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Epilog Laser Projects #2: Before You Buy A Laser

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Blog entry by philphoto posted 11-29-2014 05:40 PM 3403 reads 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: What I have learned by owning a laser engraver. Part 2 of Epilog Laser Projects series no next part

Before You Buy A Laser—There are three things to consider when selecting a laser:

Size Matters. A lot! The larger the bed the more copies of a piece you can make saving reload time. Also, many jobs need to be produced on a larger bed laser. The 18” X 24” is fine for a large percentage of the market. Some of the higher priced cabinet doors, skateboard decks, and furniture need to have a large bed laser. If I had it to do over, I would have purchased the largest unit Epilog makes.

Power Matters. A lot! The higher the wattage of the laser tube, the faster your speed when you cut or engrave. At the going national average rate of $1 per minute, every minute you can deduct from production time is that much more profit or margin available to compete on price. Using Epilog’s own materials, they point out that one machine can engrave 22 sets in two hours and the other can produce 30. That is about $1.50 per unit difference. Even if I am just doing this as a hobby, the time for a project can be considerable. This living hinge box job was 175 boxes and it took 12 days at 10 hours per day. Not a lifetime but long enough to be boring once tedium sets in. The following photos are sampling of the boxes we have made using this laser.

Forget Faster and Easier. I mentioned earlier that we spent “considerable computer time” making the pattern. I had 20+ years of graphic design behind me, my son has the same, and both of us are expert in CorelDraw, and Adobe products. Many laser owners have to acquire at least some skill in a drawing program. My son started www.laserpatternwerx.com for the simple reason that computer time is, or can be, long and tedious to perform and to learn. Recovering the expense of computer software and time is a huge challenge. Many laser owners do not have the art background or time to develop new patterns. LaserPattern Werx.com has patterns that took 20 to 30 hours of computer time plus two or three test runs to make the item correctly.
What is the advantage of using a laser? You can make repetitive items in quantity whether you are tired, or feeling charged; the item comes out the same. Be sure that you will NOT compete with China and the volumes that their workers can produce. You will not put the scrollsaw or pyrography craftsman out of business. The laser products are not similar enough to pass one off as the other. You will be able to create products that have precision that is humanly impossible. Precise to .001 of an inch time after time, in my opinion is beyond human ability. Cutting a living hinge, in my opinion, is not possible by hand. Cutting box joints, by hand, tight enough that they snap together and do not require glue (though I use glue always) is not probable. If you have a product like a box and want to make the same thing, but with different alterations or decorations each time, the computer will save time on the repeat end, and the product can be made to the same level of workmanship. This video is of an Easter basket made of wood. Like the photo below. It will give you another idea of what can be cut and engraved on the laser.
http://youtu.be/4wHbeT5hnEk

Keep following this blog for more updates, I will keep focusing on woodworking and using a laser. I will cover adhesives, inlay, alternate materials and more.
Until next time!



10 comments so far

View jneen's profile

jneen

1 post in 669 days


#1 posted 02-07-2015 11:52 PM

Thanks for your info ! I am considering a laser cutter. I am cautious on spending the money right now. I used one at a shop and they charge me $1.50 per minute to cut. That is really adding up. They use the Full Spectrum Laser Cutter, it’s run off of a program called Inkscape.

View philphoto's profile

philphoto

23 posts in 2522 days


#2 posted 02-08-2015 02:46 AM

Thanks for reading and your comments. Inkscape (open source—free), Adobe Illustrator (not free!) Corel Draw (not free but most used for laser work). will all do the job. Just use what you are comfortable with. I like Epilog but the brand is the priciest out there. I will say I think you get what you pay for. There are several lasers on the market, and Epilog had a sizeable support program.
What is the primary product that you want your laser to do?

