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Thread: Laser for Hobby use and stay under $2K budget

  1. #1

    Laser for Hobby use and stay under $2K budget

    Not sure how I should title it, but complete NEWB with laser cutting. What I am looking to do is get a cutter to cut out the parts for some airplanes that we are planning to build. A friend of mine wants to scratch build an 1/8th scale B-17, and is working on drawing up all the parts. He would like to have the parts laser cut. I also have at least 5 different large scale planes that I want to cut out as well. I would need a cutting area of about 24", though a couple parts exceed 24", so have been looking around at Chasers (Chinese Lasers) and came across a few with 28 x 20 cutting area, 60-80 watt CO2. One example is This one which fits the budget. I had initially looked at Glowforge and was highly impressed until I learned it is all cloud based. I work with the cloud, I know how unstable it can be, and I also know that if the cloud ever goes BOOM, then I would have a very expensive paperweight! It also requires an internet connection, which where I live is spotty, so using it would be very time consuming as it sends what it sees to the cloud, where it gets it thing together, then transmit it to my PC, then back to the cloud to control the cutting. Yeah, not going to work, and expensive to boot. Looked at Dremel, did I mention expensive! WOOF, even more!

    So, there are K40 lasers, $400, cool, well, 12 x 8 is no where big enough for what my plans are. There is a 16 x 16 one, 50w, for under $700. Doable, for some, but not everything I plan to cut. The one linked above is the most appropriate sized one, with the power needed to cut through at least 10MM aircraft plywood, which is the thickest we would be using. The majority of cuts will be in 1/8" balsa, with some parts being made of laminated balsa up to maybe 3/8". I will be converting a lot of it to metric since my plans are all done in metric, but materials are mostly sized SAE here.

    OK, so to get to the main part of my post, the questions. I have not done CNC since 1988 back when I programmed Strippet turret punch presses where the program was punched out on fanfold paper tape and loaded into the machine via a light reader. The laser isn't really much different with X Y coordinates, and the power level and on/off for the tooling instead of the turret position and ram speed.

    1. What I don't know, is there a Z axis on these with the table position? I see that the table is power adjusted on the model I linked, but is that just for positioning the material to the laser focal point?

    2. The software.

    2a. Importing, I have found and am testing out Inkscape. My plans are all in PDF format, so I can import them, and I guess, trace the parts, but that is as far as I got with it. I will need to figure out what to do with the trace, or how to trace it so that I can export the parts. EDIT: No question! LOL Other than Inkscape, any others that do what I want to do, import PDF and trace it.

    2b. Exporting, once I have my parts, what software is used to "print" the parts out on the laser? It does not appear that the cutters I am looking at have any software, but instead have a USB input to the controller, and possible can load a file from a USB stick.

    2c. Would prefer it to run on Linux. I have a Sherline CNC mill that runs on Linux, maybe can even use the software from it, but doubt it since it is for the mill. I haven't used it yet because the power supply that I got with the mill was the right voltage, wrong type, and AC does not function well with a DC based controller. Thankfully the power supply burned up and not the controller (Diodes are wonderful aren't they?). Would be good to have one machine to run both, less bench space used, and just needs the output software, the CAD work can be done on other machines I have.

    3. The Cutter/engraver itself. Anything, and everything! I want to stay on budget, but if an upgrade can/should be done for the controller, then I can make it work. Is there a better controller than what comes on these, and will it work with the same output software?

    4. Power output. I have read where the meters, well, they didn't meter well and the tubes burned out long before their time. What is the best method for controlling the output, and is it something that an upgrade will be needed?

    5. Did I miss anything? Already have ideas for a chiller, and ventilation.

    I have no problem with modifying, upgrading or anything like that, I am well versed in mechanical/electrical and enjoy it as another hobby. My main hobby are RC airplanes, and I have no intentions of making a business out of this, but if someone wants parts made, I would do it for them for a small fee for my time. I might mess around with engraving things, maybe for gifts and such, but the primary use is to cut out parts for our planes, as of last count there are at least 8 of them to cut, with hundreds of pieces each.

