What CNC laser cutter would you recomend for a new Makerspace


#1

Hi everyone,
We have just acquired our new space and the first thing we want to aquire is a laser cutter.
I think we have 2-3 grand to sink in to this project.
Where do we start? any boobie traps to avoid?
thanks

  • Q

#2

My only advice would be to resist the urge to build one yourself. That was the first route we started down, but we quickly realized that many of the re-sellers from China has decent equipment that would cost about the same as if we built one.
As you’re likely aware, the main things to look for are bed size and wattage. You’ll probably want something at least 80 watts if you intend to cut rather than just engrave. Ours is a RedSail which was ok. It came with a proprietary controller that used a USB dongle that we eventually lost and replaced with an opensource controller and software (maybe somebody else can elaborate). The American brands seemed much better (and much better supported), but were way too expensive for us at the time.
With regards to the cost, keep in mind that many units don’t include a chiller, air filter, or sometimes even bed. Also, you’ll likely have to modify your space a bit too (ventilation, storage, etc), so budget for that.


#3

In general, buying and maintaining a laser cutter isn’t cheap. The budget you listed is probably on the low-end, unless you plan on some sort of cost-recovery to help cover upkeep and maintenance.

Apparently our laser was $3500 + ~$1000 to ship / set up back in 2012. (https://vanhack.ca/doku.php?id=tool:redsail_cm1080_laser_cutter) Those numbers probably don’t include the updated controller, custom fume treatment, DIY access control, laser safety goggles, etc, etc.

I would say that a lot depends on your zoning, setup, etc, as it relates to fume extraction. Commercial systems that treat and recirculate air are expensive upfront and expensive to maintain. One of the systems we were quoted on was ~$12000 + regular filter replacements. If you are able to safely exhaust the fumes directly outside that can be much more cost-effective.

Don’t have much experience with them, but there is a local supplier that carries some machines and accessories: http://www.sparklaserinc.com/products

At least some of our stuff has come from https://www.lightobject.com/. The last time we ordered a replacement tube, it came out to ~$750 with shipping /taxes/etc to Blaine.


#4

https://makezine.com/2015/12/02/a-guide-to-buying-your-first-laser-cutter/

Not a very good article, but some useful comments. It did mention something about ease-of-use of software. A significant source of friction for the controller we currently have is the shoddy software it ties us to.

“The bundled software typically offers a very poor user experience, but that’s something you can learn to work around — especially with the potential savings.” That about sums it up.


#5

Thank you all for all this great feed back and insight.
Yeah it is a little on the low end…
we have 4 k for tools right off the hop and it would be really great to have something that folks have not used before and or have access too…
we have been split between cnc router or laser… and we have felt that the laser is a lower barrier to entry for the members. and I guess if that means we need to scrape up another few bucks to get a usable machine for a longer end game I am ok with that. Just trying to figure out what that is going to look like.

Yes I think we should be able to easly vent outside with out any issue. may have to pipe a ways but doable.

Yeah ease of use is also big on our list of priorities.


#6

Like many things in life - there is the purchase cost and then the maintenance cost.
Even with our $30 training fee it does hurt $$$ wise when a laser tube quits on us.