gases ULS sends a replacement and you send the old tube back to them. When Universal gets an old tube back they completely rebuild them with all new electronics gases, etc.
so in a sense you are receiving a new updated tube for that cost. Other laser tube MFG's only repair whats broke and they charge you for that then if something else goes wrong its back to the shop for more money.

Don't be fooled by samples sent out to you they were probably done on a different system than the one you are interested in buying. I highly recommend getting a demo on the systems before you decide to purchase.

Servos / steppers you will not gain or loose anything between the two for the simple reason the size of the system. The draw back to the servos is the encoders and working with wood and or marble. Wood creates a very sticky resin that is caused by lasering this resin gets all over everything. Marble on the other hand creates a fine dust that gets into everything. If the decoders get dirty you will have positioning problems. Not to mention the motion system the minis use must be lubricated. I don't know if you ever had a drop of oil in the wood shop but I guarantee the saw dust would be attracted to it in less than 2 minutes.

With the versa lasers you simply wipe down the motion system there is not a lot of area for the debris to collect so the longevity of the system will be longer. Also the cost to replace a servo is much higher than the cost of a stepper if it ever needed to be replaced.

The Versa dealers are only allowed to sell the systems with the materials based driver However if you go to the Universal dealer and purchase the Versa they can give you the Advanced driver free of charge. It is about the necessary training that must be accompanied with the advanced drivers.

As for the colors or the specs this is why I would highly recommend to visit your representative to get a better education regarding the systems.

Here is a company that has been working with the Universal systems for many years they are in Dade City FL.

Engraving Systems Support 800-374-8928.

It would be your gain to see these systems work and to know who you are working with once you purchase a system.

James Stanaway
01-04-2005, 1:03 PM
Hi Pete,

Thought you may like to get the Epilog perspective as well. Like Mike said, it is definitely best to take a look at a demo of both systems before you choose one to purchase. Both are very good systems, but there are definitely some differences between the two. Compare the build quality of the laser systems, the speed of the engraving and cutting and, most importantly, the quality of the engraving and cutting. It should be fairly clear to you which system will better meet your needs.

The laser tube is the heart of the system, which is why Epilog uses Coherent/DEOS waveguide laser tubes in all of our models. DEOS has been manufacturing sealed carbon dioxide laser tubes for about 20 years and was a large supplier to the military for over 15 years. They rate their tubes for 25,000 30,000 hours of Co2 gas life. We see an average of about 5 years before they need to be recharged, then the recharge cost is about $1500, but can be more expensive if there is an electrical problem on the tube.

The laser tubes used in all Epilog systems are rated to operate at their minimum rated output whether they have been on for three minutes, three days or three months. The laser beam quality and diffusion tolerances Epilog adheres to are much more stringent than other manufacturers. The laser tubes may operate at higher levels, but not below the rated output. Typically, the power output levels average about 10% above the rated minimum output.

As for the Aztec Calendar sample we sent you, I'm glad you liked the detail - it is definitely one of my favorite sample pieces because it really shows off the capabilities of the system with a very detailed image. We have been running all of the wood sample pieces we have been sending out on a Mini 24x12 45 watt. If you would like to see it on a 35 watt, I'd be happy to send one to you. I have run that sample on all of our systems, and have gotten excellent results on each of them.

We see a great deal of benefit in using closed-loop servo motors because they provide superior speed (ramp down and acceleration) and intelligent feedback (position sensing) which results in overall higher quality in the final product. Mike is correct that you have to wipe off the linear encoder regularly if you are doing a large amount of wood, but even on the systems we run here in the office for 8 hours a day with the wooden aztec calendars, we have to clean it once every two to three weeks. All you do is remove the cover over the encoder strip with a few screws and wipe off the strip. It takes a few minutes to complete.

The motion system of the Mini does need to be lubricated with bearing grease because we use stainless steel bearing that last for many years. With many other systems you have to replace the rubber bearings repeatedly as they wear down. We and our customers believe that a little maintenance is better than costly consumable replacement.

Epilog's driver for the Mini is extremely user friendly. There are no upgrades to be able to control speed and power, and it is very straightforward to use. I've even been playing with the 3D capabilities of the driver recently using simple corel files I created and have been getting great results. You can see one at http://www.epiloglaser.com/colorado_3d.htm (http://www.epiloglaser.com/colorado_3d.htm). I created this in a few hours, and didn't have to use the expensive 3D software to design it.

If you have any other questions I can help you with, please let me know. You owe it to yourself to see the systems in action - you will see a difference.

Thank you,

James Stanaway
Epilog Laser

Aaron Koehl
01-04-2005, 3:01 PM
This is fantastic, thanks for the info and perspectives, gentlemen.

Mike Mackenzie
01-04-2005, 3:26 PM
I don't want to get into an I said they said scenario. There are some points that need to be cleared up. First Universal does not use rubber wheels on there system. And the replacement cost is a mere $25.00 each. If they are maintained correctly you won't need to replace them for quite some time.

You may want to compare this to the cost to replace the motion system on the mini.

The speed of the engraving is only relevant to the product you are engraving.

Get a demo from both Epilog and ULS bring your file or files and discover for yourself that the speed won't be that different.

The other point to be made here is where is the time clock on the laser tubes?

I don't know of any system that has any method of tracking the time the laser tube has been in use.

If you calculate the 30,000 hours it equals out to 3.5 years thats on the high end.

The bottom line here is both systems are good and you the customer need to do your homework and make your decision based on Machine, Service & Support.

By the way any laser system can do 3D engraving there is nothing new to that.

Jeff DeVore
01-04-2005, 4:05 PM
Hi James,
What is cost of the laser tube if you need a total replacement for the mini?
Also I have a Legend 75WEx and would like to know the price range on a tube on it. From the low of just filling the tube to a high of a total replacement. What type and price range of repairs on the tube do you usually see? I have been running a demo model I bought for about a year now and need to know how much to set aside when the tube goes. Also is it cheaper to send it in directly to Coherent/Deos and what would the approximate cost and turn around time for that be? Thanks, Jeff.

