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Thread: Questions Regarding First Laser Purchase

  1. #1

    Questions Regarding First Laser Purchase

    Hello Everyone!

    I just joined the Sawmill Creek community but I've been spending a lot of time reading the forums. I am looking to purchase my first laser with intention to start-up a business. I have done a fair amount of research but there is a LOT of information out there so forgive any ignorance I have as I am supremely new to this. Eventually I would like to run both a CO2 and fiber laser but I am probably going to purchase a CO2 as my first machine due to its versatility in the materials it is able to cut. Probably will start out with gift/promo/small sign -type items but would eventually like to get into jobs that have better profit margins. I am leaning towards an Epilog or Trotec CO2 system due to their reputation for support and reliable equipment.. especially for my first machine. Since I live in the middle of nowhere, my plan is to research, get some quotes and then head to the NBM show to see if I can get the best deal possible. So my questions are:

    1) Other than the laser itself, what add-ons would you consider a "must have"? I am already going to be purchasing a rotary, but looking out for what else I may need (Or definitely WON'T need). I've read a lot about not falling for expensive exhaust systems and since our nearest neighbor is 2 miles away, it appears I am safe to vent straight outside with a DIY set up.

    2) I am thinking 80w should do most of what I would want to do and am leading towards the Speedy 300, but is the 400 worth the extra expense?

    3) Had anyone had experience enough to know if better deals are seen on the last day of convention? (Am planning on leaving the morning of the last day but am debating on changing my schedule)

    4) Are the software systems pretty comparable between Epilog and Trotec? Or is one more user-friendly?

    5) I've seen that there may be specific sales people that would be good to talk to but haven't found any current names. Should I be looking out for anyone in particular at the convention?

    6) Would anyone disagree and think a fiber laser would be worth investigating first?

    6) Do you have any advice/things you may have wished you knew when you first started?

    Thank you so much for any advice you may have!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Murphy NC
    Posts
    589
    1. plenty of scrap materials/ sample materials to test on. settings in a book are a suggestion at best.
    2. cannot comment.
    3. cannot comment.
    4. UI will vary b/t manufacturers, but both should be straight forward. Just mind the software you choose to use/buy.
    5. cannot comment.
    6. Fibers are amazingly fast and effective but not a "cure all" for lasering. The biggest trade off is bed size.
    7. keep researching. don't underestimate youtube videos. a lot can be gained by watching for speed settings and add'l clues.
    Epilog Legend 36EXT ~35W
    30W Fiber Laser
    Corel X6
    AutoCAD 2019
    FFL 01
    Some Patience

  3. #3
    this laser - fiber laser - with IPG laser source from coherent-rofin used to be almost 60 000.00.


    recently even sold for double



    you can take it under consideration.
    Kind Regards.
    Last edited by Mike Null; 01-30-2020 at 11:24 AM. Reason: removed ebay links

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris DeGerolamo View Post
    6. Fibers are amazingly fast and effective but not a "cure all" for lasering. The biggest trade off is bed size.
    This is my 'ebay-2' machine, lasering a steel plate that's been acid washed for a customer,
    the plate measures 38" x 16"... bed size doesn't have to be a trade-off

    38a.jpg 38b.jpg 38c.jpg

    38d.jpg38e.jpg

    both my ebay fibers cost less than 1/10th the price of an 80w Speedy 400, and every day I find more things I can get a fiber to do...

    So rather than consider a fiber as a first machine, if you're willing to spend the money for a new Trotec, a fiber is barely 'accessories' priced, so get both!
    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Hayes, Virginia
    Posts
    13,467
    1. Put a hole in the wall for the exhaust and go to work. A HF 2hp dust collector is suitable for most laser engravers.

    2. Table size is relative to the projects you can create. Don't forget that on the Speedy 300 you can lower the front door and engrave signs from both ends. This just about doubles the size of the sign you can make within the confines of the width of the cabinet.

    3. Just a guess, if you get to the show on day one you might be make a deal on one of the demo engravers. Drive a truck.

    4. Corel Draw is the defacto standard software for Laser Engraving, the machine you decide to purchase will come with software drivers. Trotec software is very comprehensive. I have not seen Epilog's software for many years. Corel Draw X5 or X6 is what I would suggest.

