View Full Version : Laser purchase

mike wallis
02-28-2004, 9:48 PM
Hello all, the info in this forum is so valuable I think i've read every thread!
I've been in the market for a Laser engraver for a while now and have spent countless hours researching them. I think i've got the manufacture's narrowed down to 3, Pinnacle AKA"LaserPro", Epilog, and Universal. I'm trying to make the best decision for my money and there's no better input that those who own the product. If anyone has any of these engravers or any other I would be very grateful for any input.
I'm looking to engrave mostly wood products and beleave I need between 25-40 watt laser. My second question; is there a big difference in cutting quality between engravers, such as clean lines? Also , if you use a higher power "such as 40 watt" at a faster speed does that leave a cleaner line than a lower power "such as 25 watt" at a slower speed?

Sorry to bombard with all the questions, but any info will help me greatly.


Ken Salisbury
02-29-2004, 3:24 AM

I am sure you will get some input on your questions.

It should be noted however, a real first and last name are required by our Terms of Service (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/terms.php) to be a bona fide member of Sawmill Creek.

Please PM Jackie Outten (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/private.php?do=newpm&userid=6)with the necessary information and she will update your registration accordingly.

Thanks in advance.

Keith Outten
02-29-2004, 8:10 AM

I own an Epilog Legend 24 with a 35 watt power supply. Lasers cut clean in almost all materials. The speed and power settings will vary for each material type and for each laser tube. Generally you use the least amount of power you can when cutting to get the best surface. The manufacturer will provide a chart with general speed and power settings but you will need to do some testing to find the best settings for your machine on each material type. A 35 watt laser will cut 1/4" wood easily but it will not cut all types of wood. I have found that I cannot cut purpleheart at all, with max power and a very slow speed it just burns the wood and will even catch on fire if you go to slow.

There are some very big differences in engravers, particularly the rotary attachments and vector tables. Some machines are better suited for replacing parts as well and will allow you to do the maintenance and replace parts without a factory tech. You should definitely check the replacement price of laser tubes, you will find a big difference in price between the machines you are considering.

Here are a few quick facts concerning my machine;

- The manual is horrible, this is very common with most manufacturers.
- The vector table is unacceptable for precision engraving work.
- Autofocus was a very big waste of money, I never use it anymore.
- Don't purchase an expensive exhaust fan, a small dust collector is fine.
- My Epilog is temperature sensitive, it will often dump the engraving file right in the middle of the job if the temperature gets above 85 degrees F.
- Plan on using a local area network to connect to your laser, the serial connection is so slow you will die on the job waiting for a large file to load.

All of the problems are relatively easy to overcome. I'm not trying to paint a bad picture, just warn you that there will be issues and that just because you spend a lot of money for a machine you will still have a few problems to address before you start raking in the money :) Plan on the first month being all research and development with lots of operator training and frustration. The second month is much easier and more rewarding.

I haven't mentioned software, that's another area all together.

Overall, lasers are truly the most versatile machines I have ever seen. They are capable of astonishing you every day for years, if you have a creative mind you will be fascinated beyond your wildest dreams. The list of materials and techniques you can use and develop is almost endless but there will only be 24 hours in each day.

mike wallis
02-29-2004, 11:10 AM
Thanks for taking the time to reply Keith, Up untill now all i've had is the company's input on there products.
You mentioned to use a dust collector for the exhaust, my main concern is im in a residental ultill I get a shop set up and im not sure if fumes will be a problem vented outside. I see some companys offer carbon systems that claim to reduce vapors and fume's greatly, but im concerned with having to change the carbon filters fequently. Does the engraver put out large amouts of smoke when cutting or engraving wood?

Thanks again,

mike wallis
02-29-2004, 11:12 AM
Hi Ken,
Sorry for the trouble. I just PM over my full name, i'll also try to update it in my profile.


Keith Outten
02-29-2004, 1:37 PM

The carbon filters are very expensive and don't last very long. Don't worry about exhausting outside, there is very little smoke or fumes and in order to smell anything you would have to be standing right next to the exhaust end of the pipe. What little smoke or fumes there is gets mixed with hundreds of cubic feet of fresh air by the dust collector.

If you are using bags for your DC system just run a pipe branch to the outside before the bags and use a valve to open for engraving and close for normal shop work.

You must have an exhaust fan running every second you are engraving and an air supply as well.

Dennis Peacock
03-01-2004, 1:20 PM
Hey Keith..!!!!

Is there a less expensive way us "common folk" can laser engrave our own pieces?

Robert Ducharme
03-01-2004, 4:15 PM

Get a heavy duty flash light and a magnifying glass. Just move both around as needed burning lines on the piece :D

I ddn't see anything in your question about being precise :rolleyes:

Keith Outten
03-01-2004, 7:13 PM

If there is an inexpensive laser engraver that will deliver the precision and power of the major manufacturers machines I would be the first to purchase one. There are desktop units that sell for ten thousand dollars but most woodworkers would still consider them on the extreme end of the money scale.

Unless you are willing to make a large financial commitment and add a laser to your list of woodworking machines your best bet is to find a local engraver and trade off services. Another option is for a group or guild to purchase a laser and everyone share in the costs and schedule time on the machine.

If you are a small to medium woodworking shop you can finance a laser, an $18,000 machine will cost you about 25 bucks per day. If you sell one engraved plaque per day you are income positive. If you add say 25% to your current price for the products you are making because you add engraving you would see a nice increase in profit. Last but not least you will most likely be able to serve markets that might be just out of reach to you now.

Oh! Don't forget the increased traffic to your workshop from people who just love to see what you have been working on lately. You can also trade off engraving work for advertising in other local businesses.

The bottom line...if I could buy one anyone can. I run a one man operation in a 24' by 36' shop, I expect a very high percentage of our members have better equipment than I do except for one very special machine :)

Anyone who is seriously thinking about buying a laser should call me before you make the final decision. An hour on the phone will save you lots of time and money.