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Looking to Buy a Desktop Laser Cutter? Read This First…

Desktop Laser CutterIf you’re looking to buy a smaller desktop laser cutter then read this first. These days  lasers are used mostly in major industries for processing metal. However, desktop CO2 lasers have become very affordable and popular in recent years.  They’re also widely used in educational institutions,  smaller companies, and you may even see one in your next door neighbors garage. It’s not uncommon to find a cool hobbyist with their very own desktop laser cutter. These are typically smaller co2 powered cutters with engraving areas ranging from 9×12″ to 12×20″.

As stated above referred to as either a desktop or hobby laser. They are designed to process lighter cutting or smaller engraving projects and even metal marking projects depending on the type of laser.  This is what this article will mainly address.  With the help of a metal laser cutting machine you have the ability to affordably process intricate designs on metal in a matter of minutes…even seconds.  The best part is the speed and precision that .

Uses and Applications of smaller co2 laer cutters

Modeling: Wood and mat-boards are popular choice of material that can be used for modelling. This is especially useful in the architecture and design fields.

Award engraving: Awards are accolades of honor that deserve to look extra special. Thus intricate engravings are a norm. Desktop Carbon dioxide laser cutters can be used to do award engravings with high precision and less time.

Wood Engraving: Almost all show pieces are wooden carvings. From photo frames to your dead grandma’s statue, wooden engravings can be easily done in a desktop laser cutting machine.

Glass etching: These include mirrors and beer mugs. Etching gives them a more elegant and world class look. Precision is very important and that is exactly what these machines offer.

Signage engraving: With the magic of desktop laser cutters, even 3D sign boards can be made thanks to very high metal laser cutting precision. The best part is that thousands of such sign boards can be produced at a very short time which was never possible before.

UID laser marking: The UID markings are made using laser cutters.

Laptop engraving: That’s right! Ever thought of getting a personalized laptop? Well that is what you can get from laser cutters. Make sure you give it to someone with expertise unless you want a hole in your laptop.

Fabric Engraving: This is one of the latest applications. Using laser engravers, clothes can be styled in a way that never fades off.
Things to think about before buying any Desktop CO2 Laser Cutting machine

Find the thin line between utility and cost
It is very important to understand the nature of your work before buying a laser cutter. They are expensive equipment which requires a reasonable amount of expertise to operate and maintain. Another big factor to consider is the material that you will be cutting or engraving. Laser cutters are rated based on wattage. A 40W machine is ideal for most uses. For more speed and power you could choose the 50W version or even the 60W version for heavy jobs. Note that the 50W machine would have twice the power of the 40W machine. If it’s the first time you are buying a laser cutter, do some research and ask your friends before zeroing in on one. Never settle for a lower rated version without being sure. This is because, once you know the endless capabilities of this beautiful invention, your needs might change. The size of engraving also matters when it comes to choosing the right cutter.

The laser interface software
It is very important that you get the right piece of software – almost as important as the right machinery. It is this software which communicates with your cutter and translates your vision to the machine. It is better to have a trusted laser interface and USB controller which are compatible with programs like Photoshop and CorelDRAW. Again, some companies offer only the driver without the interface. So make sure you check these things to the very fine detail.

The carbon dioxide, CO2 laser tube
This is the most important part of the laser cutter. It is the ‘engine’ of any laser.  I recommend buying a little more power than you think you’ll need.  There’s no substitute for raw cutting power. Almost all hobbyists use carbon dioxide laser glass tubes due to their affordability and they can be replaced inexpensively compared to metal or RF laser tubes.  Of course as the wattage of the laser tube increases, so does the ability to cut through denser materials.  For hobby laser machines wattage will range from 10 to 50 watts.  50 watts is a good cutting and engraving compromise between cutting and engraving.  Typically 50 watts will consistently cut through 1/4″ woods.

Add-on Accessories
You might need add-ons depending on your use. For example, rotary attachments help in cutting through cylindrical objects. Another add on is the focus lens. They come in different focal lengths and are used to increase the intensity of the laser beam. The ones with smaller focal length can be used to cut thinner materials while ones with larger focal length can easily cut through thick materials. Bottom line is that if you are to cut objects of varying thickness, you will need to get focus lens.

Air compressor
Air is used to blow away any dust, debris or chip material which can get in the way of the laser especially when cutting wood or leather. They are a potential fire hazard as  well so it’s always smart to keep an eye on what your cutting at all times.  So, for this reason most desktop / hobby lasers should come equipped with an air pump or air compressor.

Which company should I choose?
Many people have had terrible experiences when they tried buying it directly from china or via Ebay. The common complaint with a lot of these foreign companies is that the product gets stuck at the border by Customs Border Patrol due to not having valid FDA approved accession numbers, compliant or certified UL or CSA documents.  This is very common and you can’t always trust what a foreign company will tell you.  Unfortunately once it hits the border and the CBP puts it on hold and then seizes the machine not only will you not get your laser you can potentially be fined or blacklisted on any future imports.   Even if they do get through, many a time’s customers do not get what they ask for. This is because of the lack of quality checking. People find themselves at the wrong end and realize their folly only after it is too late.

