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Thread: Epilog Laser - Totally Baffled

  1. #1

    Unhappy Epilog Laser - Totally Baffled

    I've been monitoring Sawmill Creek for years - and I am a member - but this is the first time I've posted anything. I hope I am posting this in the correct place as I'm not really sure how to do this yet.

    So here it goes. I am just baffled with this situation.

    I have Epilog Helix 40 watt. It's been a great machine. Last year - I added an Epilog Mini 12 x 18 (smaller as I have limited room) as a new machine to help take some of the load off the Helix and speed up my production. I get so busy I'd never get finished without 2 machines. I chose two 40 watt machines so that I could use close to the same speed and power settings for engraving items. That way I could use the helix or the mini - if one needed a repair or something.

    For a couple months - the mini 18 was great. Settings between the Helix and the Mini were comparable and I was really moving some product. Then - for whatever reason, the steering mirror on the mini toasted. And suddenly - I seemed to have an overall reduction in power on the whole laser. Got that mirror changed (although the power never went back to normal) and a month later - it happened again. Steering mirror toasted. Epilog said there was a batch of bad mirrors they received and that's why they were failing. I don't know that I believe that because it didn't explain the power reduction. We had this overall power reduction on the laser that we couldn't figure out. For 3 months Epilog tech support and I went round and round on the power reduction in the laser. It was pretty much anywhere on the bed. Previously - I was running the mini at close to the same settings as the helix and everything looked great. Then anything printed on the left side of the laser (0,0 to 7, 7) had a major power decrease - and anything out of that area had some power reduction. I couldn't get an even engraving no matter what I did. The beam was definitely aligned. I realigned that beam about 10 times - because it seemed like Epilog felt that was something that needed to be done every time called - even though I sent photos of the alignment to them. We changed all the optics, the tube, the power supply, aligned the tub, aligned the tray, etc., - anything and everything that could be tested or changed. I sent almost a hundred photos of engravings and differences. Everything that we could think of was looked at and tested. It finally escalated all the way to the manager of tech support. Eventually - Epilog took it back and suggested the 12 x 24 as a replacement. So I gave them 3K more and got the 12 x 24 (which supposedly has a collimator because of the width). They said the collimator is the issue with the 12 x 18 and thus (according to tech support) it is a known problem that the engraver has issues with certain materials on the left hand side. Funny that isn't in the documentation on the Epilog site anywhere. There is nothing I can find in the comparative of the lasers on the Epilog site that says - Collimator - no collimator. Well - according to me - it had problems with all materials on the left hand side (especially) and the entire bed after that 1st mirror peeled. That laser worked well up to that point. Although the manager of tech support told me - it has never worked well - I didn't know what I was talking about. It never worked well. I believe I said ugly words to them that day. When I first looked at the mini 18 laser at my sales rep's place - I was told by my sales rep it was the exact same laser as the Helix - only smaller. That was a line of crap. They are not comparable machines.

    So now I have the 12 x 24 (supposedly with a collimator) that should be operating at the same power and speed settings comparable to the Helix. But no - I have to slow the speed down by 10 below what I run the Helix at to get the same quality of engraving. I've tested this on wood, crystal, glass, DuraBlack, laminated plastic, etc. For some reason - it has to run slower to get the same engraving. It's as if these smaller machines are rated at the same power - but don't get the same output to the bed. This impacts the speed of production but can also make it confusing when working on 2 lasers and trying to remember settings between the 2. They are both 40 watt lasers - same width - supposedly the same innards - only difference is one is 12 x 24 and one is 18 x 24.

    It seems to me - that if these are the same lasers - but only smaller - the speed and power used for either should very close between the mini and the helix. If I engrave wood at 51/100 on the helix and get a nice dark engraving - I should be able to engrave wood at 51/100 on the mini. But it comes out lighter. I can't - to get the same look on the mini unless I drop the speed. I have to slow the speed down to 41. I am baffled with this. The same file, sent from the same computer, to each laser, with the same exact settings. And it's obvious difference.

    And now - as of yesterday - the steering mirror in the mini 24 just toasted. I was running a job and noticed a loss of engraving power on the material for the job I was running. The mirror was the first thing I thought of - since I've seen this exact same thing several times in the past. Opened up the left panel and sure enough - the protective coating was peeling off of the steering mirror.

