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Thread: would appreciate insight on laser engravers

  1. #1

    would appreciate insight on laser engravers

    I've read many of the posts and conversations on laser engraving in this forum. It has been quite helpful. I own an art and event gallery as well as a retail store. One of my best selling items is driftwood that has quotes engraved into the driftwood. The driftwood is usually between 6" - 12" long and the quotes are burnt into the driftwood at a of maximum 1/16". This is all that I will be using the engraver for. I've done some research and it seems the trotec, universal and epilog laser engravers have the best reviews. Here are some questions I have:

    1. Is the speed of the engraver based on the watts? What is the minimum watt system you would recommend for what I am doing?

    2. Which of the engravers have built in job control software? Or which is easiest to use? As mentioned above I have not doing complicated cuts, only engraving of words into driftwood.

    3. I want an engraver that has a decent size surface area. Will I be able to make a templete to put on the bed of the engraver so I can engrave more than 1 piece of wood at a time?

    4. I live in the SF Bay area. Are there any expos or engraving places you know of in this area?

    5. I am interested in purchasing a used engraver. Does this site or what would be the best site to purchase a good used engraver?

    Thank you in advance for your feedback.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Cleveland OH
    Hey Christopher,

    How many of these do you sell per week ?
    Can you get drift wood at a good price ?
    Have you used any type of cnc in the past?

    1. Yes in most cases the Laser tubes Watts has a direct impact on how fast you can cut and engrave. I cant tell you a minimum power to go with but I would recommend 80 watts +, The brands you stated are expensive so you have to make sure you can sell alot of these items.
    2. We have used a trotec laser cutter and it would be very easy to setup this job, havent used the other machines - Most lasers have software that works directly from your PC or Mac.
    3. The bigger the bed the more money the machine will cost. With your type of project its possible to setup templates but Its unlikely to work well if all your pieces are different sizes and thickness. From your picture it looks like one pieces is a inch taller than the others and this would cause a problem, if they are all similar sizing and thickness you would be able to setup a template.

    As stated before you really have to justify the spending to own and operate a laser cutter - They can be expensive to own. If your making a few thousand a month profit on these items then it might be worth it. Otherwise your better off sourcing the wood and having a local shop do the work. A $20,000 dollar machine sitting in the warehouse to make 20 signs a month wouldn't be worth it at all (Pricing base on name brand lasers you stated).
    3X Camfive 1200 48" x 24" 100watt Tube
    Zcorp 450 3d Printer
    Laguna Smartshop 2 - 4x8 ATC

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    South Elgin, IL
    As a general statement, it's not really wattage alone that equates to speed in engraving applications.
    Yes, more wattage (power) allows you to go to a greater depth quicker, which is good for cutting, but in engraving the other factor is how fast the machine can move from one spot to the next and produce acceptable results.
    There are plenty laser engravers with high wattage that seem very slow when engraving, compared to a Trotec or Epilog.

    If you are primarily engraving wood and don't want to put masking on it, and don't want to sand the surface to remove scorch marks or soot, then higher wattage may not be appropriate. This is because at some point the extra power only results in more charring and you then have to increase the speed of rastering to eliminate that. If your speed is set at 100 and your engraving is getting too burnt, then you have to use less power.

    If you branch off into other work you may benefit from higher power though, and once you have a laser you will find all sorts of things to try in it. When cutting (not engraving) thicker materials it will be a big help.

    I engrave into various woods and on anodized aluminum plates and my Trotec is only 30 watts.
    More wattage might make it faster to engrave wood but I'm not doing 8 hours of production work every day where the difference of 90 seconds to engrave versus 30 seconds to engrave (just a hypothetical example) would make any difference to me. With unique shaped pieces of wood, most of your time will be in set up.
    Materials Conversion Specialist
    I take perfectly good large pieces of stuff & turn them into smaller pieces having dubious value

    LASER: Trotec Speedy 300 30 Watt, CNC: Shopbot PRT, Vinyl Cutter: Summa Sign Pro T750
    Old School: a tool box full of brand new sign painting brushes from the 60's

  4. #4
    IF all you plan to do is engrave driftwood--

    THEN get yourself the smallest Rabbit that comes with a 60w laser--

    It will simply be the best machine for you.

    --it will cost more than other Chinese machines, but you'll have Ray Scott to set it up for you and show you how to run it, AND you'll have Ray Scott to help you with any issue you ever have with it.

    And it will still cost 1/3 of a Western machine, which IMHO is a total waste of money just to engrave driftwood.
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle

  5. #5
    1. From May - Sept. I sell about $4k in driftwood a month. The guy I get the driftwood with quotes on them from now is not reliable in getting my order to me in a reasonable time.
    2. I get the driftwood for free.
    3. I have not used anytype of cnc in the past. I realized there is going to be a learning curve, but the amount I spend in finished pieces, I can make up for in a short period of time.