It is always best to trust a US based company when buying a laser for cutting metal or hard steel. The advantage of going US based is that they either have a USA made machine or a high quality design with parts imported from overseas and thus they are able to lower their retail price but still maintain impressive quality.  Moreover don’t need to worry about all the hassles that could  and probably would happen throughout the customs clearance process.  Another added advantage is that these US based companies conduct their quality check to ensure a US standard product.

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Looking at CO2 Laser Cutter Options?

co2 aser cutterFor some a desktop CO2 laser cutter is a means to simply engrave or cut basic materials to serve their personal artistic hobbies. The output is typically very good in terms of engraving detail. For another group who professionally deal in wood work, the laser cutter for wood applications is very useful in their profession.  In this case quiet a bit of time and research goes into acquiring the laser itself as well as investigating the company behind the laser.  Now, if I were to recommend anything to someone researching the laser market: Don’t just look at the laser itself – look at the company and their support. So, read old and new reviews, talk to their support, ask how long they have been in business. Like my mom used to say, “An ounce of pevention is worth a pound of cure.” It only takes a little time to review the company behind the product.

Uses of the Desktop CO2 Laser Machine/Cutter

People utilize laser cutters to cut materials quickly and cleanly. Items such as fabric, leather, acrylic, plastic, and wood are common for co2. Although you can’t cut metal with a co2 wavelength due to the reflectivity of the metal. You can use them to cut and engrave organic products though. Other materials that you can use with the machine include Corian, rubber, cardboard, foam, cork, stone and synthetics. It’s also possible to cut a small DIY puzzle or model from a piece of wood using the laser cutter for wood. Depending on the chosen machine, you may need to hold your materials when working.

Benefits of the Laser Cutter for Wood

The Laser Machine/Cutter comes in various sizes and this means that both individuals and businesses can make use of them. The people who use the machines are drawn from different industries. You can use the machines with just a little education, some patience and protective equipment. Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional, you can use the machine to cut and engrave different materials and this is a plus because you will not have to buy a new one for all the materials. They output from the job is usually impressive with intricate details and shading. You can cut plastic and acrylic into different shapes such as attractive snowflakes. The machines are ideal for cutting decorative materials such as brick, marble, granite or ceramic to create intricate artwork to serve as an outdoor mural or kitchen back splash.

Laser cutters can make things much easier for people who like to engage in leather work or fabric design creatives. You can create some of the moist beautiful pillows and make varsity letters and numbers from scratch using the laser cutters. You can make merit badges for your kids as well with the lasers. Once a person gets used to using the machine they can go a step further and engrave on glass or mirrors to make party favors or nice gifts. Skilled users can make their own awards and models, do 3D engraving and engrave on round services.

Buying a CO2 Laser Machine

After learning of all the benefits of the desktop CO2 laser machine, one might naturally want to buy it and start working. At this point, many people are taken back since they don’t know where to get a decent machine.  Do not look at Ebay for buying any laser cutter.  The price can allure you but don’t give Ebay or Chinese lasers a second thought.  Its far better buying a machine from an online USA shop or a regional or local retailer. Regardless of the shop you choose, you should buy through US based companies and not from overseas online sellers. Staying home is best since you will not have to deal with issues such as time difference, lack of competent support and a poor quality machine. The above problems are common for people who buy the desktop CO2 laser machines directly.

When looking to buy a laser wood cutter, you should avoid low end, sketchy outfits that are normally characterized by loose operations, few employees and shoddy machines. Buy from a US based company with a good reputation and ongoing support system that you can verify. It should also have a good option for refunds, good tech support and warranty. Buying directly may not offer you those options. Some foreign companies do not have legal documents for operations and often land into trouble with the law causing delays to their customers. Reading reviews should help you come up with a good company to use.

How to buy the correct Desktop CO2 Laser Cutter

Consider Overall Utility and Price

To truly benefit from a desktop CO2 laser cutting machine, there will be a need to invest heavily up front and not just money…you need support who has expertise in operating, troubleshooting, and maintaining the machine. Against this background, you should be very sure of how you are going to be using the laser cutter for wood. Most modeling jobs require the laser cutter to have 40 Watts. If you need more cutting power and speed, you can go for the 50 to 60 Watt laser. You, should, however, be ready to pay more for the more powerful machine. The materials that you will be using on the machine matter as well. It is important to choose wisely as your needs may change over time.

Correct Software

Using the right software is important if you are using laser cutting. The software interfaces with your graphic  design software and hobby laser cutter.  Although some machines offer an interface that also acts as a graphics software as well. It is, therefore, important that you get a capable interface that can work with the best graphics programs in the market – or the one you use. Some companies just offer their customers drivers for the programs with no interface to use as they work. On the other hand, again other companies will also offer you an interface to use so that you will not have to make your design in a separate graphics application. Some of the more popular graphics applications available include Photoshop, AutoCAD, and CorelDRAW.

Size of Engraving Area

The engraving area is the part you will use for cutting and defines or limits the size of material you can cut as well as the parts/models that you can make. In most cases, a cutter will have a larger materials area as compared to the cutting area. This is however, relevant only if you want to etch designs or photographs into plastic, or blocks of wood. You should look at the workable area if you want to build models or parts. There are variations according to brands and you glass_Co2_laser_tubeshould get the largest according to the price that fits your budget. Most hobbyists go for 14″ x 15″ space.

