Laser Cutter Evaluation
Our goal is to find a machine that can cut 2-3mm wood, acrylic glass, leather, rubber and engrave anodized aluminum in a budget of around 5000 - 6000€ which is rather the low end of professional laser cutter devices. For this purpose we figured we need at least a 40W laser tube. A build area of 300x400mm is considered the minimum, the larger the better in general. A lift-able bed (z-axis) for focusing is a nice-to-have - if the laser head itself can be adjusted for the distance to the material that is fine as well. A built in ventilation system and external air-filter is required. We would prefer a device that has Linux drivers or software available on Linux - since we did not find a single solution so far that works under Linux we figured there is no way around a Windows Machine connected to the Laser cutter so we at least want a software that is not limiting the laser cutters capabilities and has an open interface to allow a Linux controlled system to be built in the future. Cutting EPS, SVG or HPGL files should be supported.
2 The big companies
Unfortunately their entry model prices all already exceed our budget significantly:
- Trotec http://www.troteclaser.com/en-US/Pages/Laser_systems.aspx
- Epilog Laser https://www.epiloglaser.com/
- GCC http://www.gccworld.com/
3 The Chinese Options
There are many cheap offers from Chinese companies on Alibaba, Aliexpress, Amazon or dedicated websites with webshops in a price range of 1000 - 3000 €. The internet is full of disappointed users that received such devices in non working states, with essential safety measurements missing or just terrible build quality. Some devices might be fine in the beginning but as soon as you need support or replacement parts the trouble starts...
To protect Chinese manufacturers from copying each other they came up with the "great" idea to lock their software to a USB dongle. A great step back from modern age...
There are a number of Chinese manufacturers who maintain a US based sales office so sometimes it can be difficult to check where a device is actually coming from. Once you need tech support you are likely limited to the team from the Chinese mainland. We are not saying that all these are bad - but we learned to proceed with a certain amount of caution here.
We rather spend a bit more on a solid device with known good tech support and a vibrant user base plus long term availability of replacement/spare parts.
4 Viable Options
Full Spectrum Laser
https://fslaser.com - a Las Vegas company that emerged from a kickstarter campaign
P-SERIES PROFESSIONAL 60W laser with 508 mm x 305 mm work area - $5,495 (excl. VAT)
BOSS LS-1620 50W laser with 395 x 520mm work area - $5,997 (excl. VAT)
Just Add Sharks
Greyfin A2 60W laser with 600 x 400mm work area - € 5,729 (incl. VAT)
USB dongle required for their software - too bad
60W Laser with 600x400 work area and Z table - $6,200 (excl. VAT)
http://www.thunderlaser.com/mini60 - the company is in Hong Kong but we read some good reviews of their devices
Mini60-Plus with 50W laser with 600x400mm work area - $ 3,900 (excl. VAT)