    Thank you for your feedback

  6. #6
    I will give them a call. Does the rabbit have job control software?

  7. #7
    thank you for your feedback

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Iowa USA
    Quote Originally Posted by christopher holbrook View Post
    I will give them a call. Does the rabbit have job control software?
    If you know nothing about lasers, CNC, design software and job control software you have a long ways to go. Why not just find another guy with a laser? Even with Rabbit from Ray Scott you still have a big learning curve for someone who is just interested in a one item retail sales. Cutting out the middle man without understanding the process involved....?
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Seattle, WA
    Blog Entries

    Bill is spot on. It sounds like you should explore more before you spend $$ on this. And I agree with Kev too. If you are only thinking of your current work with driftwood I would not bother with a Trotec and its high price. If you are future proofing and have good ideas bouncing around...OK. But if this is your main use for the machine a Trotec is mighty expensive for what you are doing. Trotec owners!!! Speak up! Scott pehaps?

    Also, be aware....if the driftwood surface you are going to engrave is not flat, but instead curved like a branch or log, you might find you exceed the normal depth of field of a laser lens. You may or may not be aware that laser lenses have VERY short depth of fields. For example, for a standard 2" lens you may find that you have a usable focus area that goes above your point of focus by about .05" and below that same point by .05". That doesn't permit much variation in the surface that you are likely to find on driftwood? You can get greater depth of field by going to a longer lens, like a 4 or 5" lens, but even then you are talking about a depth of field of roughly .3". And in the process the dot size of your beam at the point of focus will be much larger with the longer lens. For a 2" lens the dot size should be about .004" and from a 5" lens it will be around .010". Your photo seems to show fairly small, flat surfaces so this may not be an issue for you. But just be aware of these numbers.

    One thought? Have you considered a small micro sandblaster? It would allow you to do this work in Driftwood, rocks, steel, pretty much any surface. And a relatively high end micro unit like something from SMS Systems Inc would be far far less costly than a Trotec. Just a thought if you hadnt looked into this.

    Keep poking though. There are many things you should be aware of and reading is going to be the best way to get it.
    900x600 80watt EFR Tube laser from Liaocheng Ray Fine Tech LTD. Also a 900x600 2.5kw spindle CNC from Ray Fine. And my main tool, a well used and loved Jet 1642 Woodlathe with an outboard toolrest that helps me work from 36 inch diameters down to reallllllly tiny stuff.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    I think a 60 watt Rabbit Laser will suit you fine. It does not have job control but for what you wntr to do its not really necessary. The learning curve is not to bad and Ray will set you up and show you how to do it in an afternoon. You'll being doing driftwood on your own in one day.Yes you can make a templet and do more then one piece at a time.
    If the Help and advice you received here was of any VALUE to you PLEASE! Become a Contributor
    Rabbit RL_XX_6040-60 watt Laser engraving/cutting machine Oh wait its a 3D Printer my bad LOL
    Lasercut 5.3
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    10" Table Saw
    8" bench mount 5 speed Drill Press
    Dremel, 3x21 Belt Sander

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Cleveland OH
    Just though about this post again - Your samples are marked Dr.Seuss - You would want to make sure you get approval from the trademark holder. In a small store you might be fine but if you ever sold online then you would have problems. Just something you want to get approved before you buy equipment. Not many makers think of this and it bites them in the butt - We had to destroy 7k in inventory about four year because trademark holder wouldn't approve our product (Sad few weeks)
    Example Below
    Last edited by Robert Bonenfant; 02-22-2017 at 8:52 PM.
    3X Camfive 1200 48" x 24" 100watt Tube
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    Laguna Smartshop 2 - 4x8 ATC

  12. #12
    In all probability, you will not be able to use a template. I never saw two pieces of driftwood alike or even close. You will probably be doing one piece at a time and that's not all bad. They can usually be done quickly.

    I would also suggest you consider a sandblaster as it will allow you to do a variety of such things, including river rocks, which are quite popular and which can't be done as well with a laser.

    Whatever you decide you'll need to familiarize yourself with a drawing program such as CorelDraw.
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

    Trotec Speedy 300, 80 watt
    Woodworking shop CLTT and Laser Sublimation
    Evolis Card Printer
    CorelDraw X5

  13. Thank you all for your feedback. Fortunately I have an employee that is familiar with a few of the standard drawing programs. I have looked into finding other businesses that could supply me with a finished product. There aren't any in the SF bay area that are affordable. Another reason for having my own machine is being able to make a finished piece whenever I need it. There will certainly be a learning curve, but if you don't try you will never succeed.

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