The CO2 Laser Tube

Another consideration to have in mind is the Desktop CO2 Laser Machine/Cutter which is like the heart of the machine. This is where everything happens and people measure its power in watts. While having more watts is important, you should give importance to the make and quality of the CO2 Laser Tube. Since it does most of the work, it wears out fast. You should, therefore, choose the laser wood cutter with the sturdiest CO2 laser and you will use it for a long time without any problems. Lasers that entail more wattage will also make it possible for you to cut denser and thicker material. They cut with additional precision as well.

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Desktop CO2 Laser Cutting Machines

Laser Cutter for SaleThe desktop CO2 laser, often referred to as a small or hobby laser, is a relatively smaller compact machine with the power to cut objects of up to ¼ inches thick depending on the power.  The machine can cut but typically used to engrave glass, wood, marble, stone, leather and anodized aluminum as well as painted metals. The laser performs all these functions with a stunning, almost printer like photographic engraving quality.

Results are surprising.

If you consider the cost or the price of a small 40 to 50 watt laser cutter these days you can get a lot of bang for your buck.  Smaller desktop lasers usually range from 10 to 45 watts of CO2 laser power.  This gives it the power to cut out 3/8″ thick materials and engrave on about any non-reflective surface.   Engraving  custom messages on signs, plaques, or treated aluminum dog tags are common applications and can add to the value of the item.  Hand-turned signs and pens and also design prototypes can also be processed.

How Do Desktop Laser Systems Work?

If you have used a normal printer you will discover that a laser cutter uses similar technology.  The laser will take the images that a printer would print to paper but will instead fire the laser’s co2 power to engrave or cut the image into whatever material is in front of it.

VECTOR CUTTING VS. RASTER ENGRAVING

There are two different processing modes utilized when working with any laser cutter:  vector and raster.

Raster mode tends to be used for engraving things similar to a standard printer.  Whereas, vector is much more adept at cutting things out.  For example with vector cutting the laser will fire at a given point on your image, then continue cutting on that line, actually tracing the perimeter of the image before finally turning the laser off. This is why it tends to be used for cutting instead of etching.

FEATURES

A desktop, CO2 laser has a number of great features. Just to name a few…

· Engraving or cutting area- For hobby lasers the cutting area can range from 8×10″ to 12×20″.   The material size you work with will dictate the size engraving are you’ll need.

· A print software driver or a laser interface that allows your PC to talk to the laser.  Most will allow you to design within popular design software such as AutoCAD, PhotoShop, CorelDraw, Adobe illustrator, Solidworks, etc.

· Laser head air assist connection which keeps the laser head area free of  smoke or debris while the laser head is engraving or cutting

· Compact design- Most desktop machines can be moved either by picking up or preferably a moved via. mobile cart.  Weight of the machine will range from 50 to 50 pounds depending on the construction.

· Since the laser beam is invisible laser cutting machines that are equipped with a red dot pointer or better yet a beam combiner assembly will enable you to see where the laser is working.  A beam combiner is simply a red beam of laser light that travels along side or combines with the actual infrared laser beam thereby illuminating the surface material. It’s a great visual reference.

· Rotary attachments is a nice accessory that comes in either a chuck or roller style.  With it you can attach it to the machine as a 3rd axis allowing you to engrave cylindrical shaped items.

· Machines that have cut outs or material ‘escape hatches’ in the back and even sides on higher end machines give you greater material flexibility.  This feature is incredible in that it enables you to pass a longer piece of material through the machine.  So, you’re not just limited to the engraving area inside the machine.  The more flexibility you have to process material the better.

 

COMMON DESKTOP LASER CUTTER APPLICATIONS

Acrylic Laser CutterCutting and Engraving with CO2 gives you a lot of material flexibility.

1. Cutting Material Options

Even a small, desktop CO2 mini laser is very capable of  cutting and engraving various organic materials, namely:  Wood plastic, leather, fabrics, film, paper, canvas, painted metals,  stainless steel, and acrylic to name a few.  But, the more open minded you get you’ll discover a lot more.

2. Industrial Applications

A desktop laser cutter is mainly suitable for small business start ups and typically for hobby type applications.  Industries includes well suited include:

  • Sign companies
  • Custom gift shops
  • Wedding planning and organizing
  • Interior design
  • Advertising
  • Garment
  • Toys
  • Leather cutting and engraving
  • craft-work
  • Custom wood working
  • Cabinetry
  • Furniture customization

1. USB connectivity.

The laser uses a USB port and can therefore be connected to a desktop or laptop computer. Typically laser software or at least a driver that allows your current design software to talk to the laser should be included.  Most laser software can handle the most popular graphic formats including but not limted to:  JPG, PNG, TIFF, EMF, WMF and PLT.

2. Exterior Cabinet

The exterior cabinet or body of the machine (preferably steel) makes it durable and its transportation safer with respect to the internal components.