Roy Brewer
01-05-2005, 12:19 AM

Both companies you are considering have very good products; both companies are financially strong and have excellent tech support and R&D staff. I've known both your local distributors for longer than I care to divulge and I can tell you they are both among the best in the country.

Since this ain't my first rodeo, I'll offer some tips.
1. Get at least one demo from each distributor, but be aware that there is so little profit in the machines you are considering it may not be fair to ask them to give you more than one demo (the following might make one demo all that i necessary).
2. After you explain your plans, ask them if they think you should be considering stepping up to a larger &/or more powerful machine. If yes, ask them to detail/illustrate. Even if you can't possibly spend another $, ask the question anyway. If you budget is unlimited, listen hard to their thoughts(and to the suggestions of the members of this forum).
3. Ask them for suggestions that might help you grow your business with their product.
4. Let them know in advance there are certain products/processes you want to see demonstrated.
5. Take some of your own files and materials to be engraved; don't let the second see what the first did.
6. Ask them for pros & cons of servo & stepper (there *are* pros *and* cons for each!)
6. "Point blank" ask your demonstrator "Why should I buy your machine instead of 'brand X'?"

The forgoing is about as unbiased as I can be and should give you a good feel for which distributor would be best for you.

The following suggested questions will show my bias.
---Red dot pointer included?
---Fully functional glass engraving attachment available?
---Vector grid included?
---Air assist included?
---Auto Focus included (work on acrylic, cylindrical, etc)?
---Vacuum Table design included?
---Maximum part thickness (depth)?
---Same print driver as larger equipment?
---How many colors available?

BTW, If you don't speak Texan: "this ain't my first rodeo," should be interpreted as "I've been around a long time!"

James Stanaway
01-05-2005, 6:30 PM
Hi Jeff,

If there was a need to totally replace the tube on a Mini, it would be $1800. On a 75EX a recharge would be $1250, but if the tube completely went out for another reason, we are looking at a higher cost - around $2700. We have really seen a wide variety of reasons that tubes come back - everything from recharges to some internal optic replacements to electrical problems. We wouldn't suggest that you send your tube directly to Coherent because of the issue of turnaround time - if you have a problem with a tube, we can send you a replacement tube as soon as the problem is identified, so you wouldn't have to wait for it to be fixed first.

James Stanaway
Epilog Laser

Jeff DeVore
01-05-2005, 8:25 PM
Hi James,

Thanks for the fast reply. The main reason I was asking is that someone on another board said for their 100 watt Epilog they were quoted $8,000. Thought that was kind of high and my heart just about jumped into my stomach when I read that. Your figures are closer to what I've heard before and something that I can handle without having to get a second mortgage!!:D Thanks again, Jeff.

Rodne Gold
01-06-2005, 12:15 AM
Im about as unbiased as you get considering I'm not in the USA and have no ties whatsoever to any mnfgr (Albeit I use GCC machines). Roy has posted some very good points , look at those.
I can't tell you which of the 2 systems to get , I have used neither, but can tell you a little about sources , motion systems , bearings etc , considering we have been using CNC machinery/engravers for almost 20 years and lasers for 5.
In the first place , all lasers in the same price/size/power class will mostly do the same job. This is an ultra competitive field and no one mnfgr seems to have a substantial jump on another.
Lets get to the nitty gritty.
Size and power: Table size is a double edged sword , yes you can do big stuff with big tables , however alignment across the table and power drops over it are an issue. there is no point to a big table if your alighnment goes out frequently or if you have a lower powered laser which cant compensate adequately for drops across it. Big working areas do however mean that you can fit bigger items into the laser and do multiple jobs effectively, they also mean that you can fit a twin head system on the machine and almost double production while still having a decent engraving area.
Power is king , mostly. Higher powers do not only translate to better speed when cutting , but better processing as well. In terms of engraving , you don't really need exceptionally high power to do most stuff , thus the ACTUAL speed of the laser comes into play here , even at 25 w you would probably be using 100% speed and less than 100% power to engrave. Speed is also an unclear issue as there is actual vs rated speed. Yes one laser might be able to ziop around at 500m per second , but can it accelerate to that speed well , decellerate well and what is the quality of engraving at that speed?
Can the WHOLE table be used at that speed as well? Apart from that , the way the driver handles the graphics is also vital as to actual speed , for example some drivers can optimise the way stuff is engraved , speedily skipping "white" space . Or for example if there are 2 pieces of engraving one either side of the table , some drivers can do the one first and then go onto the other rather than scanning across the table which can speed stuff up substantially.
Power too is a an "unclear" issue as much depends on the spot size and beam quality. 50 watts spread over a big spot size will not cut or process as well as lower powers spread over a smaller spot size . Like you may be able to exert 100 pounds pressure on a blunt knife and sort of cut , whereas 25 pounds on a scalpel wil be surgically precise.
In terms of bearing systems , this too is a field fraught with difficulty. Generally the best type bearings tend to be large and heavier with serious rails and components for ultra stability. This will affect speed of the system somewhat as one needs more serious motors to move these and acceleration and decelleration is a problem. IMHO the best bearing are recirulating balls on precision ground rails. I have no machines in my shop that have decent motions systems that do not require periodic lubrication etc if being used in any production environment.
As to drive systems , IE how the motor drives these motion systems , that too is a murky issue. There are many sysems , like rack and pinion , cables , kevlar belts and recirculating bearings on lead screws (the best IMHO)
However NONE of these systems are totally immune to having to be fine tuned or maintained over the life of the machine.
Stepper motors are generally the pits without a closed loop positioning system , they can lose steps and can never recover from a problem on a job , repositioning is well nigh impossible. The diff tween a servo loop system and a stepper is like this: the stepper says 2 steps up and 2 steps along takes you to where you want to be and another 3 steps up and 4 along to the next point but can never precisely pinpoint whether you are there the other says "go there" and then "go there" with precision and doesnt rely on counting steps to assuge that position. This is simplistic but it sort of illustrates the point. I would NEVER go for a stepper motor machine (I have a few smaller engraving machines that do use em tho , never had many real problems with em barring functionality) for ultimate accuracy and reliability. Some steppers take real big steps and output on circles and curves is nowhere as smooth as using different types of servo loop motors.
As to positioning sensors , well they should be in sealed enclosures for protection and the better ones are optical shaft encoders on the motor itself.
Tube issues: We have had numerous tube failures with both Synrad and Coherent sources. I have run many lasers for quite a long time in a production environment where they get heavy usage (10 hrs continous a day)
NOT ONE tube failure has been due to or caused by gas issues. RF board failure , electronic issues, poor QC on the part of the laser mnfgrs, power supply issues , driver issues and overheating is the main cause of failure. So IMHO the tube has to be covered by a no quibble replacement warantee , the longer the better. 3 yrs is good. Also , does the warantee extend to the relacement , IE is it too guaranteed for 3 yrs? (I doubt it would be like that , but it would be nice?)
It is also a great idea to buy a platform that can take a variety of tubes and that can be upgraded easily. Make sure your laser supplier can get a tube/parts to your real quick , being down a few days can cost big.
Then there is the beam delivery system , essentially the focussing lens does most of the work and the mirrors merely direct an unfocussed beam. Considering the fact that the laser beam is being directed in 3d space , the mirror housing and the mirror mounting and adjustment systems must be very robust to avoid vibrations. The systems should be as easy to clean as possible without distrurbing alignment and should be as protected as possible with getting dirty inside the laser . Some lasers are way better at that than others and resin smoke etc will get EVERYWHERE. Most maintenace and small repairs should be undertakeable by the user , like replacing a belt , a drive motor , optical alignment etc.

