View Full Version : Epiloge mini24 vs Pls 3.6 vs Trotec Speedy 100A

James Morley
05-26-2008, 1:45 PM
I just got a grant to purchase a laser for my high school. This will be used for engineering projects, architecture models and a student run business.
Am looking at the Epilog Mini 24 45w, Universal PLS 3.6 50W, and the Trotec Speedy 100A 45W. I want the rotary and air assist.
I've found a lot of info on both the Epilog and the Universal but little on the Trotec. Need to make the purchase this summer.
We are running Rhino 4.0, RhinoCam, SolidWorks, Chief Architect 11.
I know I'm splitting hairs on quality at this price point and the real issue is support, parts, and software.
I like to lean by watching others. Any suggestions?

Dee Gallo
05-26-2008, 2:22 PM

From my limited experience, I would suggest finding out which company has a repair/service person the closest. I have Epilog and found that having "a guy" you can call on is very valuable, unless you are able to do repairs/adjustments yourself. I don't have experience with other brands, but from this forum, you can see that every brand has its fans, leading me to believe they are all pretty good machines.

Happy hunting, dee

Jim Huston
05-26-2008, 2:32 PM
Can't speak to others but a large factor in my purchase of a universal was the cost of replacing a laser tube. MUCH cheaper with a ULS.
Just my way -- your mileage may vary

John Lewandowski
05-26-2008, 4:25 PM
What kind of a student run business is this? If I understand correctly you are receiving a grant to compete with private businesses. Do you have to adhere to regulations with minimum wages and labor? I'm not sure I agree with my tax dollars going to compete with private businesses.


Mike Null
05-26-2008, 8:01 PM

I took your postion on another forum without a lot of support. But this is going to be a toy for the teacher as the kids probably won't have time to learn the software or have an opportunity to run it.

Dee Gallo
05-26-2008, 8:22 PM

I took your postion on another forum without a lot of support. But this is going to be a toy for the teacher as the kids probably won't have time to learn the software or have an opportunity to run it.

I don't know, Mike... when I taught, my students could use CorelDraw well, used it to run large format printers and vinyl cutters and I'm sure if we had a laser they could have done that too. The Commercial art class did a lot of work for both in-house needs (which was good practice for the "real world") and the community, which I always disliked even though they were always "not-for-profit" agencies. Supporting a "student business" will have to be defined better, or I'm with you as far as competing with local business with slave labor paid for by landowners.

Richard Rumancik
05-26-2008, 9:34 PM
I think that introducing students to manufacturing and business in high school is a good thing. I really doubt that they are going to put any local enterprise out of business. I don't know the details of James' "student business"; maybe he will elaborate. But more than likely they will be producing small items for sale within the school or to family and friends.

Lots of schools have small CNC equipment or similar shop equipment and may "manufacture" small items. Our local high school has an embroidery machine which they use in the fashion program, but they also take orders (mostly from students) for custom embroidery on t-shirts. I really doubt that the volume of work that is "taken away" from a private business is very substantial. Most of it probably would not have been done at all, had the machine not been located within the school. The money is used for fundraising; it doesn't go in anyone's pocket. Personally I'd rather have them fundraise this way than some of the other common fundraising techniques, like selling door-to-door.

There's no reason why the students can't learn the software to cut out 2D shapes. Maybe they won't become laser gurus but they can do basic things under supervision. Many schools have CNC routers in their shop programs. I don't see why this would be much different.

I think we need more students with business and manufacturing aptitude and feel that this is an interesting program.

Dee Gallo
05-26-2008, 9:50 PM
I agree with every point you made, Richard, which is why I think the "student business" needs to be better described so we don't read into it. The benefits for the kids would be great if used in a manner such as you described. It is, after all, just another off-shoot for the computer graphic skills taught in many school districts today.

I'd be interested in hearing more from James.

James Morley
05-27-2008, 1:22 AM
Thanks for the laser info. I'm still curious about the Trotec though if anyone out there has any experience with one.
As to the student run business...Wow I had no idea this would get so off point!
The Tech department and the Marketing are working togther to promote and handle in house projects as well as the possibility of accepting small private jobs. Marketing and tech students have to work together to complete a project or order. My marketing partner handles the business side and legal. I handle the production and quality control. The whole point is to give students relevant hands on experience with real world situations, something the public criticizes these same students for lacking skills in when they graduate. Businesses will not allow our kids in due to liability issues but are very willing to come in and work on my turf with these students. The local shops are begging for students with any experience and that know how to work.
The teachers toy, I wish. 400 students will be required to run this machine next year freshman through seniors. My 2 vinyl cutters run all day long. I have to sign up for time like everyone else. I expect the same with the laser.
In closing, my program is learning through doing. It's time these kids learned it 's the finished product (the fit and finish) that counts...not how nice they are. That's the the real world is and I'm just trying to ease the fall.

For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

Mike Null
05-27-2008, 7:04 AM

I have a Trotec Speedy 300 which I 've had for nearly two years. It has been flawless and I am very happy that I made the decision to buy this brand. Tech support has been superb though only needed to correct operator errors.