DESIGNED AND ASSEMBLED WITHIN THE USA

Any laser machine coming from at least a US based company has many advantages as opposed to directly importing from over seas.  Support and replacement parts are often overlooked and frequently utilized during the life of a laser.  Experience has told me to buy local rather than risk getting a machine from a cheap, unproven supplier abroad.   Aside from the big hurdle of actually clearing an imported machine pass Customs Border Control and the FDA (much of that burden falls on the supplier) long term you will save more time and money with a hobby laser purchased from within the United States.

 

Recommend Laser Cutter Companies:

The smaller Desktop CO2 cutter can be a great, mind blowing tool that will impress both you and  your peers.   But, where you buy can dictate how usable the machine will actually be. I prefer companies strong in support.  Because these tools can require ongoing maintenance and manipulation.  It’s not like a normal desktop inkjet printer where you just replace ink cartridges once every few months.  Small laser machines will require maintenance (albeit very minimal) and adjustments that you’ll have to make to keep the machine in tune.  All that to say you’ll want access to support or parts to be quick and easy.

Laser machine price variances and are similar to vehicles – you can buy used lemons or a Mercedez and everything in between.  The following companies offer mid-range to upper level laser systems from hobby laser to 2 KW laser systems but are noted for their ongoing support.

Universal Laser

Epilog Laser

Boss Laser

LaserPro

Trotec Laser

Kern Technologies

Trumpf Laser

 

Leave your comments below…

 

 

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Wood Laser Cutter

Wood Laser Cutter

Besides cast or extruded acrylic, engraving and cutting wood with a Co2 laser cutter is one of the best projects you can start with.  Below are a few resources for engraving wood…

http://www.pinterest.com/paz/wood-engraving/

http://profitablehobbies.com/free-patterns/more-free-patterns-for-engraving-projects/

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CO2 Laser Engraver – What Can It Do?

 

Co2 laser engraverToday’s modern technology has the power it seems to overcome all problems of  mankind. I wish it did.  The use of laser technology is increasing in popularity day by day. Due to low maintenance and power ranges of the CO2 laser tube it’s only going to continue to improve and grow.

Laser engraving is semi-new technology that utilizes a laser beam to cut different types of organic and metal materials.  It’s mostly used at an industrial level for manufacturing applications. But now it is also being used by small companies, educational institutes and by hobbyists. Industrial laser cutters are used for design creating across many materials. This specific laser engraver (image) is designed for small engraving projects intended for hobbyists. At one time building parts or carving wood materials meant several hours with heavy tools, but now you can easily create a more intricate design with the help of a laser.

The right software for the right task is the most important step while using desktop laser cutter. The software actually communicates with your laser cutter and graphic software on which you are working. A reliable and efficient USB is required if you want to engrave good quality models. Most desktop laser cutters have glass CO2 laser tubes in the back cabinet.  Their power is measured in watts. They are truly the heart of a laser cutter. The quality of a laser tube plays a very important role because it is the part from which everything gets done.  My experience with buying this kind of machinery is to choose the best quality CO2 laser.  It doesn’t mean you need to spend tens of thousands but it also doesn’t mean to buy from Ebay either.

If you want to engrave cylindrical objects like glasses, bottles or aluminum cylinders etc then rotary attachments plays very beneficial part. These attachments allow for the rotating of cylindrical blocks on a horizontal axis so that they can be etched in a perfect way without any hurdle. These attachments are not offered in every desktop laser cutter. But if you are planning cylindrical objects to be etched then it is highly essential for you.

A standard small laser cutter focal lens will often come available with different focal lengths. They perform different functions and are generally classified in inches or millimeters. The focus lens is used to focus the beam to cut or etch material.  A 3 or 4″ focal length or higher helps to cut thicker material with more clarity and finish. So,  focal lens length for any laser machine is critical for working with various material thicknesses.

Where can you shop?  Some of the bigger companies are Universal, Trumpf, or Trotec.  Affordable options can be found at http://www.hobbylasercutter.com as well.  It’s best to call or visit the companies you’re interested.  Also, understand that the least expensive machine may cost more in the long run.

A desktop laser machine is an important tool that makes the manufacturing process faster, easier and more precise. Now you can easily design and create anything.  Whatever you think or want on your personal computer you can almost ‘print’ onto the material. This machine proves as a best choice for hobbyists and owners of small companies to get better outcome in a short time.

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Reasons Why You Should Consider Co2 Laser Glass Tubes

glass_Co2_laser_tubeAlso commonly known as gas laser which was invented by Kumar Patel of Bell Labs in 1964, Co2 laser is produced by utilizing the reaction of a combination of gases inside an enclosed tube under vacuum.

There are two types of tubes; RF lasers and glass tube lasers. The latter is often regarded as inferior to the former but wait until you read the facts.

Ranging from 1/5 to 1/20 of the RF laser’s price, glass tube laser main advantage is its price some lasers possess a 5,000 or 10,000 hours of usage ratings which means that you possibly can run your laser for 8 hours per day for 625 days consecutively on one within the 5,000 hour tubes. They are also built to be maintained and replaced by the user, not a technician saving you from high maintenance cost.