To be blunt , I think the fact that you dont get a fully configurable driver right off the bat , sucks . It assumes the user is somewhat cretinous and has to be "protected". Small lasers etc are as functional as large systems and and should be supplied so.
ALL systems will have issues , no dealer will tell you about them or highlight them , users often are the best source for these. The issues one system has over another can be either negligable or totally vital to you - find out about them!!
Here are a few things to ask the dealers to do/answer re the system as a whole
1)Will it run with your favourite software and will you be able to easily import and export various file formats to that software. We get an incredible amount of files sent to us and have to work with them , so I want drivers that work with native apps as well , like Autocad etc.
2) Turnarounds on replacement items and any fine print in the warrantee? What EXACTLY is waranteed!!!
3) Take the same file and let them run both at the same dpi settings , use a mixed raster/vector file to see how easy it is to configure the machine to do more complex tasks. See the ACTUAL time it takes , and look at the quality (with a loupe).
4) Ask them to set up the rotary , supply em an item and ask the to engrave it - see how easy it is to accomplish this (my rotary is almost unusable - it's not a huge issue for me)
5) Engrave really small text at high speed , buy a loupe and inspect it , try bold text with serifs and ultra light san serif text , both should engrave real crisp real fast. 1-2mm high is good.
4) Engrave a RASTER grid across the whole table , look for dead straight unshattered lines , constant line width and depth of engraving , see that the machine actally DOES a 1"x 1"square , do the same vith a vector grid , look at the size on program vs the size on the machine.
5) Cut small circles and squares , see that they are squares and circles and then cut some smallish ones in thick material like 6-8mm acrylic , look to see the cut goes straight down and the sides arent slanted , look at the quality of the cut and the polished edge and localized heat affected zones .
I know you say you will mainly be doing wood and marble , so perhaps some of what Im saying is not that relevant to your application , but undobtedly you will expand and a lot of what I have said apply to the overal system quality. In your case , I would look at the max weight a table can take , considering a thick slab of stone can be pretty heavy.
Dealer support and warrantees are paramount , as far as Im concerned , these should be dealbreaker issue's.
This just concerns the tool itself , the measure of success you will have depends entirely on your creativity and marketing skills , but having the best most cost effective tool for your job will help a lot.'

Mike Mackenzie
01-06-2005, 12:18 PM

All good points some I agree with and some I don't. I just want to say that your points are good and should be listened to.

I also want to say that it would be nice to get a $100,000.00 dollar system for 9,995.00 but That won't happen.

Do your homework then decide whats best for you.

Keith Outten
01-06-2005, 8:35 PM

All of these folks are very knowlegable and most of us consider them "Heavy Hitters" in the industry. I know that the details can be very confusing, purchasing your first laser engraver is a tough decision to make. Remember that almost everyone who owns a Versalaser or an Epilog will generally tell you that they are very happy with their machines so the decision isn't as critical as you might think. The issue that you need to resolve is which machine fits your business plan and technical requirements.

Take the test drives and pick the one that fits you the best. Let us know what you decide and why, your decision may very well help someone else who is also considering the purchase of a laser engraver.

Bruce Larson
01-07-2005, 2:50 AM
Just for another point from someone who has been using CNC machinery for many years, 2000 hours is normally considered one years use on a one shift normal operation. This is arrived at by multiplying 40 hours by 50 weeks, assuming some vacation and goof off time.
Will a laser tube last 20,000 hours? I don't know, but I am sure that the individual using it, and what he is processing, can have a significant effect on the total time received.:)

Pete Simmons
02-19-2005, 8:47 PM
Very nice machine. Looking forward to learning a lot.


James Stanaway
02-19-2005, 11:33 PM
Congratulations, Pete! Be sure to let me know if there is anything I can help you with!

James Stanaway
Epilog Laser

rich shepard
02-20-2005, 11:13 PM
Hi Pete
Keep us posted on how your getting along with your new mini. I have one on order and should have it in two weeks, already have people asking when it's due in and how soon I can start doing stuff.
www.shepswoodncrafts.com (http://www.shepswoodncrafts.com/)
not the best site but working on it :)

Hale Reider
02-20-2005, 11:23 PM
I wanted to weigh in here also. I don't want to offend anyone, just tell you my perspective. For the last 25 years, I have sold computerized industrial machine tools for a living, CNC controlled lathes, grinders and machining centers. And occasionally a larger laser, some robots and waterjet cutting machines. Some of them are $300,000 to $400,000. Positioning accuracy is usually +/- .0002" and repeatabilty is +/- .00006". Fortunately, we do not need to hold those kinds of tolerances in laser engraving.

