View Full Version : Cheapest laser for plastic trophy plates only?

Allen Scott
12-10-2012, 8:26 AM
I have an old Epilog Summit laser engraver from around 1990. Its amazing how long this thing has lasted on its original laser, bearings, etc. The only thing I have ever replaced is a belt and an x motor. I couldnt even count the amount of hours I have put this through.

That being said, i do not use it near as much anymore, maybe only a few jobs a month. Its still alive and kickin, but my fear is that anyday now Im gonna go out to the garage to use it and the laser or something major will be out. So Im starting to plan for my next machine.

I used to own a retail trophy store, and no longer do this much. I have literally about 5 customers I do out of my garage part time. Id guess I make maybe 3-5k a year doing this. Since I have a full time job, most the money I make doing this is just play money. But Iv been thinking about maybe trying to get a few extra customers and make it a real part time job and just put everything I make in savings, for an extra savings account. But since my laser is probably on its last leg, im hesitant to go after any new business.

So i have a question. Mainly everything I do now is the flexi gold plastic engraving sheets with the 3M tape on the back. I raster engrave the words and then vector cut (not all the way through) the borders so that the plates stay on the sheet, and then basically "peel" them out like a sticker to put on trophies. Occasionally Ill do a crystal, plaque or something else, but really 99% of what I do is these plastic plates.

Now heres the kicker, I dont want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a laser that will take me forever to make the money to pay for. Iv seen and heard of these chinese lasers before and Iv read a few things about glass tubes not lasting real long, no real support, etc. But im a pretty techy guy and can adjust a laser beam, set the rules, replace a tube, etc. I dont mind the tubes going out sooner if they are cheap to replace.

What would you guys say is my best bet if im looking for a laser for as cheap as possible for my application? Id like it to have good enough quality so I could engrave about 8-10pt font sizes on 2" plates.

in a perfect world, the laser would be about 24"x12" engraving size (can live with a little smaller), red dot pointer for those odd jobs, use Corel Draw and Windows 7, etc... Id perfer something now water cooled and can just plug in and use my exhaust system I already have.

Rodne Gold
12-10-2012, 8:35 AM
Keep what you got..maybe budget for a tube replacement and thorough service. Only problems you might have with your laser are spares availability and the operating system it works on. Thats your cheapest option. You say it's on its last legs?? What are the symptoms that it is so?

Allen Scott
12-10-2012, 9:02 AM
well about a year ago, I called Epilog and if i remember correctly, they told me these lasers arent really in stock anymore, and would have to special order them or something along those lines? Anyway, I think I remember them saying somewhere in the neighborhood of $3000 for a replacement.

as far as current symptoms, not alot. Like I said, this machine has been a champ. But I think the bearings may need to be replaced as the quality has gone down. I have to run it around 50% speed or slower to get decent quality on small print. Also, one of my lenses is pretty old and scratched up. And Im also fighting issues with the limit switch in the back and the big X arm going home. Sometimes I have to trip the little switch myself to tell it its home. LIke I said, nothing major and certainly not for a 15 year old machine. But by time I buy a new laser, bearings, lens, limit switch and whatever else, just seems like a waste of money to be honest. Why put this much money into a dinosaur? When something like a CPU or something else could go out the next day after spending thousands on it. And i still wont have red dot pointers, etc that some newer (even cheap) machines have.

Ross Moshinsky
12-10-2012, 9:18 AM
It sounds like you need to figure out if you want to commit the money or not. 25-35W is more than enough to handle what you're doing. Options are to fix what you have, buy something from China, or buy a US made machine (new or used).

There is one other option, find a local engraver that will either rent time on his machine or just have them do the work and you make the money.

Allen Scott
12-10-2012, 9:39 AM
exactly where I stand. and thats why im here looking for suggestions. I personally just do not think spending the money on the old machine seems like a wise decision. I just fear that ill continue dumping more and more money into it and eventually woudl have spent near as much as buying a new real US machine like a versalaser or something.
It seems like around $5k is a decent amount to get a nice used US machine like an M360, versalaser, etc. But if possible, I perfer not to spend that kinda money right now. Id feel more secure spending about half that amount on a chinese machine that I could pair with my old epilog and between the two, feel secure that I could take on some new customers. Then once I feel secure about that, try and drum up a few new customers and make a little money, then buy a real machine.

what do you guys know about something like this? seems like it uses corel draw, red pointer, etc


Ross Moshinsky
12-10-2012, 10:19 AM
I suggest you read some reviews on the cheap lasers. I have no experience with them but there are a lot of people unhappy with them. They really are a toy. If saving money is your #1 objective, you need to contact a Chinese supplier and get a machine made for you. You'll find they won't even recommend their $800 specials.

Personally, I don't think a 40W Chinese laser is worth the savings compared to a used US made machine but that's not my decision to make. For me, the Chinese lasers really become a good value when you talk about large machines that have high powered tubes.