    I do not understand what can be causing this - or what the differences between these smaller lasers and the helix are. I've had the helix for 7 years - and I've never had to change the optics. Clean them regularly - but they look good and haven't needed changing. It has been an AWESOME machine and I love the helix. It seems like these smaller machines have some major differences - I've just not figured it out yet.

    As I said - I am absolutely baffled. I'm at the point of stripping down the covers on both machines and comparing parts piece-by-piece to see if I can identify the differences between them. I just don't know what to think. Both are 40 watts - both are Epilogs - both are 24" in width - they should at least close to the same settings and put out comparable engravings.

    I know what I'm going to do now... I'm going to realign the mini 24 as I installed a replacement steering mirror yesterday. I was so upset about it I told Epilog I would not purchase another Epilog machine. I will be looking at other brands for my next laser. Next year I plan to get a new laser with a bit more power - but it will not be an Epilog.

    So - any help of suggestions from anyone on what to look at or why the 12 x 24 mini has be be slowed down to match the engraving quality of the helix - I would certainly appreciate your comments. Also note - the mini is a new machine so the tube is new. The helix has a recharged tube - but it's been about 9 months now and is reducing in power. So the tube in the helix is a lot older or less powerful than the mini. But I can have to run the helix faster than the mini to get the same quality of engraving. SO confusing.

    Bill Arbogast

    Epilog Helix 40W 18x24
    Epilog Mini - 40W 24x12

  2. #2
    I have a mini 24 50W. I had a similar problem. What I found was a spot on the window where the beam exits the laser Just before the mirrors. It was a clear spot and couldn't see but felt it cleaning the window. I was able to scratch it off with a thumbnail. everything came back after that.

    Hope that helps.
    Epilog Mini 24 - 45 W
    Roland PNC1000
    CorelDraw X3
    FlexiSign 7.6

  3. #3
    to expound on Real's post, you could have, especially on the laser's snout but anywhere in the light path- mirror, collimator-- any type of burn spot can absorb, or SPLIT the beam, which can cause a noticeable power reduction. Lenses too, smoke can burn onto the lens, turn to charcoal and crack the lens. Might be part of the mirror problem, but I'm thinking crappy mirrors. Go to ebay, search C02 laser mirrors, and look for Cloudray Laser as a seller, I've bought mirrors, C02 and fiber lenses from them, no quality problems. I changed 2 mirrors on my GCC recently, because I couldn't afford a factory replacement with the metal 'slide' back, I just removed the original mirrors, which involved lots of broken glass, chiseling and sanding, superglued the new mirrors on and it works great. No rocket surgery needed

    As to your lasers acting similarly-- BIG FAT NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!! My first laser, 25w Universal/New Hermes machine-- One weekend I had a rush job to be done monday morning, and my machine rep had a twin to my Uni, and let me borrow it. It was identical in every way, same tube, wattage, year of machine, firmware-- yet MY machine would engrave the Rowmark nicely at 20% faster than the borrowed machine. But conversely, the borrowed machine would cut holes thru Rowmark in only HALF the time as it took mine--? That doesn't even make sense, but that's how they worked!

    I have 4 C02 machines and 3 fibers, and they're all different. The fibers are all 30 watt MAX sources, and are actually pretty close settings-wise, except in the frequency department, but I'm used to their differences. My 3 RF C02 machines- Gravo LS900, Gravo LS100 and GCC Explorer, 40w 35w 30w respectively, each engrave, in particular, glass, wood and Cermarked SS differently. The 35w LS100 is a Coherent laser, tested at 47 watts, and it's very noticeably the most powerful of the 3. The other 2 have Synrad's...

    Different lenses can affect things, my LS100 engraves Cermark to GRAY with the factory lens, but using the LS900 lens, it turns Cermark BLACK... My 80w Triumph chinese glass laser won't turn Cermark black no matter what I try, save for low power, then it won't fuse. Goes gray, or bronze if I really crank it...