Our laser is for a small family run busineess.

The machine tools we sell usually run water soluble coolant, cutting metal chips or grinding using abrasives. Some of them mill and grind ceramic. They all have closed loop systems, the vast majority of which are rotary encoders.

To be candid and without throwing aspersions, I could not sell a machine tool that had stepping motors on it, if I could find any to offer. We have not used stepping motors, other than on rotary indexers (like a rotary attachment for your laser) in the last twenty years. There is no feedback. You are telling something to move and you don't know when or if it got there. Everything I sell and everything that my competitors sell have servomotors with a closed loop (closed loop provides real time feedback as to where the head or table is that is controlled by the servo motors). That closed loop is usually provided by a rotary or linear encoder or by a glass scale. Scales are usually more accurate and not subject to heat or wear, but they need to be kept clean. When a machine tool wears and gets slop in it, it provides an alarm telling you that you have a following error. Time to fix it.

In machine tools, high speed machining and positioning is at about a maximum of 2400 IPM. Those speeds are only attainable with linear guides. The same kind of guides or rails you find on the Epilog machine. They are very stiff and wear resistand. 2400 IPM is real slow for a laser machine. Machine tools frequently move large heavy masses. Getting up to speed and slowing them down is what kills the servo motors.

On your laser, the head travels at a constant speed across the work, then decelerates to 0 IPS, reverses, accelerates back to 100 IPS (or ?) then decelerates at the other end, stops and reverses again. The wear and tear is going to be proportional to how much mass is accelerating and decelerating and the resistance the head encounters from the rails or linear guides.

I went to an ARA show and looked at everyone's machines. As you probably guessed, I did not buy a machine with stepping motors, although I spent some time at Universal. A customer came by and explained how to change the wheels for the head, said he had done it several times in the last few years.

I was close to buying the Epilog, have heard good things about them, more rigid and precise machine and better built in my opinion. However, the head is pretty heavy to be running that fast and I was concerned about keeping the scales clean. I have heard rumors of some problems with servomotor failures, but ....

I checked out the Laser Pro and was fairly interested, visited their sales office, but it was pricey. I looked at Trotec. Nice machine, concerned about how it was built. Could not really get details of the head and rails at the show. Pricey.

I ended up with the Xenetech. Time will tell. They have a lightweight head on the machine that travels on ball bearings. I talked with one of my customers, who is an automotive first tier supplier, who had the Xenetech for several years also. I think the servo motors should last longer on this machine and I could not forsee the head having slack without a lot of use.

They are not dragging an airline back and forth with the head, which is an extra load that Xenetech does not move around. And the software is set up so it reverses as soon as it clears the raster image on each side. I know I can go back over fine lines or work in progress and it repeats very well. Servomotors with rotary encoders. And they drive the bridge from both ends, so the bridge does not skew. I am using Corel Draw only and have had some issues with the driver, but nothing I cannot work through. I think they are going to have to replace my tube because of the banding, but that is the laser tubes fault and not Xenetech. Machine had a two year warranty, so..............

My second choice would have been the Epilog.


Roy Brewer
02-22-2005, 4:32 AM
Very nice machine. Looking forward to learning a lot.


You'll undoubtably do things of which we never thought. Be sure to share them with us!

Roy Brewer
02-22-2005, 4:42 AM

Thanks for a very credible perspective.

This will be helpful to many.

Randall Johnson
09-27-2005, 1:30 AM
Hello to all,

I am at the same point that Pete was several months ago looking for input on what laser system to buy. I read the thread all the way to the end and was left wanting morehttp://sawmillcreek.org/images/smilies/confused.gif .

Tell me Pete, why did you go with the Epilog over the Universal? Now that you have had time to use it, how has your experience been? Was it dificult to learn? Do you have any regrets?

I am considering both of those systems myself. By the way what exact model/wattage did you go with?

Thanks for the info.

Pete Simmons
09-27-2005, 1:12 PM
Great machine, great Tech Support the few times I needed it.

Click on my name then goto my home page. From there goto my Laser page. Take a look at the work (gallery) I have been able to do. My customers love all of it but they go crazy over the black marble photos.

Take a close look at the samples provided by the companies. I do not think you will find anything as clean and precise as the Aztec Calendar from Epilog.

Mike Mackenzie
09-27-2005, 1:18 PM

What system works for one person may not be the right system for someone else. I would highly recommend that you go and see both systems for yourself bring files that you would want to do and then compare. Both systems will do the job. You have to look at all aspects from the local service to the replace part costs then you will be able to make a good decision on which system best suits your needs.

Lee DeRaud
09-27-2005, 3:07 PM
Take a close look at the samples provided by the companies. I do not think you will find anything as clean and precise as the Aztec Calendar from Epilog.Ok, you lost me there. I couldn't find that file on their website, so I assume it's an actual engraving they sent out with the brochure/sample CD.

But I'm not sure I'd want to select a machine based on a sample engraving unless I saw the same file (preferably a file of my own) run through all the machines I was interested in.

Randall Johnson
09-27-2005, 11:23 PM
Hello again,

I did get a demo of both manufaturers systems. I looked at the versalaser and the M-360 from Universal and the Mini24 and the Helix from Epilog. I have found asking whitch one to go with it is like asking which pickup truck to buy? Some hate Ford, love Chevy, like Dodge, etc. From my first impression, both systems have advantages and disadvantages. Most of the advantages and disadvantages I found have to do with subtle things with no clear winner unless you run into a show stopper like you know you want to do some very specific thing and one of them will not work for that application. I am wavering over work table size and depth - Mostly depth. The versalaser is by far the shallowest of them all. It is fine for nearly everything, but it is only about half as deep as the Mini24 if you remove the vector table. My lack of experience in the industry leaves me with the question: Which one is best for Most work you could expect to do? Not lenghty debates over what technology is used to move the lens assembly. Honestly, both manufacturers make a good product and have some shortcomings that I have found. When it comes to debates that engeeniers can argue 'till the cows come home, each with valid points and data to back them up, I don't care too much about it. Unless it can be proven that one is far supperior than the other, or statistically one has more problems, I am not woried about it. Functionality and flexibility is more of a concern to me. Which one has the least limitations for expanding into different markets and applications? That is the debate I would like to hear.