I love the idea of trade schools and industrial arts training but I don't see this as an area where the money would be well spent.

I am critical of schools when kids come out and can't read or write.

FYI, teachers are the only people I even come close to giving hero status.

David Fairfield
05-27-2008, 10:30 AM
Yeah, I also have to wonder about the logic of spending that kind of scratch on a toy, when the average HS graduate is barely literate and depends on a calculator for simple addition. Lack of high tech is not the problem, too much high tech is the problem.

That being said, try to run samples using the software you intend to use through each of the machines, before making a purchase. I think the "on board" processors of these lasers are optimized for Corel, and using other software might be problematic. It took me about a year of frustrating experience using Adobe Illustrator before I ironed out all the kinks. A lot of seemingly insignificant issues can cause software indigestion when running something other than Corel.

So basically you're going to have to teach these kids Corel, or spend a lot of down time getting your machine to crunch the software.

Also question the need for a rotary, see what users here have to say about theirs before spending the school's $


Keith Outten
05-27-2008, 4:16 PM

I may be in the minority here but I think its a great idea. My feeling is that laser engravers and cnc routers are facinating machines and that helps to keep a students interest. Once they start learning to use these machines and see their design efforts being produced it fuels the fire.

We have a ShopBot in our local high school and nobody runs the dang thing.....what a waste :( The problem isn't the students it is stupid red tape and lack of understanding on the adults end.

Good luck with your search and more power to you. Would you consider moving to Gloucester County Virginia and teaching at our high school?



Michael Kowalczyk
05-27-2008, 6:00 PM
Hello James and welcome to the Creek,

We have a Trotec Speedy II 60 watt and have had only a few minor issues and they were resolved immediately. One was a cracked lens and the tech just happened to be in town with a spare one and swapped them out. Same thing for an air assist pump. Swapped it out and never had another issue with it. Tech support is great and very resourceful.

It is fast, easy to run and low maintenance. Epilog and ULS are good machines. Read through the Creek and you will see praises and problems. You will have to sort through them though because some people never have a problem, have read and follow the directions and/or were well trained. Others may have had problems from the minute they opened the crate. You never know until you ask. I think that you will always see more problems than praises (and sometimes patterns) because many people are a lot quicker to complain than to praise but you will see many praises here about machines and dealers.

We have had ours since 2003 (I think) and still on the original laser cartridge. If you are running them every day of the school year you will have to replace it much sooner. Ask Trotec how much for a replacement and how easy it is to replace it and how to make sure it is aligned correct.

Software: If your students are good with Rhino, they could draw in it and maybe you can have one copy of CorelDrawX4 on the PC that runs the laser. Or if you can get a great deal with Corel, have them learn it. As with most software there is no Panacea. I personally do my CAD drawings in BobCad 21 because it is easier, IMHO, to draw precise drawings and then save as a DXF or DWG and just import them into Corel and assign the colors from the Trotec color palette.

If I am doing simple objects, engravings or any text I typically will use Corel Draw.

I strongly believe in industrial arts in High School. I am a product of it. I get to use my 2+ years of Wood Shop, Architectural drawing and Electronics regularly. Powershop and Metalshop occasionally.

The Teachers are the ones that can make it fun to learn by allowing the creativity and talents of the students to bloom while learning how to use the equipment safely but the students have to have the desire to pursue it. This would be a great catalyst and by working with local business owners instead of against them, can have positive results for the community. Can also be another employment pool for them. But first and foremost I think they should be accountable for their grades and in order to participate in actual projects, they must maintain a "B" average or something fair.
(NO pass, No play)

I have and continue to stress the importance of Math, English and Communication skills (those are skills other than text messaging and IM) to my teenage daughter and support her in her academics. She may not have chosen all the classes I suggested (business type) but she is in the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society and is an officer in FFA. I humbly mention this only because even though I would have liked her to take the business classes I suggested to her, she is using the God given talents and gifts she was born with and honing them in school and if there are 400 students in James' school that want to learn how to design and use a laser, I think that's great and just imagine what talents can be honed in a laser class. Our school district has a huge Agriculture program and a minimal industrial arts program. I wonder what she would have chosen if her school had a laser or CNC program??:)

I think that if the local laser Owner/operators are willing to assist in the program at the school and not in their shop, is perfectly understandable. You have to protect your Trade secrets, worry about possible theft, liability, SAFETY, and several other reasons a business owner may not want to have 20+- students in their shop, if they are not set up for it. What would happen if the laser broke while a student was using it?

If the school and the laser business owners are willing to participate in a school sponsored apprentice/mentor type program (or what ever you want to call it), that's good for the community. If the laser owners felt threatened by this, I don't think they would be willing to participate.

I think having both the tech and marketing depts involved from start to finish is an excellent idea.