    Do I test the waters with the $700 machine, what do I do when I need to cut larger pieces, as I don't think it has passthrough on it, if it did, then it would be good. Would 50W be enough for what I need to cut? So far everything points to the one that costs twice as much, is it worth it? Since it is via a company with a physical location, would that be a better choice to purchase from? If I go to Amazon, there are similar machines that cost more, but free shipping, so in the end, the cost is pretty much the same when shipping is added to the one above.

    My other concern is the weight. I would like to have this in my workshop, which is in my basement, but getting 400 pounds downstairs will be rather difficult. I really do not want to have this in my garage where the temps vary too much and gets pretty dirty in there.

    I know, lots to read here, hopefully those with the best answers didn't skip because TL;DR.
    Last edited by Todd Heide; 06-12-2019 at 4:14 PM.

  2. #2
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    First, Do you have any Maker's spaces close to you?
    A lot of them have co2 lasers of varying sizes from K40's to Epilogs. Some have free time available, some charge. Get your feet wet with one of these if possible.
    $2k is tight budget. Chinese machines better than k40s are available for close to that, but you need some equipment, chiller exhaust fan and ducting. I use Coreldraw, early versions are fine, you can sometimes find them cheap.
    PDFs import into Corel just fine and I use them a lot.
    Linux.... Go for it. Must emulate Windows as most of the software is windows based. Inkscape is ok for free... you get what you pay for...
    60 watt will cut most of what I think you want to do. Look for Rudia controller, Runs RDworks and is what most of them run.... Read, and research....
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  3. #3
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    If you did a Search you would have yours answer. This question is asked about 20 times a year.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller, MakerGear M2 3D Printer. Fine Line Automation 4x4 CNC Router- Mach4 ESS

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by John Lifer View Post
    First, Do you have any Maker's spaces close to you?
    A lot of them have co2 lasers of varying sizes from K40's to Epilogs. Some have free time available, some charge. Get your feet wet with one of these if possible.
    $2k is tight budget. Chinese machines better than k40s are available for close to that, but you need some equipment, chiller exhaust fan and ducting. I use Coreldraw, early versions are fine, you can sometimes find them cheap.
    PDFs import into Corel just fine and I use them a lot.
    Linux.... Go for it. Must emulate Windows as most of the software is windows based. Inkscape is ok for free... you get what you pay for...
    60 watt will cut most of what I think you want to do. Look for Rudia controller, Runs RDworks and is what most of them run.... Read, and research....

    There is a makers space somewhat close, at least according to google, but their website fails with a DB error, so makes me wonder if they are still there. I'll follow up when I get time for that.

    The ones I am considering is an 80W with a 28 x 20 bed, or an 80w with a 23 x 15 bed. I will dig deeper to find out the controller type used. thanks

    I am still going around trying to find the right software. I would like to be able multifunction with it and use it with the Sherline mill too. Looking into Vectric at the moment, looks promising that it works with both, just a matter of using the correct version for my needs. I'll also look into the Coreldraw. Looks like some of the K40's come with a version of it.


    As for the last poster, just trying to up your post count? It was so helpful that you mentioned the search function that I had ALREADY spent hours trying to find the information I am looking for. I may be a newb to laser cutting, but not to forums. thankyouverymuch.

    Tell you what, find threads in regards to my questions and post them, that would be so much more helpful.

  5. #5
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    Here you go Chief over 4 pages of a Search result > https://sawmillcreek.org/search.php?searchid=12165196 I tell you what I spent months on here searching and reading before even posting one question.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller, MakerGear M2 3D Printer. Fine Line Automation 4x4 CNC Router- Mach4 ESS

  6. #6
    When I was searching I came up with 30+ pages. Gave me a headache. Just trying to narrow down the software side of it. BTW, that link,

    Sorry - no matches. Please try some different terms.