Pete, I am still curious about what EXACT system you have. From the picture you posted right after you got the system it looks like a Helix, not a Mini.
So, what Model and wattage did you go with and why?

Thanks for all the input. By the way I am leaning towards the Epilog Helix ONLY because it has the deepest work area (bt nearly 4" over any of the others) but I am not sold on the possibility that I will find about $3000 worth of work I would have had to turn away because I did not have the added depth to work with. If you don't need it don't pay for it.

Thanks again for the input.

Randall Johnson
09-27-2005, 11:26 PM
I see you posted the model and power in your title.:rolleyes: Still, why did you decide on that one over the mini24?

Pete Simmons
09-28-2005, 7:51 AM
Went with the Mini-18 35 watt.


1. Money
2. Money
3. Wondered about how system holds registration and power levels 24 inches out.
4. Decided to spend the extra money on watts instead of real estate inside the machine.
5. My aim was pens and pen cases. Size did not matter for those items, but I wondered what else I would get into.
6. Room size - a 24 in machine is a large item ( outside deminsion wise ) and you need a good size area to set it up. I have only a small area.

Now that I have had the system some months.

1. Watts over size was a good choice.
2. My machine is seldom used on items over 12x12
3. Maybe have turned down 2 jobs because of size.
4. I did not get a rotary tool either. Maybe some day, but you need to do a lot of wine bottles to pay for it.
BTW- I still BUY the Stars&Stripes and Piano pen laser cut kits from Ken as I see that as a better deal than buying a rotary attachment.
5. Epilog does not mention it ( I think for safety and lawsuit reasons) but if you take the front panel off the mini you can stick the first 12 or so inches of a long object into the bed area and laser it that way.

My main work has become marble tiles and wood plaques and the 18 in limit is not a problem.

Randall Johnson
09-28-2005, 9:02 AM
You have come along way in a short time. Congratulations with the website. I am excited about the possibilities.

I completely understand about work space. I also have a small area to work with but I guess not quite the same restrictions. A foot or so isn't a serious issue. The weight is though. I am going to put it in my basement. Getting it down a flight of stairs might cause me to go with the smaller unit. I don't intend on taking anywhere for shows to do on-site stuff, so it will be there unless I outgrow my house and have to open a small shop.

I also have heard of people bypassing the safety mechanisms and opening the front doors, at least on Universal Laser M-300 and M-360 machines. That is not something I would even consider. The X and Y size is not as much of a grey area for me as far as limitations. I am just looking at the depth as a limitation. If I could get a Mini18 with 10" depth I would go with that. Like EVERYONE says get as much as you can afford, especially in power. I have to say that I never had question about at least going with middle of the road or higher on power just looking at the time involved with some of the things I know I want to do.

The rotary tool issue is consistently answered "it isn't worth it" unless you do a ton of wedding stuff like champange flutes, wine bottles and stuff. I read in one forum that someone actually bought it with the system originally and months later had never even taken it out of the box because a need never came up for it. Even if it did, like you said it would take a lot of bottles.

Thanks for all the helpful input. Why did you have to turn away the jobs you mentioned, was it X Y size or depth that your Mini couldn't handle?

Pete Simmons
09-28-2005, 9:54 AM
Depth is nice. Especially if you use the rotary attachment. But I have found the depth with the Mini to be fine.

Look at my wine boxes. I have to do the bottom and sides before I put them together, but since I make the boxes it is not a problem.

If I recall correctly it was X Y size. Someone wanted a couple of 30 by something signs. I sent them to a sign shop.

jay vyas
09-16-2007, 4:46 AM
hey guys am also planning to buy epilog as i also loved the results of the machine and please if anyone can tell me what will be the cost of epilog mini 18x12 in india and how much units machines uses according to india:)

Mark Winlund
09-16-2007, 3:15 PM
This is without a doubt the best thread I have ever read on this forum. A battle of the titans, along with intelligent servo vs. stepper discussion! Hale Reider's post was particularly relevant.


jay vyas
09-17-2007, 1:50 PM
hey so what you people should i buy epilog only??and please tell me wether epilog 35watt is compatible to universal 40watt

Glenn Corser
09-17-2007, 6:01 PM
We bought and Epilog Legend 32 from Rob Bosworth at www.usedlasers.com (http://www.usedlasers.com) about 4 years ago - it came with a 6 month factory warranty. We had nothing but trouble with it and spent hours on the phone with Peck and tech support, replacing belts, tubes, lenses, etc. It never did work properly, it couldn't even engrave an 11" square centered on a 12" tile - we were told that it was not a "precision machine". Rob worked with us all the way and swapped us out with a Universal V-460, upgraded the tube from 35 to 60 watts for $1k and paid all shipping - great support. The V-460 has performed flawlessly, just replaced the tube - it came with 2 years use and we put on 3 more. It took 20 minutes from start to cutting again, with the Epilog we spent hours aligning and messing with it. I honestly think that we probably just got a lemon and have no complaints about their tech support. But, after having used both machines the V-460 is better. It is faster, has a simpler interface, and, since the lenses are all covered, needs a whole lot less daily maintenance. Just my two cents.

jay vyas
09-18-2007, 2:30 AM
@Glenn Corser

thanks for your reply but as i read the thread people here are telling epilog is best??? and as you had bought a used laser system may be that why the problem occured:(

Mike Null
09-18-2007, 7:55 AM
If you've come down to ULS and Epilog it's probably a Chevy/ Ford thing. Since I formerly owned a ULS I'll come down for them as I never had problems in 8 years of use other than replacing a tube in the 36th month of warranty. The buyer of my used ULS just replaced the tube again so the second one lasted more than 5 years.

If you decide on used then ULS merits strong consideration because of their tube replacement cost.