Sorry so long but I wish my area had a program I could work with. I have a blast when friends bring their kids over and I get to teach them something about manufacturing. Many youth have no clue about what it takes to bring a product from a concept to a retail shelf. I have been recording, on my Tivo, "How it's Made" on the Science channel for over 4+ years and I think it covers the manufacturing side pretty extensively and I would recommend all schools show at least a weeks worth of shows on products that the students use throughout their school day and then maybe ask them how they think they might be able to improve it or the process. You'll get some crazy ideas but I'm sure someone said "Your crazy if you think a computer will fit on your lap" If they understood what it takes to make something as simple as a toothpick, how bread is sliced and packaged or how the chaulk board was made, I believe they would look at things from a different perspective and be less of a throw away generation. (sorry had to chase that rabbit)

Whether it is letting them pick out the fonts and then cutting out their name on the laser or tossing/placing a blank piece of wood on the CNC table with the vacuum turned on (but the CNC is turned off) and then ask them to get it for me. The look on their face is precious when they can't move it and it opens up the door for more questions and really gets their gears turning in that info sponge vehicle between their ears. They almost always ask "How did you do that?" and I turn it back to them and ask them "How do you think I did it?

I say "Don't just give it (the answer) to them, make them work for it and take ownership" they will appreciate it more. I guess it applies here a little also. I think your off to a good start by posting here but do a search here in the laser section, if you haven't already and make a tally sheet of problems (and ho they were handled) and praises. I would also recommend you bring 2 or more projects, that you design, to each of the laser reps and have them run it from start to finish. Bring your own material so you know that you are comparing apples to apples and the only variable is the Laser and possible software.

If you have any other specific questions, please let us know and ...

Mike Mackenzie
05-28-2008, 1:07 AM

I am not sure of where you are located, however you may want to contact some of the universities, We have several universities doing exactly what you are wanting to do. Some of the larger ones include USC, Cal Poly, Art Center.

I am positive you can get some very good references from these schools.

James Morley
05-28-2008, 2:08 AM
Thanks alot for the Trotec comments. My gut feeling was that they are more geared for industry users not education and that was why I came here. A rep came out an gave me a demo of the Speedy 300. I was impressed. The machine appeared solid and the software interface was very user friendly. My main priority is to print directly from Rhino 4 which it did without a flaw. The vendor printed from Corel also with no problems. I own a copy of Corel X4 but haven't really played with it.
I'm looking at a PLS 3.6 (the new professional series)this week also. It will be interesting how they compare.
Thanks for the suggestion on the rotary. I was having similar feelings as to its value.
The dollars for this equipment comes from industry grants not school dollars. Didn't cost the taxpayers one cent. Got a 3D printer the same way. I didn't get paid for doing it either. The purpose is to encourage more students to pursue careers in science, engineering, and technical related careers and to reinforce math skills. Now I have the tools to articulate with the local Community College. All it cost me was 3 years of my life researching, writing, making industry connections, and surrounding myself with really smart people. I'm set, and it was worth every minute. I don't have a shop in my HS so I have had to bring my own tools into class and do the fabricating for projects. Otherwise my engineering and architectural projects were all done with scissors, paper, glue, and balsa. This cutter will sure take a load off my back from lifting saws to and from work.

If you don't keep your line in the water, you won't catch any fish.

Zvi Grinberg
05-28-2008, 6:39 AM
The dollars for this equipment comes from industry grants not school dollars. Didn't cost the taxpayers one cent. Got a 3D printer the same way. I didn't get paid for doing it either.

Which 3D Printer did you choose?

Peck Sidara
05-28-2008, 10:09 AM

Have you or will you be contacting your local Epilog representative for a demo as well?

Demos on all three laser systems, references, local representation, service, features and benefits, warranty will lead to making the right decision.

James Morley
05-28-2008, 11:11 PM
Chose the ZCorp 310 in 2005. It's old technology now (powder base) and have had good luck with it considering it is shared between 2 HS programs. We bought a trailer to share on a quarterly basis. The 310 is pretty old technology now with the new materials, but it still does everything we need to promote design in engineering. It has been low maintenence considering how hard it has been used. It plays well with Rhino and is easy to use. I don't get to run it very often. My kids do everything, clean, fill, unload, depowder, treat parts, etc. I just oversee. We are switching over to a water cure powder this summer. I have seen the new Dimensions out and they are really nice. I haven't seen a new ZCorp. We got a quality product and service with them. I have been very happy. You sure can buy a lot more machine now than what we paid back in 05.
I have been in contact with Epilog and even received a quote. He just needs to find a machine to show me and I need to find a time to invite him in. I have the most feedback on the Epilog systems since many of the instructors I meet in a CNC workshop in WA have them. I have heard nothing but great things. I'm just one of those people who have to see things work before I buy.

David Fairfield
05-29-2008, 6:23 AM
By the way, highly recommend getting the extended warranty. I'm thinking what would happen to my machine if I lent it to the local HS. :eek:

Not that any students would deliberately break anything, but first time users will make all kinds of goofs that had the potential to cause damage. Stuff like the laser head whacking against a three dimensional object, auto focus missing the object and crunching it, object jamming the x or y axis during operation, stuff catching fire...

Multiply your typical first time user mistakes by the number of kids who have access to this thing (but don't have an investment in it) and you see what I mean. I would certainly not want to be alone in the wilderness when I heard that awful crunch :(

On the Epilog, the engraving quality is tops, and their tech service is excellent. :)