    I would much rather hear from peoples experiences on what is inexpensive and easy to use. I just want a hobby cutter to make parts for my planes. I tested out Inkscape, too much work for what I am looking to do. I would love a Glowforge, but they are out of my budget for the size pieces I will be cutting. I need at least 24" of cutting length. The Pro can do it, but $6K is 4K more than I am looking to spend this year.

    Would I be better off trying This one instead?

  7. #7
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    My Link from above > https://sawmillcreek.org/search.php?searchid=12165196 works just fine. Click on it over 400 posts that cover what you need. This one especially > https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread....low+cost+laser
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller, MakerGear M2 3D Printer. Fine Line Automation 4x4 CNC Router- Mach4 ESS

  8. #8
    Bill, link doesn't work for me either. I think it works for you because it is cached on your PC.

    Todd, what you find if you spend some hours searching and reading is just what you are asking for - peoples experiences. At some point people get tired of answering the same questions over and over again though. Also praising the Glowforge on this forum is treading in hot waters
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  9. #9
    LOL, For ease of use, the GF looks good on paper. I read a lot of reviews and they don't jive with the advert, so I can see how that can cause problems. Pretty much ruled it out, considering one STILL needs to use a CAD/CAM program to make the vector, then save it as a PDF to make it work. So nope, move on, Next! For the price of the Pro, for a few grand more one can get an Epilog.

    Right now my biggest debate is whether to do baby steps with the 16x16 cutter, or go to the 28 x 20 cutter. The bigger one I don't think I can get into my downstairs shop, which means more work to be able to set it up in the garage and try to keep it clean.

    The software will eventually work itself out, but I need a sounding board, which is primarily why I posted. Steer me in the right direction. I have already ruled out Dremel, Muse, and GF, too expensive for my end goal, maybe if I find I am good at it, and people want what I can make, then different story, but not looking for a side business, just making it easier to build the planes I can no longer buy kits for. I've got the plans, and hand cutting, meh, don't care for that, besides, blades for my Sears bandsaw are getting hard to come by.

    So far, things to look for Ruida controller, Check
    Cad software, checking out Cut2D, whether to get Pro or not depends on the size of the cutter, but looks like I can export from it in the correct format, and also use it to drive my Sherline since it uses G-code.

    I've read a lot about tubes, and transporting, etc. but is there anything I should be looking out for?

  10. #10
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    The second link works fine as its not an actual Search which had expired, Keyword Search as > buying+lowcost+laser will bring it back with over 400 posts.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , LightObject 40w CO2 Laser and Chiller, MakerGear M2 3D Printer. Fine Line Automation 4x4 CNC Router- Mach4 ESS

  11. #11
    Check out IEHK.com- they import several types of machinery, laser engravers among them, and are based in Wayne PA, they have pics of the place and themselves on the 'about us' page- I emailed them awhile back, they got back to me and answered a few questions, and they have a couple of machines within your budget...
    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


  12. #12
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    6090 80 watt 2500bucks wow that a good price prices have really come down over the years.
    If the Help and advice you received here was of any VALUE to you PLEASE! Become a Contributor
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  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Kev Williams View Post
    Check out IEHK.com- they import several types of machinery, laser engravers among them, and are based in Wayne PA, they have pics of the place and themselves on the 'about us' page- I emailed them awhile back, they got back to me and answered a few questions, and they have a couple of machines within your budget...
    Thank You, looking at it right now.

  14. #14
    Well, the one I would get is $1950 plus shipping, which is $300. So $2250. Over my budget, however, looking further, the next one up, with a 23 x 35 inch cutting area, 80w, is only $2800 shipped. If I bump the budget up to 3K, why not, right? As long as I can fit it in my workshop.

  15. #15
    NOTE!! -Be sure to ask if tariffs/duty/etc is included in the shipping cost-!
    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


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