Scott Shepherd
09-18-2007, 8:09 AM
Having owned both a ULS and an Epilog in the last 8-9 months, I don't feel that this is a Ford/Chevy comparison at all. I'm working on a long, detailed comparison between the two machines we bought that will show very real differences. I'm trying not to pick sides in my review but rather give a realistic comparison between the two makers.

I can say that there are very real, tangible differences in the two that take it way past the Ford/Chevy level. Just as an example, on the same size machine, the Epilog weighs 180 lbs and the Universal weighs 270 lbs. There are obviously massive differences in construction that are reflected in that difference.

It really depends on what your business plan is, what you plan to do with it, how much you can afford, etc. For some, the Epilog is the perfect choice, for others, the ULS is the perfect choice. It's too many variables that depend on your own situation to say you should pick one over the other.

I've been working on a comprehensive review on an off for a while now. Hopefully I can get it posted in the near future and others can add to it.

Peter Zacarelli
09-18-2007, 7:10 PM
Scott or anyone else that knows the answer, could you tell me if it's true that on the VersaLaser when you are running a job, your computer is tied up while the job is running until it completea? I was told this by someone selling their VersaLaser. It was the reason I went with Epilog, with Epilog you print to the laser, then it becomes a job on the Epilog (just take a couple of seconds) and your computer is free to use again.

Howard Garner
09-18-2007, 7:59 PM
Scott or anyone else that knows the answer, could you tell me if it's true that on the VersaLaser when you are running a job, your computer is tied up while the job is running until it completea? I was told this by someone selling their VersaLaser. It was the reason I went with Epilog, with Epilog you print to the laser, then it becomes a job on the Epilog (just take a couple of seconds) and your computer is free to use again.

That is true. The computer is in control of the Versalaser.

You can move on to a different window and continue working. You can also modify the drawing the you just sent to the

Howard Garner
VersaLaser VL300 30W, X3

Scott Shepherd
09-18-2007, 8:03 PM
I can't speak for the Versalaser because I don't own it. I'm not sure if it uses the same driver as the rest of them or not.

What my system does is use the computer for jobs, yes. However, it doesn't "tie up" my computer. I can minimize the window and do anything I want on the computer.

The reason I personally like this system is for that reason, the job control system it uses. On the Epilog, I had settings saved over time. When I'd run a job, I might have to tweak one of the settings a little for the particular job. I'd typically run it, and it'd be done. Next time I get something like that again, I'd have to tweak it again. I know, I know, you can save it, but you have to tweak a lot of jobs based on colors, thicknesses, etc., and I really didn't want 500 settings to have to sort through every time I ran a job.

With the job control software, you can pull up as many jobs as you want and it'll show you the actual job and what it was actually run at. I use this all the time. I get similiar jobs, so I can pull up that old job that I tweaked out and then use those settings. It also keeps the jobs there, so don't have to open Corel and print it again. For repeat work, I just pull the job up and click on the "Go" button and the machine starts. I really like being able to pull up actual job history. It also has the run time, the actual run time it took on every job stored in the job information. To me that's helped a ton on quoting. No longer do I have to guess, I just pull up a similiar job, look at the actual run time, and I'm good to go.

I really like this system and how it handles jobs. I think it's what every manufacturer should be offering. Sending jobs to "print" and then they are gone forever, along with all the history that could have been gathered seems illogical to me in todays time. I'd guess in two years time, everyone will have some sort of job control that keeps data, like some of the other systems out there are already doing. I think Trotec does it along with ULS, and I'm not sure who else.

I also like having the virtual control panel on my computer. I can start, pause, and stop jobs sitting at my computer. So I find I do a fraction of the walking I used to. You can also see the progress of the job as it's burning. You open the window and you can see line by line get laid down on the image you're doing. So just from sitting at your computer, you can tell a lot about what's going on without having to hover over the machine. Nothing radically amazing, but certainly something that makes my life easier and I like easier at this point in my life :)

Mike Mackenzie
09-18-2007, 8:33 PM

You did a masterful job of explaining this I would like to point out that the print Que will only hold 100 jobs. So what I suggest is create a folder and move the files that you want to keep permanently into the folder you can have unlimited files in this folder.

In the print Que once it hits 100 the first file is replaced and so on. The other nice thing about this system is you do not even have to have the original Corel file.

Lets say one of your friends has a versa or PLS laser and has created a file that he wants you to help him run all he has to do is send you the print file (VCP) you load it and press go and your machine is running the file without Corel at all.

The system is tied to the computer but in no means limits you to what you can do while it is running.

jay vyas
09-19-2007, 3:50 AM
now am totally confused as i need a machine for cutting and engraving 4-5mm acrylic only so accordingly which machine has the best results??

Frank Corker
09-19-2007, 4:21 AM
Jay normally I'd say the one with the most powerful laser. 4 to 5 mm acrylic takes some cutting, your laser will have to be 'putting out' a good steady power to do that. If that is your material, I suggest you take a couple of 6x6 inch squares to each company and have them cut out a hexagonal shape out of it and look at the time it takes and quality each machine takes. It may be that the lower powered machine still cuts faster than the higher powered or the finish might be better. Another piece to be cut at the same speed as the other. The results are going to vary.

Scott Shepherd
09-19-2007, 7:42 AM
Mike, where's that 100 job limit at? Mine is set to 2000 jobs at the moment and I can up that in the settings. I have several hundred jobs in it right now and look back to the beginning files often. In fact, I've used them at my leisure to go back and setup material files.

Is this different on the Versalaser?

Mike Mackenzie
09-19-2007, 12:18 PM

My Bad with the new software they increased it to 2000 still a good idea to back up these files into another folder.

jay vyas
09-24-2007, 10:06 AM
thanks for all your replies and my epilog mini is final 18x12

suggestions welcome:)

Trevor Pettinato
12-11-2007, 6:56 PM
Scott or anyone else that knows the answer, could you tell me if it's true that on the VersaLaser when you are running a job, your computer is tied up while the job is running until it completea? I was told this by someone selling their VersaLaser. It was the reason I went with Epilog, with Epilog you print to the laser, then it becomes a job on the Epilog (just take a couple of seconds) and your computer is free to use again.