Glass laser tubes are also built to last and they have been widely used throughout Europe and Asia for the past 4 decades. Because of RF laser’s complexity such as requirement of RF generator and a technician or installer, simplicity is the foremost selling point of the glass tube considering the DC power supplies that power them.

Shape of the beam is also an important factor to consider. Due to the round tube the gases are held in, glass tube naturally produces round laser beam. RF tubes, on the other hand, are either square or rectangular and produces an oval beam thanks to their special optics. If you are doing marquetry, puzzles or architectural models, a perfectly round beam is not a requirement as you desire for the cuts going from the front to back of the table to be the same width (kerf) as the ones going right to left.

There would be times when sustaining a continuous beam is better than a beam that pulses on and off making CO2 laser glass tubes perfect cutting partner. They will let you cut Acrylic without worrying of having to flame polish the edges.

RF tubes steal the spotlight from glass tubes when it comes to engraving due to the pulse technology as well as the shadings of photographs. However, this advantage is short lived simply because there are photo software applications that can convert an image into bitmap that optimizes the photo for engraving and turns it into a number of dots that make the laser switch on and off when engraving the photograph producing amazing results

Another great thing about glass tubes is that they can be water-cooled. This is very important especially when you need your system to operate for lengthy amounts of time, in a room where the room temperature is beyond 75 degrees or varies significantly and where highly consistent results are critical. Water Cooling enables the laser tube to become kept at a steady temperature which yields consistent power as a result.

Air-cooled tubes, on the other hand, are dependent on ambient temperature which makes them inconvenient for lengthy usage.

Glass tube lasers can offer years of service without hurting your wallat. Investing in CO2 laser glass tubes easily gives you over competitors who are fan of RF technology.

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The Status of CO2 Laser Machine Industry in 2013

co2_laser_machineFor the CO2 laser machine industry, 2011 was a record-breaking year for revenues while 2012 with economies fluctuating in Europe and China we saw a significant slowdown. Now 2013 may prove to be another modest year of growth. With 2012 being almost a flat line for some laser sectors, and world economies fluctuating – 2013 should again show very conservative gains.

Many of the leading industrial laser system suppliers as well as a recent report from the ILS (Laser Solutions For Manufacturing) point to uncertainty in the manufacturing economies and unresolved economic issues as the culprit for the conservative outlook. ILS makes their forecast after analyzing 48 public corporations who publish their quarterly financial statements.

The ILS made a single digit growth prediction for 2012 after two record breaking years of growth and was only a few percent off. Fueled by big growth from the fiber laser sector the laser industry in general saw revenue growth top 2.14 billion in 2011. As big as growth was in 2008 it almost collapsed in 2009 fueled by the downward pressure of the recession. Having survived the past recession many laser cutting and engraving machine suppliers managed operations similarly in 2012 and will maintain the same in 2013 as well. The conservative outlook for 2013 points to the problems in the Chinese economy and the 27 country European market slow down. Two economies largely responsible for propelling growth in years past.

The ‘fiscal cliff’ as the U.S. government terms it has led to uncertainty toward the U.S. laser industry manufacturing economy. The result is an average growth rate estimate of a mere 3% with CO2 lasers on the low end with only a 1% growth rate and on the high end the fiber laser industry forecasted at 8%.

New fibre laser application solutions have made this sector popular in 2012 with 2013 estimates as high as 20% increase in 2013 revenues. In fact in 2012 fiber lasers proved to have the highest growth rate with a 16% improvement in laser revenues. Compare that to the falling CO2 laser market which was down 15% in growth within the same year.

Fiber lasers market penetration isn’t without a few other growing technologies including diode and excimer laser technology.

Fiber laser developments have made processing materials with high peak power more and more common. But it still has its limits depending on the application. This solid state fiber laser technology has proven to be a better fit for laser cutting thinner materials. Whereas, CO2 is more efficient with thicker materials.

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Laser Cutter Price

Check here for more prices of Laser Cutters
laser cutter

 

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Desktop Laser Cutter

Desktop Laser Cutter

To learn more visit here

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CNC Laser Cutter

CNC Laser Cutter

You can check out more details here

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Acrylic Laser Cutter

Acrylic Laser Cutter

Acrylic Laser Cutter

Here is the article about Acrylic Laser Cutter

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How Much To Pay for A Laser Cutter For Sale

If you’re shopping around for a laser cutter machine, you’ve got a tremendous range of options, prices, and companies to choose from… I’ve highlighted a couple key considerations to bear in mind if you’re researching the market for a laser cutter for sale

Laser Cutter for Sale

Laser cutter machine prices vary widely depending on where you buy. You can expect to spend as little as $3000 for a low end no name Chinese import. A high quality laser might cost you as much as $20,000 or $30,000.

Now, if you’re just looking for a home laser cutter machine, there’s not much point to spending more than the minimum. On the other hand, if you want a laser for professional use, you really do have to sit down and figure out what you get for a bigger laser cutter price. After all, it’s no longer so much a question of money out of pocket as it is return on investment.

Finding a laser cutter machine for sale at an incredibly cheap price may actually cost you more than a name brand model if it breaks down or doesn’t do what you want… and don’t be confused by your materials, either. Even if you only want a laser cutter machine for paper, buying higher quality can still be worth it even if you barely need any power.