    As to your losing power on one side, IF your mirrors are all hitting close to center on all tests, AND the table is good and level, then you have something obstructing the beam. No other explanation really, because the laser and software itself doesn't know or care about left/right/up/down, the output doesn't change. One thing to check is the collimator alignment, if the beam is hitting even a tiny edge of it on entry or exit, the beam could be partially reflecting or splitting off...
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle

  4. #4
    I have had my Mini 18 45-watt since 2004. (The bad regional salesman I was forced to deal with didn't tell me about the Mini 24 that was being released when I bought it...) While I have had a fair number of quirky issues that have plagued the laser all these years, I have not dealt with what you are describing. In fact, the left side of my laser seems to be stronger and I was told that's because the laser source comes from the left side. I am still using the original mirrors and clean them with the "Epilog Laser Multi-coated Filter and Lens Cleaner". I agree with Real and Kev's responses.
    I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and I think, "Well, that’s not going to happen."

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Sammamish, WA
    Kev is right, they will not be the same. I am on my 4th 45 watt tube since 2004, and every one resulted in different settings. Epilog told me way back when that it’s at least 45 watts.

    I suspect that the 2nd one was 45, the rest have been closer to 50.

    Sammamish, WA

    Epilog Legend 24TT 45W, had a sign business for 17 years, now just doing laser work on the side.

    "One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop." G. Weilacher

    "The handyman's secret weapon - Duct Tape" R. Green

  6. #6
    Thank you all so much for your insight! I really do appreciate it.

    As I said - I don't have the mini 18 anymore. Epilog traded that in for the mini 24 since (what I believe) the problem could not be locked down and they just ended up blaming it on the lack of a collimator. Never had a collimator in it - and it worked great for 3 months. Then it didn't.

    I do believe they are sending out mirrors that are less quality. Both of these lasers were brand new. I purchased the mini 18 t the end of 2017 and it went into light production in Dec. It went back in May of 2018. The mini 24 is the replacement for it and it has been in production since the end of June 2019. So they both came with whatever mirrors Epilog is sending in the new lasers now. There is a relationship here - but I haven't figured it out yet. Epilog tech support even told me once - they received a bad batch of mirrors. I don't know that I'm good with that excuse. Bad batch of mirrors going out in new lasers? Probably not.

    Thanks to all above for the suggestion on different sources for mirrors. I'm going to try a different source and see what happens. I'm just curious if the mirror I installed this weekend will hold up or toast out in a couple months. Like I said - I've had the helix for almost 8 years now - and never had a problem with the mirrors. Just the new lasers.

    I don't know... it is still baffling to me as to how the power can be so much less in the mini 40 watt - and so much more in the helix (since the tube in the helix is a year old now since last recharge). I'll check the periscope window again, mirrors, collimator and lens to see if there are any obstructions - but it doesn't appear to be. Red dot pointer is coming though fine. I just realigned the laser a couple days ago and it is spot on. But it is good to know that you guys have seen what I'm seeing in 2 different machines and the output being totally different. The helix is without a doubt - a much better laser than the mini. I'd just like to figure out why. Working on that one... there is more to this than just 6" on the y axis difference. No doubts here.

    On the mini 24 - I've had to adjust power again when engraving. After installing the new mirror (and yes everything is aligned quite well now) - and I've bumped up 2 notches in power to match the output of the helix. Makes me wonder if the tube they sent in the new laser needs to be charged - maybe it was sitting around a while before being installed in the new 24 mini laser. I don't know. I'll just keep looking for now to see what I can find when time allows.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Phoenix AZ
    I don’t own a laser but found these online. You may have already checked them, but I thought I would try to “hep”.
    “Pay no attention to what you cannot control..” Epictetus, 100 A.D.
    It costs nothing to be kind to others

  8. #8
    I believe I have accidentally run into an answer for this "power reduction" issue I reported in a new mini 18 (originally bought last year and returned).

    When I originally reported to Epilog that the laser was not engraving correctly and it seemed there was a power reduction (it was only 3 months into use). So we looked at the optics and tried some testing and Epilog suggested swapping the tube. Which I did. It just got worse from there. Then we found a spot on the steering mirror where the protective coating was peeling. It wasn't initially overly visible but taking a photo and enlarging showed the spot that had peeled. But remember - I had just swapped a brand new laser tube with a warranty issued replacement.

    But from that point on - no matter what we changed - the power never increased back to where it originally was. Duggh.