    7. Concentrate on commercial business. Dealing with the public will be the lowest profit projects without fail. Of the projects you listed signs have been the most profitable for me BUT you have to learn to adjust your pricing upward, don't be shy. There must be a thousand threads here in our Laser Engraving forums, read every single post and make notes. The Laser Operators here for the most part are seasoned veterans who know more then you can imagine. I wish that this forum had been available when I was shopping for my first laser engraver, it would have saved me much more than just money. Purchasing your first laser engraver can be a very difficult experience, there are so many options and decisions to make. Trust the veterans here, they have a wealth of knowledge. I am a big fan of not being where everyone else is at so I don't have to compete with the low baller's who will work for pennies to get started.
    Last edited by Keith Outten; 01-30-2020 at 8:34 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    NW Arkansas
    Posts
    1,680
    Blog Entries
    1
    Totally agree with Keith. I'm out in the woods.
    My nearest neighbor is a quarter mile away, might have a second about that close soon as they are building retirement home.
    I'm 6 miles to town, from both directions. So while I do get retail customers, they aren't nearly my best. Direct retail is a pain.
    I sell a percentage thru Etsy, not a lot, but worth doing.
    Commercial if you can get a door open is great. I'm slowly getting a decent amount of this and so far a lot has been fiber.
    (get a 30 watt) more versatile in my opinion, you have a much larger engraving area.
    (but I've just done a 2"x8" frosted aluminum engraving for a new customer in ONE pass using a 330mm lens in my 20 watt. Used two hatches, and as they didn't need it deep, just marked, it looks great)

    Fiber WILL be more difficult to learn to use.
    Woodworking, Old Tools and Shooting
    Ray Fine RF-1390 Laser
    Ray Fine 20watt Fiber Laser
    PM2000, Delta BS, Delta sander, Powermatic 50 jointer,
    Powermatic100-12 planer, Rockwell 15-126 radial drill press
    Rockwell 46-450 lathe, and 2 Walker Turner RA1100 radial saws

    RIA 22TCM 1911s

  7. #7
    Sarah - a good contact at Trotec who should be at the NBM show is Dave Stevens - Industrial Applications Manager. He used to work for Universal Laser Systems for about 17 years, and has been with Trotec for a couple of years. He isn't a salesperson, but he probably will do a seminar on tips and tricks like PDF found here. He is more on the technical end.

  8. #8
    Thank you Ralph! I will ask to see if he is there. I am going to go to their Training Session.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Kev Williams View Post
    So rather than consider a fiber as a first machine, if you're willing to spend the money for a new Trotec, a fiber is barely 'accessories' priced, so get both!
    That's is a bad thing to say to me! haha I REALLY want both. I have definitely considered getting a smaller CO2 machine in order to afford a fiber as will but I didn't want to get too far over my head (or regret downsizing is such an expensive piece of equipment). I am a little nervous about a purchasing a used unit as it has been a while since I have worked with industrial machinery and none of it was close to this type of equipment. Is there a particular brand you might recommend that is both affordable and friendly to beginners? I don't mind taking all the time to learn the ropes but I don't want to have to be dealing with mechanical troubleshooting a bunch on top of that (at the start). Thank you for the pictures, do you manually move the piece after each letter or is there a system I can't quite see on the workspace?

  10. #10
    Thank you for your suggestions! Unfortunately I am planning on flying as the convention is in Texas and I am in Montana with a short timeline... tempting to do the drive though because I have heard about demo deals and I have done that drive in the past. None of the conventions are near us because.... nothing is near us. I have to drive 5 hours just to get to the airport (with the affordable flight) to fly out. haha! I am definitely going to be trying to get into commercial business vs the small gifts. I have a few contacts lined up with larger companies that I might get work with but to get my name out there (and get some practice in!) I will probably have to suffer through a fair amount of retail as well.