Why? The difference between a low power laser that’s only good for processing paper and a higher powered laser cutter machine for wood is usually just the laser tube. The mechanics are generally the same. Unless you’re considering DIY or finding a laser cutter on eBay, it may therefore still be worth while to look at the bigger ones.

So, what do you get when you buy a more expensive laser?

Spending more generally means you’re buying from the name brands. Companies like Boss Laser, Epilog, Eurolaser, Universal, and Trotec all charge more… but the systems they offer are, as a rule, much better engineered and much better supported. Some even offer fully modular designs, saving you tens of thousands of dollars if you decide you need a bigger working area but you’re OK with your current laser tube.

In short, they’re faster, higher resolution, more reliable, easier to use, and easier to get help with and get repaired.

Laser systems generally break down into three fundamental building blocks: the laser tube, the beam delivery system, and the positioning system.

The laser tube is at the heart of any laser system. Without a laser, you aren’t going very far. And while even cheap Chinese tubes use the now ubiquitous, maintenance free sealed RF-excited CO2 design, there are key differences between them and higher quality models.

Well engineered tubes can be run at full power for a long time. Cheaper models may mean having to keep a spare or two around in case you get an unexpected failure, or having to run at lower than rated power to preserve tube life. Either way, cheaper tubes mean you end up replacing the tube more often — that takes time, and may require alignment. (Aligning laser systems can be easy, or, with a poorly designed system, it can be a downright pain.)

The second most critical component in a laser engraver is the beam delivery system. The beam has to get from the laser tube — buried deeply in the machine, and hopefully kept nice and cool by a sophisticated air-circulation system — to the point on the material it’s supposed to engrave or cut. Low quality mirrors along the way cost you laser power unnecessarily, cutting the performance of a tube so you get less cutting or engraving ability than you paid for.

last part of the beam path is the most critical. There’s always at least one lens that focuses the CO2 laser beam into a tiny spot. This lens can double your effective laser power depending on the design. At the same time, this lens is also one of the few components that wear out over time. Eventually, dust and smoke particles from engraving and cutting fuse to the lens surface, dirtying it and eventually requiring you to buy a replacement. Better quality lenses last longer, and the best laser systems have air assist jets which ensure dust and smoke can’t find their way anywhere near the lens.

Once the laser beam is on target, it falls to the the positioning system to move it around so that the laser can cut and engrave. The positioning system is a high-precision X-Y movement, which operates under computer control. Cheaply made X-Y movements may have “slop,” and may use lower-resolution stepper motors and feedback devices.

The result is that a cheaper X-Y movement won’t let you engrave fine details nearly as precise, and will introduce errors into detailed graphics, smaller type font and drawings. This isn’t so much of an issue if you aren’t doing sophisticated graphics, or if you have the time and inclination to fiddle with things to get them right.

For a professional shop most laser cutters for sale under $3k wont be a good fit. Being able to place the beam precisely can be absolutely critical. It also helps that better designed movements last longer, as they’re designed to be less vulnerable to the smoke, fumes, and particles flying around the inside of the laser engraver during processing operations.

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Close Up on the Laser Cutter Price

There are quite few different types of laser cutters, such as desktop laser cutters, CNC laser cutters, wood laser cutters and acrylic laser cutters.

Desktop Laser Cutter

A desktop laser cutter can sit right on your desk or a table, and it works just like any other type of small laser machine. You simply set up your laser cutter, water pump, exhaust, software and then scan an image to your computer. Next, just let the desktop laser trace the image’s pattern. The desktop laser cutter price is on the low end. Usually the price can be less than $3,500. Desktop laser cutter What makes most desktop laser cutters unique compared to professional or industrial sized laser cutters is cannot cut certain depths of material. As an example a 40W desktop laser engraver will mostly be used to engrave or etch and will cut up to 1/4″ wood. Most desktop cutters are typically designed to be used by small businesses or hobbyists.

CNC Laser Cutter

A CNC laser cutter or router price can be on the high end. Prices usually start at around $10k depending on the size and power capabilites. CNC machines can cut an route many different types of materials, such as stainless steel, mild steel and aluminium. This is one of the main differences between CNC laser cutters and desktop laser cutters. Products such as a metal gate or sheet metal are usually cut with a CNC laser cutter or fiber laser. Finished products are usually of very high quality and cutting things on a CNC laser cutter is very cost efficient.

Wood Laser Cutter

A wood laser cutter isn’t just for cutting wood but many refer to it that way. Prices are depending on the size and depth of wood needed to cut or engrave. Most sign companies use a laser cutter wide enough to process a sheet of plywood. And so it is designed to engrave designs into most types of wood which is good news if you need a specific type of wood for your project.

There are many different types of things you can cut using a wood laser cutter. Some of these things include wooden knick-Knacks, rubber band planes, rc boats and planes or basically any type of wood gear toy or model.

Acrylic Laser Cutter

Again, often referred this way but a CO2 laser cutter handles acrylic with ease. It can engrave and cut right through acrylic leaving very smooth, sharp edges. In fact acrylic is one of the best materials to process with a laser cutter. The laser cutter price again depends on your engraving or cutting space needed and the CO2 tube power along with the power supply. If you want to create just acrylic signs, letters, and gifts than minimal power will be necessary.