View Involute's profile

Involute

5 posts in 505 days


#3 posted 07-22-2015 10:26 PM

I’ve been emailing with a guy in my town who has a 45W Epilog Helix for sale. The story is he’s selling it for a friend who got it used in 2006, and who’s never used it since. Fishiness aside, do you have any tips for how I should evaluate the machine to determine if it’s in good working order? I’m new to lasers (but not tools or machinery).

Also, I’m particularly interested in cutting MDF and acrylic. Have you tried cutting these materials with your 50W machine? If so, what’s the thickest you’ve cut each type in one pass, and at what speed?

Thanks.

View philphoto's profile

philphoto

23 posts in 2522 days


#4 posted 07-23-2015 01:23 AM

Varify how old that machine is. Get the serial number and call Epilog. They will help you get an idea on service and needs. Right off the top I would be very cautious! A laser that old is due for a laser recharge. If it was done recently in the last 18 months you could be OK. A laser tube is not cheap. My 50 watt is $2300. A tube depletes due to time not usage. If it has been moved it might need alignment of the mirrors, not expensive but time consuming. The other thing is the belts will be old, and the servo or stepping motors may be out of service. My best guess is that you might be ok but I would be reluctant.
You can call Epilog and they have rebuilt lasers for a nice savings. All with a warranty. I hope that helps some.
Phil

View philphoto's profile

philphoto

23 posts in 2522 days


#5 posted 07-23-2015 01:28 AM

Sorry! I forgot to answer ALL your questions. Yes it will cut MDF. 1/8” all day, 1/4” yes but very slow. Acrylic yes! All day! 1/4” is about the thickest I would go, but I have done 3/8”. Cast acrylic and not extruded. These machines are very capable and you can do things that make our CNC router look weak. BUT there are limits and it takes a while to learn how to use it best. Go to the Epilog site and see the “Sample Page”. Lots of ideas of what can be done.
Phil

View Involute's profile

Involute

5 posts in 505 days


#6 posted 07-23-2015 02:53 AM

Thanks for your thorough replies.

> Get the serial number and call Epilog.

Will do.

> Right off the top I would be very cautious!

I will be, but I figure if the price is right and the machine just needs some new parts, but is otherwise in good shape, it could be worth it.

The seller doesn’t seem to know much about it and claims to be able to run some sort of demo (it’s connected to a PC), but that’s it. I was wondering if there’s some sort of test file I could load into Corel that maybe prints a circle of known radius I could check for circularity. Maybe it also prints some other figures at a range of speeds and powers so I could tell at what combination it cuts through, say, a piece of 1/8” MDF I can bring. Does that sort of thing exist? If not, could you create it? I’d be happy to pay you for your time.

View philphoto's profile

philphoto

23 posts in 2522 days


#7 posted 07-23-2015 03:33 AM

Again I suggest calling Epilog. They are great folks and will not mislead you in any way. I believe they have a test page and they can explain it better. I would not want to produce anything that might be used incorrectly O misleading. Epilog sales department would know what best to use. Would not be surprised if they know the machine right off.

How much is he asking for the laser?

try this link for ideas https://www.epiloglaser.com/resources/sample-club.htm

View Involute's profile

Involute

5 posts in 505 days


#8 posted 07-23-2015 03:53 AM

> How much is he asking for the laser?

$12K.

View philphoto's profile

philphoto

23 posts in 2522 days


#9 posted 07-23-2015 04:30 AM

Do check with sales tomorrow. I think that is a bunch too high. I bought my 50 watt 18” X 24” on a show special for $17,000—if memory is correct. They probably bought it when the entry cost was much higher than it is today. Not trying to take anyone’s side against another, but do ask Epilog.

BTW:The bed size is just as important as the wattage.

View Involute's profile

Involute

5 posts in 505 days


#10 posted 07-23-2015 04:38 AM

I wasn’t going to pay more than $10K even if the machine didn’t need anything. If it needs a tube, belts, etc., that would just knock it down more. I haven’t been able to find many of these locally, and I wouldn’t buy one I couldn’t inspect first.

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