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GadgetGuru
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24 Nov 2021, 2:58 pm

Does anyone here use a laser engraver / cutter?

I'm considering the purchase of one, and am wondering what the experiences of others might be.

I can buy this one with a 5.5W laser for $200 US:

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maycontainthunder
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24 Nov 2021, 3:12 pm

I don't have one but be aware that the small pieces of thin ply these use can be really expensive. I bought a sheet of 2440x1220 3.6mm ply for less than £13 though the prices have gone up slightly since.

Yes, it's a huge sheet but when you cost out buying the same in foot square pieces you'll see the price difference.


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CinderashAutomaton
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24 Nov 2021, 10:40 pm

What kind of feedback are you looking for exactly? Context regarding your purpose, what you specifically want to know and background with such tools would be helpful.

But yeah, @maycontainthunder brings up a good point. Looking up all related costs and requirements before you dump your money into it is rather necessary when buying manufacturing equipment. The stock price of equipment can be very deceptive regarding how much you'll end up spending to produce something.

Besides materials, another important thing to consider is that in order to cut through material, the laser will end up going THROUGH the material, so you'll need something under the material to harmlessly absorb the laser, like metal with a low reflective index, and spaced far enough away so that the laser beam spreads out before it contacts the metal, spreading out the energy so its less concentrated and less able to cause damage.

Speaking of energy, what's the quality of the laser? Although you mention that its a cutter, cutting ability depends on power and the beams focal width and effective focal distance. Lasers can get quite expensive so considering the price, that particular laser might have some pretty limited cutting ability regarding material and thickness.

In my opinion, if you want to save money then get a machine that's really just meant for engraving, and use a separate tool for cutting. If you're just doing hobby stuff, a manual hand tool would be all you need. CNC machines (computer controlled stuff) are meant more for mass production or precision work beyond human ability (and typically priced as such). Hand tools, on the other hand, are much cheaper and can handle FAR more materials and thicknesses, and it can do so without risking a fire. The tool you're looking for is a scroll saw for cutting thicker materials faster but not having much maneuverability, or a jig saw which can handle corners and curves much better. Both of those saw blades can be mounted on the same tool. FYI, the size of your material doesn't really matter when considering how far from the edge of the material you can cut using a scroll or jig saw. Just cut away the material in sections.

You could also opt for a manual engraving tool, which would give you more bang for your buck. The limit of a manual tool is really just your skill at handling it. That being said, manual engraving has a pretty steep skill curve since you have to precisely control the speed the laser traverses at so you don't burn the wood or make ugly lines.


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