Laser Cutter Price

You may be wondering how much a laser cutter costs, but there are a few factors that play a major role in how much you will pay for a laser cutter. One of the main factors is the size and power of the laser cutter you need for your unique project or business. A desktop laser cutter tends to be less money than a CNC, or fiber laser cutter used for metal. Buying name brands may give you an easier to use machine but long term costs and replacement parts can’t be purchased on the open market. Expect to pay a premium for replacement parts.

Condition plays a big role in a laser cutter’s price. You can find scratch and dent units. I’ve found some very newer units at Boss Laser that only have minor dents in the cabinet for a great price.

The size and power of the machine will also play a role in price. The more powerful the machine is, the more money it will cost, and the bigger it is, the more it will be in general.

Not many people realize this but there are different types of lasers, which means that one laser cutter machine may have a stronger more powerful laser than another laser cutter machine, even if the machines are in the same category. For example, a 60W wood laser cutter will have a slower cutting and engraving speed compared to a 100W wood laser cutter. It is important to realize this because knowing what type of laser or knowing how much power (in the form of Watts) you need can help you determine the right machine you need based on the laser application or projects you need or want to perform.

Basically, prices can vary greatly. You can expect to pay anywhere from $300-$12,000 for a laser cutter, regardless of what type of laser cutter it is.

Laser Cutters For Sale

There are many different types of venues to research should you decide to buy a hobby or professional or industrial laser cutter. You can buy directly from manufacturers overseas, which is one of the MOST EXPENSIVE ways long term to buy laser cutter machine. Cheap can be expensive when it comes to laser machines. Nothing wrong with imported machines but from experience its best to purchase one through a U.S. company that already knows, understands, and warrants the machine. There are a lot of unknows when buying direct from China beginning with shipping, replacement parts, service (usually low quality and hard to understand) and CO2 tube power.

There are also U.S. retailers that sell all upper scale laser cutter machines where the price can
begin at $8,000 for a 30W machine. Realize that replacement parts can’t be purchased on the open market so like repairing a luxury car the same is true with buying from retailers like Trotec, Epilog, Universal, and other laser companies.

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What They Don’t Tell You About a CNC Laser Cutter

Laser cutters are used to make precision cuts into materials such as wood, plastics, acrylic, metals, and glass, among other things. Laser cutter are used for a wide array of applications in a myriad of industries and specialty areas. However, these machines are most commonly used an industrial settings, whether it is paper laser cutting, metal laser cutting, laser etching or laser engraving.

CNC laser cutter

When the laser cutting machine first started the cutting process was manual, where the swivel arm had to be directed along a set path by a person. These days, the CNC machine, or a CNC laser cutter, makes the laser cutting process automated. The CNC laser cutter can be broken down into three main components, these are: a controller, the laser and the surface. The controller is the main entity of a CNC machine and it is usually a computer that is driven by purpose built software. The software that runs the entire unit is the most important part of the machine as it determines the material that the machine can cut, the speed of the cutting process and the temperature that the cut will take place at.

Is Epilog Laser Cutter Worth It?

There are a number of laser cutter machine manufactures out there. Which is why purchasing a good laser cutter could turn out to be a daunting task at best. The confusing process will lead most people toward going for the well-known higher priced name brands, like the Epilog laser cutter or even Trotec or Universal laser. The BIG negative that most buyers never realize until its too late come when its time to buy replacement laser parts. Just like the part prices for luxury cars are high the same can be said of name brand laser machine parts. Most of the replacement parts are proprietary and can be up to 10 times the cost compared to buying a machine where parts can be bought on the open market.

If you’re willing to pay for the above there is no doubt that Epilog Zing laser machines represent some of the best laser cutters on the market. If you have the money to spend on these machines, however, they are the better alternative to purchasing straight from China (not recommended regardless the price) or building your own DIY laser cutter.

Step Up to A Metal Laser Cutter

The metal laser cutter can be run by any of the three power sources, these are: C02, Nd (which stands for Neodymium) and Nd-YAG (which stands for Neodymium doped Yttrium Aluminum Garnet). The power source you use for your machine, firstly, depends on the type of machine you have, and secondly, depends on the thickness and durability of the metal you are going to put through the cutting process. Cutting with a metal laser cutter is the easier because there is not much that can go wrong with the cutting surface, unlike cutting with a wood laser cutter, plastic laser cutter, paper laser cutter or an acrylic laser cutter. Many industries use a fiber laser for its efficiency cutting sheet metal whereas a higher powered CO2 laser is better suited for metals over 5mm.

Home Laser Cutter

If you are looking to get into a laser cutting hobby you will want to look around for a smaller desktop home laser cutter. The engraving areas will be smaller in size than the industrial laser cutting machines, but can handle the cutting of just about any commercial material except for cutting metal. I recommend buying a laser cutter thats bigger than a 12×12″ engraving space…in other words if the laser cant cut a 12×12″ rectangle you will be too limited and will be upgrading in the near future. Most of the home laser cutter machines on the market are C02 powered, which means that these machines are meant for use in light scribing, etching and engraving and cutting up to 1/4″ wood.