This may be coming a bit late but I thought I would throw this out there. While the computer may be tied up while running a job on the Versalaser it is minimal and more over seems unnecessary. I believe you could just buy and hook up a print server to the laser. They are around $100 at BestBuy. The print server receives the job from the computer, stores it on its own (RAM) and sends the job to the printer so your computer doesn't have to think about the job after you press the PRINT button. The only downside is that it is just one more thing to plug in.
Even with the Epilog machines they could be useful. There are many wireless print servers available. If you are computer savvy enough to set it up, you can send the jobs to your laser (Epilog or Versa) from across the room. NOT that you would want to run jobs with the laser unattended, but you can be a little further away without having to run wires all over the place.
I personally went with the Epilog Mini24 35W, and it is being hooked up tomorrow morning =). I had considered the Versalaser and the lack of any RAM on the laser was a turn off for me. I As it was explained to me by a serious computer geek friend of mine, IF there were to be a hiccup in the power supply, the laser could lose its place in the job, aka step motors forgetting the exact lat spot they left and using the spot where the laser was sitting once the computer started talking to the it again as what it remembers as the last spot. Even with a battery backup the computer would still pause for a moment before it started sending the print job back to the laser, since print serving is rather low on the computers list of priorities when recovering from a power brown out. This priority order can be changed... I don't know how, but again I am speaking mostly from what I was told by someone I trust. Even with a small risk of this happening, for a mere $100 you would have 1 less thing to worry about.

Once I get my workshop set up and running, I do plan on having the wireless print server so I don't have to run wires through the ceiling.

So really, the point of all that wasted space above is just that, while the VersaLaser does not have it's own RAM for print jobs, for a mere $100 it is an easy fix. Not to mention, the print servers can save on running wires and you could send jobs to the laser from any computer on your network not just 1 lone computer you have plugged into it. Talk to a computer guy, there are actually several other ways to 'share' your laser on a network.

-Trevor Pettinato
Website incoming soon

Scott Shepherd
12-11-2007, 8:20 PM
Trevor, it doesn't lack RAM on the system because they are cheap, they lack RAM because it's not treated as a printer as some others do. It has a job control program that is very sophisticated and powerful.

I'll see if I can explain the differences.

With the Epilog, when you hit print, it does act like a print driver. The job goes into the RAM on the laser itself. Let's say you send a job over and you have 70 Power and 80 Speed. You have to manually save those settings in the driver, whether you save it for the job or for the material (or you don't save anything at all).

Now, the job is running and you immediately realize you need to bump up the power to 90. You do that at the control panel of the laser. You finish the job, turn the machine off, and the changed settings are gone forever, unless you went back into the driver, pulled up that saved material setting and then modified it to the new power setting.

With the job control system and it running off the computer, you "print" the job and it enters a job control program. That's where the laser is getting it's info from. You are running the same job and have the same issue. You adjust it at the control panel, and when you do, it writes back to the original job file what the new settings are. It's an interactive system that manages all changes on the fly.

Not sure what issues your friend is speaking of, but I trust the folks at ULS. If there was any cause for concern, it's their reputation at stake, along with their business. I wouldn't buy or not buy a machine based on what "could" possibly happen in theory. ULS has 1000's and 1000's of machines out there and they have a tremendous track record, so I'm sure it's a non-issue.

It's more about whether or not you like the job control software approach. I personally wouldn't buy a machine without it now. It's saved me a ton of money and a lot of headaches. I'd also be willing to bet that within another year or two, you'll see job control software on the Epilogs.

Dan Hintz
12-11-2007, 9:08 PM
Stepper motors don't have memory, and therefore they can't "forget" where they were. Embedded RAM, on the other hand, is all but guaranteed to lose its memory should the power supply hiccup. So, if I had my choice between embedded RAM with a computer that offloads its entire image at once and no RAM with a computer that sends a byte with a response after each one, I have to choose no RAM.

That said, if your power supply is experiencing hiccups, you need to replace the supply.

As it was explained to me by a serious computer geek friend of mine, IF there were to be a hiccup in the power supply, the laser could lose its place in the job, aka step motors forgetting the exact lat spot they left and using the spot where the laser was sitting once the computer started talking to the it again as what it remembers as the last spot.

Rob Bosworth
12-12-2007, 12:31 PM
James, in your earlier response, you stated that there are different levels of cost in getting a laser repaired. I am assuming that the question on the cost of having a 75 EX recharged, is actually asking how much does it cost to have a 75 watt laser repaired on a EX machine. I do not recall your exact numbers, something like $1200 and $2700 depending on the level of refurb the laser needed. Those numbers seem to be low? Does that include the cost involved of having the RF unit replaced at the same time? I might be wrong, but I seem to remember that the higher powered Coherent lasers are matched with the RF unit. So when the laser has to be sent in, the RF unit has to be replaced at the same time. I know I replaced a 100 watt laser on a EX, and it cost me a lot more than the figures you quoted.

I do not mean to pick a fight, or say one manufacture's product is better than another. I just think we should get and give the straight poop. I work on and sell a bunch of Epilog and Universal Systems. I think they both make wonderful, reliable machines. I know that both companies do a fantastic job of supporting their customers. I just want us all to be dealing apples to apples in the marketplace.

Sandra Force
12-12-2007, 2:19 PM
Sounds like it is much the same as the Kerns. I use a computer per laser and need to keep them fairly free from other uses when running complicated jobs. It gives me great control over the cutting and engraving even though it does tie up the computer. An inexpensive Dell works well for operations and my high powered computer is used for programming.

Trevor Pettinato
12-12-2007, 6:27 PM
Trevor, it doesn't lack RAM on the system because they are cheap, they lack RAM because it's not treated as a printer as some others do. It has a job control program that is very sophisticated and powerful.


I by no means meant to bash ULS for their lack of RAM, and I have seen their new User Interface, it is quite impressive. It makes sense, after reading your post, as to why they do not just have the computer dump the job onto the laser and move on, since they still interact during and after the job. While I did mention the lack of RAM issue to the salesperson I spoke to, their answer was obviously lacking.