    I REALLY appreciate all of the advice and I will continue to read all the forums and specs and watch the YouTube videos. As soon as I feel like I am starting to get my head wrapped around it all I find a new topic and a new thread and I'm back to square one but I am learning so much from all of your posts and feel very fortunate to have found this community.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Hayes, Virginia
    Posts
    13,467
    I forgot to mention that if you use a dust collector for just your laser engraver get rid of the bags or filters and run the exhaust from the back of your laser engraver to the pump and straight out of the wall. There isn't any effluent to catch just fumes for the most part and your DC will function five times more efficiently. Since I have several shop machines I use a chip box to collect all of the chips in my shop but the sign shop at Christopher Newport University that I setup I had a Harbor Freight one hp DC that only served the laser engraver.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Sarah Fischer View Post
    ... Thank you for the pictures, do you manually move the piece after each letter or is there a system I can't quite see on the workspace?
    I just decide on a starting point- top/left usually, do what the machine can do in one pass, then move on. You need to have a couple of letters or objects that were just engraved within the next section's work area to redlight for aligning. Redlight a couple of letters/objects, verify square (chalkline), then go. The machine set up as-is, is capable of engraving an area up to 42" by any length... with patience . Same procedure with large stuff in C02's with long-part openings, but locating the letter/object positions to align for the next setup is much more time consuming. Fibers are fast enough to outline the actual engraving
    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


  13. #13
    Thank you for the info! I am sooo excited about what fibers can do. I think I am still going to start with a CO2 and get my bearings and make sure I like my shop set-up... practice, practice, practice. And THEN I plan on getting fiber as soon as possible. Do you find that your Speedy 400 is expensive to maintain? I talked to both Trotec and Epilog yesterday but they were both a little hesitant in quoting any "regular" maintenance costs. They just told me they were great machines that don't need anything done for like 10 years. Other than replacing the tube when needed and keeping it clean (and of course, if something random goes wrong).. is there any other part I will need to look at to compare up-keep costs of each machine?

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Outten View Post
    I forgot to mention that if you use a dust collector for just your laser engraver get rid of the bags or filters and run the exhaust from the back of your laser engraver to the pump and straight out of the wall. There isn't any effluent to catch just fumes for the most part and your DC will function five times more efficiently. Since I have several shop machines I use a chip box to collect all of the chips in my shop but the sign shop at Christopher Newport University that I setup I had a Harbor Freight one hp DC that only served the laser engraver.
    Thank you Keith! This was one of my biggest concerns for set-up as I didn't quite understand how I could set it up without having seen one in person. I knew i didn't need an expensive air system so I really appreciate this. It seems like a very simple setup that I can easily manage. We're going to vent up high on the side of the shop to prevent snow from covering the hole in the winter and then have a hood/cover outside to prevent rain/snow from getting back inside.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Suwanee, GA
    Posts
    3,683
    Getting a laser to run 10 years without maintenance is rubbish! If they meant major repairs then there may be some truth to that, but there will always be exceptions based on your usage and how well you maintain the machine - cleanliness, lubrication, etc. My Speedy 400 is coming up on its 5th year and I just recently had a service done by Trotec. It wasn't anything that I couldn't really do myself but I just didn't have the time to do it myself and I also had him resolve an image quality problem that turned out to be a software setting. Other than this I have just kept it clean and lubricated the X axis bearing - that's it! My total cost of maintenance, prior to the Trotec service, was probably $50 at the most. That covered optics cleaning solution, optics cleaning tissue, q-tips, microfiber cloths, denatured alcohol, and lithium bearing grease. Oh, and the tech said he hasn't seen a cleaner, well kept laser before!

    I think it's a great idea to get the CO2 first then the fiber, there is lots to learn with both but you can get up and running much faster and easier with a CO2 than fiber for a couple of reasons - 1. More people have CO2 and you are more likely to get (quick) help with settings and other questions. 2. Fibers have more settings based on many variables and for the most part they are not intuitive and could lead to getting very frustrated.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sarah Fischer View Post
    Thank you for the info! I am sooo excited about what fibers can do. I think I am still going to start with a CO2 and get my bearings and make sure I like my shop set-up... practice, practice, practice. And THEN I plan on getting fiber as soon as possible. Do you find that your Speedy 400 is expensive to maintain? I talked to both Trotec and Epilog yesterday but they were both a little hesitant in quoting any "regular" maintenance costs. They just told me they were great machines that don't need anything done for like 10 years. Other than replacing the tube when needed and keeping it clean (and of course, if something random goes wrong).. is there any other part I will need to look at to compare up-keep costs of each machine?
    I have done so much with so little for so long, that I can do almost anything with practically nothing...

    Trotec Speedy 400 80 watt 8/2015
    G. Weike LF-30, 30 watt galvo fiber - 1/2016
    G. Weike LF-30, 30 watt galvo fiber - 3/2015
    Fargo HDP5000 Card printer


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