Laser Cutters for Sale

When you are looking to buy your first laser cutter it is important to do your homework. Also, you may not want to go for a brand new cutter right from the start. If you are starting a new business or a new hobby, you will want to keep costs down. This is why going for a second hand laser cutter, or looking for laser cutters for sale, is your best bet. One thing to keep in mind, when going with a second hand cutter, however, is that they will not last forever. They are meant to get your business or hobby started before you decide to go with a new cutter for extended reliability.

Laser Etching Machine

A laser etching machine works in the same manner as a laser cutter. These machines are made up of the same components as the cutters (controller, laser and surface), and are run or powered by the gasses mentioned above. The only difference is that these machines’ lasers are applied at a lower heat setting so as not to completely cut the object being etched. Maintenance and calibration of these machines, especially the laser and the swivel arm, (and the software if you use a CNC machine) are of utmost importance, because anything wrong with any part of the machine can wreak havoc in your project and cost money if the machine etched too deep or too shallow.

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What Can You Do With a Small Desktop Laser Cutter?

A laser cutter is generally used for laser cutting, wherein the user of the machine initiates the process of cutting an object or a piece of material. Laser cutting is used in many different industries around the world for industrial purposes, however, it is also very widely used by hobbyists and smaller businesses. The process starts with a controller, usually a computer that controls the laser’s speed and heat.

The controller of the laser cutter comes in both manual and automatic (which is called a CNC machine, where CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control).A CNC machine can work in two ways. The most common CNC machine has the laser attached to an automated arm that hovers over the object to be cut. The arm will guide the laser along a predefined path, cutting through the given material until the end product is achieved.

Desktop Laser Cutter

The second type of CNC machine keeps the laser in a stationary position and, instead, moves the material under the laser (with the laser being stationary). Both manual laser cutter machines as well as CNC machines, or automated machines, come in many different sizes and can cut into or through just about any type of material. Additionally, progress in the industry has brought 3D laser cutter machines to the market.

DIY Laser cutter

The best type of DIY laser cutter out there is the 3D laser cutter. 3D laser cutters work in the same way as the traditional type of laser, mentioned above. Like the traditional laser cutter machines 3D lasers are powered by one of three gases, C02, Nd (which stand for Neodymium), and Nd-YAG (which stands for Neodymium doped Yttrium Aluminum Garnet). C02 powered 3D lasers are the weakest of the bunch, which means they are the cheapest and the most popular. They cut through all materials including metal, wood and glass and can achieve low powered cuts with shallow etches. Nd and Nd-YAG 3d lasers are the most powerful, offering perfectly manicured edges and deep etches in projects that require high pulse control and extreme heat.

The biggest difference with 3D lasers and the traditional 2D laser cutter machines is that the 3D lasers are attached to a swivel arm that circles the material or object to be cut. These lasers can create perfect 3D images etched into any shaped glass, metal, wood, or plastic. 3D lasers are also most commonly used to create intricate ornaments and figurines out of a solid piece of material, like a block of wood.

Acrylic Laser Cutter

The power source that you use to power up your laser cutter depends on the type of material you are looking to cut into. While you can cut all types of material with the weakest laser, the C02 laser, there are certain materials that require a little more power. However, when it comes to the acrylic laser cutter you will want to treat the process in the same way you treat wood or plastic laser cutting. Wood, plastic, acrylic and heat do not go well together. Which is why you will want to keep the temperature of your acrylic laser cutter as low as possible. This is something you will want to keep an eye on, however, because if you set it too low you will end up with an untidy cut that does not make it through the material correctly (which could resemble a tear). On the other hand, if you turn the heat too high, you edges will get burned or melt away and wreck your project.

Laser Cutter Machine

There are 2 different types of laser cutter machines on the market, namely, the 2D and the 3D. The 3D laser cutter machine is used, typically, in the industrial arena. The technology has proven itself very handy for cutting rounded pipes and molding for houses, offices and other types of buildings. 3D laser cutting makes it possible for manufacturers to get a perfect cut and a perfect fit every time they need it, for just about any application.

Paper Laser Cutter

A paper laser cutter requires a very low source of power and is mostly used in the greeting card industry for scribing, etching, edging, perforating and grooving.

Laser Cutting Wood

When you are laser cutting wood you need to make sure that your processing speed is set high. However, the heat of the laser needs to be set low. There are some considerations to keep in mind however. If your processing speed is set too low you risk burning the edge of you cut wood, which will also happen if your temperature is set too high. On the other hand, if your temperature is set too low you will end up with uncut or untidy edges.

Cheap Laser Cutter

If you are new to the industry you will be looking for a small cheap laser cutter. There are a number of Chinese manufactures importing laser cutting machines that are marketed as being cheap, but in reality they are not. They may be less expensive in retail price, but they will cost you more in the long run due to shipping and customs fees as well as recurring maintenance costs and parts that they seem to always make you buy. I would strongly urge you buy a smaller desktop hobby laser thats imported through a US company who has already serviced and can added a tremendous value in support long term. You pay a little more but still a lot less than buying a laser cutter from a U.S. manufacturer.

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