Scott Shepherd
12-12-2007, 6:58 PM
No problem Trevor, it wasn't taken as a bash. I just wanted to explain the difference because it doesn't get talked about too often.

jay vyas
04-22-2008, 4:16 AM
so finally guys i bought a epilog mini 35watts 5 mons ago :)

Jim Griffith
04-22-2008, 7:44 AM
My search had not turned up this thread and I almost posted up a question last night so I am glad this was at the top of the heap this morning!

I really appreciated reading everyone's comments and observations and many of my questions were answered. However there are a couple of things I am curious about.

First I will state we are hoping to do a 45-60 watt machine with 12x24 or 18x24 bed. Our immediate project would be vector cutting wood thins and about 1/8 styrene max, however we plan on expanding into awards, acrylic cutting and fabrication, signage etc... which is why we are shooting for more machine.

We think we have it narrowed down to an M-360 or v-460 from ULS or Epilog Mini-24 or Helix. We have read all the posts about getting all the power you can afford (we were originally looking at a 25w) but at what point does this all become overkill? Same with table size, we have to have 12x24 minimum, but will I come to wish we had that 50% larger table?

How important are the optics... I know both of the Epilogs we are looking at have the Radiance Optics, and I am pretty sure our ULS quotes have been with the stock optics (I am waiting to hear back from my rep to know for sure).

Pete, a ways down the road now... are you still pleased with your decision?

We are trying to work within a budget but don't want to be too cheap, however don't want to spend money we don't need to.

We want to pull the trigger on something this week, so at the risk of rehashing... a couple of years have past since many of these posts... any new things today we should keep in mind before plunking down the money?

Thanks all,

Mike Null
04-22-2008, 8:01 AM
Whenever I have needed a larger table it has generally been more width I needed rather than depth. Others may have a different experience but my table is now 29" (I can fit 31") and that has been more beneficial than the extra depth.

David Fairfield
04-22-2008, 8:24 AM
Agree with Mike, width has been more useful than depth. Have a 24" wide table, in 3 years operation, haven't yet travelled to the lower right corner :)

Also on the Epilog, their tech department seemed skeptical about using Adobe illustrator software, which is the industry standard for graphics artists such as myself. However, the Epilog will run Adobe without problems as long as your document dimensions are trimmed close to the artwork, and your dimensions and orientation are entered precisely in the driver before you hit print.

Took me a while to figure out the compatibility issues with Adobe, but it would have taken me a lot longer to learn Corel. Happy with my Epilog, tech service is great.


Pete Simmons
04-22-2008, 9:50 AM
3 years into it now.

One very happy Epilog Mini-18 35 watt user here.

Maybe 3 or 4 times in 3 years I have turned down work because of table size.

Well just had a request for 59 x 60 inch plexi but that is way out of my league.

If I replace the Mini-18 I would look into a full size Epilog but I also have a very small work space that I need to factor in.

All things considered I would probably go with a Mini-18 again.

Of course I (like everyone) want lotza watts but 35 watts has been plenty for just about everything I do.

Zvi Grinberg
04-23-2008, 2:17 AM
First, a clarification. I am a Universal Reseller in Israel. Far from taking direct business benefit from posting here, but still considered biased.

The VLS series (Versalaser) uses identical control software as the PLS and ILS. The only difference is the requirement to enable the manual settings.

RAM On Board
RAM on board is efficient when the laser machine has a CPU, receives information and needs to process the images to vector/raster.

In ULS machines the CPU is the host computer which fully controls the machine. This has several advantages:
The amount of RAM is endless.
The cost to add RAM is way lower
The job is always stored. Turn the laser off, and it's still there
Less communications between laser and host PC. Just control communicationsCPU
Any date you'd buy a machine with an internal CPU, you fix your computing resources for good. Take in account that development of machines take few years, you actually buy an old CPU. How would you feel if you found out that your CPU is 386 or 486 or even a Pentium?

With ULS, the CPU power is limitless.

As jobs get more complicated the demand from computing resources increases. If you buy a machine with an internal CPU and RAM - this would be your final configuration. If you buy a ULS, you upgrade your machine's resources every time you upgrade your PC

Not to mention another important fact. Hopefully your mainboard and CPU or memory would last for ever. But if you are concerned about potential service costs - replacement would be very expensive.

Servo vs Stepper
A story for the record - we had a visit from a prospect - a manufacturing facility who had a few Epilogs. They were all very well trained engineers, with great experiece, looking for better repeatability and precision.
They came with digital microscope and were surprized that the "cheap" Versalaser gave superior results and much less banding.
It was also faster than their other machines. Apparently, to get better precision from their other lasers they were restraining their machines to work slower and reduce acceleration/de-acceleration.
They bought a Versalaser with HPDFO and this is still their current choice for that certain job. Their Epilogs (being larger units with more wattage) are being used for mass work of simple cuts.
We did have to replace a belt during the warranty period, but now it's almost 2 years and the small beast is still doing the precision job, at least 8 hours a day.

The bottom line - I understand the arguments about servo vs steppers. I just do not agree with the conclusions.

Laser Tube Replacement
Well it's been discussed here already. Again - no one can predict that the only problem would be gas related. Problems occur without warning and Murphy's law is well known.
Another point is compatability. Tube manufacturers make progress all the time. It sometimes requires changes in the machine platform, mechanics and electronics. It is not obvious that when you need to replace a tube made in another manufacturer's, that the specific model would be available of fit the current machine. Mechanically, optically and even electric wiring.
ULS tube replacement is as easy as battery change on your TV's remote control.

Statistics Is The King
Our company sold several dozens of ULS machines in the last 3 years. The only laser tube we had to replace was on a new unit. Our other problems were lens (a customer's fault) and an X-Axis belt.

That means that our whole customer base suffered a total cost of less than 1,000 US$ for 3 years. Therefore had it not been on warranty, it would have cost about 5-10 US$ per year for each of our customers.