    Well - I have been - as others - having some issues lately with horizontal banding on glass and crystal. Both lasers at the same time - which indicates it isn't the lasers or it is a common problem with all CO2 lasers - who knows. Epilog suggested swapping the tubes since they are both under warranty. So I did and noticed that the tube I had sent in last year and paid to have recharged - was much more powerful than the tubes sent under warranty. And yes - I swapped all tubes in all lasers - back and forth - 4 tubes - each tried in each laser, and realigned each time, to verify what I thought was seeing. Neither warranty tube was as powerful. And Epilog even said - it may be that the tubes we sent were not as hot as the tube (the one I paid to have recharged) originally in the laser.

    So in recap - when my initial problem with the mini started - it was based on a mirror but it wasn't visible at first - but the first action was to change the tube. Now the tube I had recharged in the Helix was engraving at higher speeds and less power than one I used in the mini 18 (which also didn't have a collimator) - although when I initially received it they were running at the same power - actually - the mini was better than the Helix. So then we changed the optics, and then tube, and then the.... it appeared something had happened to the laser.

    Now - I don't know this to be a fact - but based on the circumstances of this last tube swap (both lasers - mini and helix) it appears - when the tubes are replaced under warranty - versus paying for a recharged tubes - the tubes are not nearly as charged as they would be when paid for. That's why nothing corrected the issue with the mini 18 - the new hot tube in the mini was replaced with another tube under warranty that was weaker. The tube was the first thing that was changed. A brand new laser, new tube, that was obviously charged very well, swapped for a tube under warranty. So then it just went from there changing optics, the tube again, power supply, etc., all things that did not correct the problem and bring it back to it's original power. With that new tube swapped for less powerful one (and thought was they would be the same charge when you swapping under warranty) - it didn't matter what we changed - the power was going to stay reduced from then on.

    I have just changed the optics (mirrors and focus lens) in the Helix this time. The optics that were in there were the same optics that were originally sent when I bought the Helix. They had some areas that looked used, for sure, but they were not bad for 7 years of use. I also asked Epilog if they had changed what types of mirrors that were being sent out - since they seem to crap out in less than a year now. Naturally I didn't an answer on that question. My guess is that the optics are not the same as they were years ago and are being made cheaper - just a guess. But I can't get an answer from them so I can't say for sure. I will be getting optics from another source from now on.

    But - I get why things like this are being done. And I'm sure you can too. Of course, Epilog pricing should also reflect that. Epilog makes a good machine - and is one of the top 3 and they are trying to hold their market place. Think about it - I paid 20K for my Helix and around 15K for my Mini - yet - you can get a decent 40 watt laser now for 1/2 that price. Not as good as an Epilog (in my opinion) - but certainly a good one depending upon needs. And I also get (if it is the case) that sending out a less charged tube under warranty makes good business sense. It will need recharging sooner than if you send a hotter one. If you were to send out one charged all the way to 50 watts for a 40 watt laser - it is going to last a lot longer before it needs a recharge than sending one less hot. That is good business sense when competing against all the other companies creating and selling much cheaper lasers.

    But the good new is - at least I believe this last incident of horizontal banding and tube swapping in both lasers has finally answered all my questions about the power reduction that occurred in a brand new mini 18 laser. In my opinion - it was just the warranty tubes being less charged that I was sent to replace the new laser tube that caused the whole problem. Although - I still think Epilog needs to post in their documentation that the mini 18 does not have a collimator in it.

    I appreciate all the responses received.

  9. #9
    Of course guys - other than my local testing - I don't know that any of the above actually holds true with warranty lasers being charged lower. Maybe I just got the 3 or 4 in the bunch that were. I don't know that the optics are cheaper - I just know for me they are not lasting as long. This is all my opinion based on my local engraving, testing, and dealing with the company for the last 7 years.

    When making a laser selection - you have to also consider the alternative - which is to try and deal with a company that doesn't even have tech support - or one that has tech support - but is never available. Especially when you are having product problems. Nothing like problems to make you crazy and no one to count on to help you get close to a fix.

    I'm not in any way trying to bash Epilog. They make an awesome product and it is a good company based in the USA. But - there are others that are also. I just think for the money we pay for Epilog lasers - we deserve nothing but the best of the best in support, product parts, maintenance, and upgrade.

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