View Full Version : The Right Machine?

Jonathan Noble
01-31-2012, 11:20 AM
Hello, I'm new hear and about to buy my first laser engraver and was hoping to get a little help with a couple questions.

I will primarily be engraving and cutting hard and soft woods mostly 1/8" thickness occasionally possibly 1/4". Small designs with detail. The machine will be running many of these designs daily in a small production type environment.
I'm sure owning one of these machines will have me wanting to engrave everything else I own, so being able to do one off engravings on laptops and other items would be a bonus.

My questions are:
What laser wattage should I be looking at, I don't want to be underpowered but am working on a somewhat limited budget so don't want to be over powered either.

do the entry level trotec, epilog and Universal actually produce a professional grade product at a decent speed?

Is wood dust in the environment going to cause a problem with the machine?

I live in Eastern Canada, can anyone suggest a rep or business to deal with? This is my first step into the laser industry and I'm finding it a little strange in that it seems everyone hides their prices and it is difficult to get a response from reps or companies. Little different from what I am used to.

Thanks in advance!

Tony Lenkic
01-31-2012, 1:21 PM
Hey Jonathan, welcome to the Creek.

Manufacturers you have listed all have reps in Canada (Mississauga, Ont. for all three) Jon from Trotec Canada is a member here on the forum.
As for quality you will get from either one of them is top notch.

Personally, I would keep laser in the area with minimal wood dust flying around.

Dee Gallo
01-31-2012, 2:42 PM
Hi Jonathan,

Welcome to the Creek! Tony gave you good advice, and I would add that running a computer in a dusty environment is not great either. Any chance you can partition the area to protect it from too much wood dust?

I have a 35w Epilog and it will engrave and cut thin wood, but I'm sure a step up to 60 or more would be more efficient for a production setup. All of the brands you named will produce professional quality work, assuming you can prepare the files... do you have CorelDraw experience?

cheers, dee

Jonathan Noble
01-31-2012, 3:13 PM
Thanks for the responses. Luckily I've been using Adobe CS for years as well as having tinkered with CAD and 3D so I'm assuming the jump to CorelDraw shouldn't be too gruelling. I am curious though, if I could not just stick with Adobe Illustrator if the only reason to use CorelDraw is as a vector graphics editor (or perhaps there is another reason why CorelDraw is the program of choice?). I can absolutely partition off the laser but as it requires some remodelling I wanted to find out how necessary that would be before I went that route. This is a fairly big investment for me and I don't want to jeopardize the life of the machine. Thanks again!


Rodne Gold
02-01-2012, 1:03 AM
Some machines will let you use AI , ask the mnfgr of your intended model if it's possible. You can use mesh filters on your fans on the laser if its very dusty , try to stop the electonics getting dust on em and overheating as a result. 50-75W is what you are looking for (you can never be overpowred when it comes to cutting applications) there is no one laser in a price/performance class that is "better" than another , they all do more or less the same thing at the price , unless of course you go for a chinese machine which will do a little less than the "more or less the same thing" at 1/4 the price...

Mike Null
02-01-2012, 5:45 AM
If you consider buying a Chinese machine I would suggest you read all the posts here about the adventures you can expect when buying Chinese. There's a reason they are cheaper.

Jonathan Noble
02-01-2012, 4:03 PM
Ok good information, thank you. I've been considering the Chinese / American decision. As I plan not to be doing anything as fine detailed as photoengraving I feel like a Chinese laser might be a good option however I'm a little reluctant to step into a situation where I have to tinker with a machine to make it work when I have so little experience dealing with such machines. I've been reading the posts on this subject and others trying to educate myself. As with most, price point at this time is important. My budget is floating around 10K, it looks like that leaves me with the option of a chinese laser at a adequate wattage (50-75) or an American laser at 30watts, which now seems may be underpowered.
If I do go the 30 watt will cutting 1/8" hardwoods be completely impractical or just slow? As one idea I had was to start with a small American then once I've become more familiar with laser engraving in general purchase a larger chinese machine. Possibly then using the 30watt American for fine detail work and the larger 80w chinese to do the more gross work and cutting.

Thank you again for the help, finding Sawmill Creek has been a godsend!


Mike Null
02-01-2012, 4:24 PM
I started with a 25 watt Universal and cutting 1/8" stock is fairly slow but not as slow as cutting 1/4". But it will do the job and if you don't want to be a shade tree mechanic it may be the right answer.

Craig Matheny
02-01-2012, 5:06 PM
Jonathan as mentioned earlier there was a comment about "You can use mesh filters on your fans on the laser if its very dusty" if you cut wood all day long that mesh will plug up and you will loose suction and air movement. The laser will not create dust just exhaust it outside. I have a 1 hp exhaust fan that had 3/8" square mesh had to cut it out when the squares got about 1/2 full of build up. With wood you will need to do more cleaning also think of this you need to have a vacuum table the different manufactures make them with different size honeycomb small pieces will fall through on some.

Ernie Balch
02-01-2012, 9:26 PM
Take a look at rabbitusa web site. I had a 10k budget and wanted a turnkey system for cutting. I got a 80W RECI tube with a 3'x4' cutting area, computer with the software all setup. It also included the chiller and exhaust blower.

Ray flew out, set up the system and taught me how to use everything. He even installed software for remote trouble shooting but I have not needed it. The machine works perfectly.

I could have imported my own laser as others have done. It would have cost less but I decided to pay for a full service unit installed and ready to go.

Rodne Gold
02-02-2012, 12:40 AM
Google demciflex , the filters stick atop fan openings with magnetic sheeting , also can use a double sided tape , easy to remove and clean...
If you not "handy" ... then maybe avoid a chinese machine , suffice it to say that even with western machines and a service centre 1000 miles away from us , we still have to be as "handy" with ours
In production , the laser is merely a tool to produce your product , so you really need to concentrate on long term heavy useage reliabilty , time and cost to repair , throughput of the machine and so on , ideally you would want 2 lasers to ramp up production and provide some measure or redundancy.
In my opinion and experience , 30w is actually really not enough for your application , woods , especially solid wood , even 1/8th , really needs serious power.
The laser vaporises material , think of a butane soldering torch -- high wattage tube vs a bic lighter -- low wattage tube -- trying to burn a hole thru paper , both will do it , the torch will be a smaller and sharp edgesd hole , the lighter will make a mess but still do the job but with a lot more burnt edge damage.

Joe De Medeiros
02-02-2012, 11:58 AM
I don't know exactly what you are trying to make, but is the laser the best tool for the job? Can a CNC engraver/router do what you want? Just wondering.

Jonathan Noble
02-02-2012, 5:59 PM
Ok, great information everyone thanks so much. It looks like chinese is the only way in order to get a machine within my budget that has the power needed to do what I need it to do. I'm fairly handy, but not so much with electronics, it's simply an area that I've never really had reason to investigate. I guess that'll be changing soon. Living in Halifax, Nova Scotia is pretty off the beaten track as well and leads to some extra difficulties (like having no service centre). I'll look into RabbitUSA. Thanks again for the advice!

Jonathan Noble
02-02-2012, 6:15 PM
Joe: We are a family run business and we make and import fashion clothing and accessories. The purpose of this laser is to support production of accessories, primarily wooden and some acrylic jewelry specifically (and of course I hope to be able to use it for various personal projects as well). Based on my limited understanding a CNC router will not manage the level of detail that I need. But hey, I could be wrong, wouldn't be the first time : )