Views: 20014 Author: Site Editor Publish Time: 2020-08-14 Origin: Site
I wrote this a few years ago. It covers things you should be sure to consider before buying any laser engraver. Boy I wish someone had made this information available to me before I bought my first engraver. This is long but well worth the time if you have never bought a laser engraver before or are new to the subject.
Laser Engraver Purchase Considerations
Before buying a laser engraver there are many considerations that should be investigated before purchasing one. Failure to do so can mean that some big problems may happen that were not expected. Here is a list of thing that you should be aware of before buying.
1) Will the laser engraver be used for hobby purposes or for a business, for profit?
Hobby lasers are not suited for business use due to their limitations (size of engraving area, speed, power, …etc). If considering a laser engraver as the basis of a business you should buy an engraver designed to be faster, bigger, and more reliable when used many hours.
2) What are you willing to pay for your engraver?
A Hobby laser engraver of any reasonable capability will cost between $3,000 and $6,000. If considering an engraver for frequent or business use, expect to pay at least $8,000 for a cheap laser engraver. Many small engravers from well known, reputable companies can be purchased for prices in the $9,000 to $12,000 range. (NOTE: laser engravers of reasonable size and power can easily run $10,000 to $25,000, and some large machines with more power can top $50,000)
3) How will you pay for your engraver?
I strongly suggest you have the funds in place before buying. Leases are expensive and no business that is not already established and profitable should consider obtaining an engraver on a lease program. The monthly payments are high and having an engraver is no assurance that you will get enough business to pay for it. Consider saving up until you can pay for your engraver in full.
4) How big does your laser engraver need to be?
Small laser engravers often have an engraving bed that allows engraving and cutting of materials up to 12” by 18” or 12” by 20”. Buying a larger engraver can increase the cost of the machine substantially. Be sure to buy a machine that has the capability of engraving and cutting the materials you will use, but do not buy an overly large machine that is larger than you need.
5) Will you need a Z table?
While some cheaper laser engravers do not have a movable engraving table that allows engraving and cutting of thicker materials, many have a motorized Z axis table that can be adjusted up of down to accommodate tall items and thick materials.
6) How much Laser power will you need?
The amount of laser power you have will determine a number of things. The two most important are how thick the materials can be that you can cut, and how fast you can engrave or cut materials. NOTE: Listening to members of laser engraving forums one can easily get an incorrect idea of what is needed to do reasonable work. Often people will say you need 50 Watts or more of laser power. Often that is simply not true. For years I have owned engravers that had either 30Watt laser tubes or 40 watt tubes. Using the 30 watt laser I have done much cutting of Acrylic and wood up to ¼” thick. Many will say that you can’t cut thicker materials with only 30 watts. Although asking a lot fro0m 30 watts I have on several occasions cut poplar wood that was ½” thick. (Note: it took 4 or 5 passes and required that I do a lot of sanding to remove the badly charred edge). Having more power means you can cut thicker materials and finish cutting and engraving faster. However!!!! Buying a more powerful laser means that you will pay a lot more for the same machine. If you are running a business and work is backing up you may want to buy a more powerful laser to speed things up. If you are using the engraver only occasionally and / or will not be have jobs backed up because the laser is slow, save yourself some money and resist the temptation to pay for more power than you need.
7) What type of Co2 laser should you buy?
Co2 laser come in two types, Water cooled and Air cooled. They are vastly different in both price and function. Water cooled tubes are more common especially among the cheaper laser engravers. They require water cooling and when they become weak or stop working must be replaced with a new tube. Replacement laser tubes vary greatly in price and quality. They can cost from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000. They may last a few hours or several thousand hours. New tubes failing immediately or after only a few, hours is not uncommon.
Air cooled Co2 laser tubes are much more expensive than equivalent wattage water cooled laser tubes. They have much better beam profiles and are more stable. A new tube of 30 watts can easily cost $4,000 or more. However, Air cooled laser tubes often last thousands of hours before needing to be replaced. And Air cooled laser tubes can be refilled and or refurbished for as little as $850 and up. Being air cooled means the laser is less likely to overheat unless it is placed in an excessively hot environment. No water cooling means no water to have to cool and no chance of water leaking and coming into contact with the electrical components in the laser engraver.
8) Where will you have your laser engraver set up?
Be sure that the location you choose is suitable. You need to consider two main things concerning this. First will the engraver fit through the door to your work area. Laser engravers often are to large to fit through a standard door. Depending on where the engraver will be located the engraver may not work consistently. Water cooled laser engravers do not tolerate being in a room that gets to warm or to cold. A water cooled laser that gets to warm will lose power. If it gets to cold the water could freeze causing damage to the laser or electronics, should they become wet.
Software for laser engraving. Regardless of how good a laser engraver is, it is controlled by the software that is included with it. There are a number of variations of software out there but it all falls into one of two types. Either it is user friendly or it is less so. Some laser engraving software is very easy to use and quick to learn. It easily can work in conjunction with software you will probably use to design your engraving jobs. Programs like Corel draw or Adobe Illustrator are commonly used programs that function well with some lase engrave software. The better laser software works with your programs just like your home inkjet or laser printer does. That is to say you design your laser engraving or cutting job in your drawing software and when it is ready to engrave, you simply print it to the laser. The laser software then opens on its own so you can set the speed power, DPI, …etc. Unfortunately, many laser engravers come with software that is less friendly and less compatible with other programs. This means that the laser software may require that you convert certain file types before the engraver can work with them. This can cause designs to be changed in ways that hinder your job. Even when things work well the software is often not easy to understand and takes more time to learn to use.
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