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Thinking of buying a Laser Engraver

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by klemgraphics, Jul 9, 2012.

  1. klemgraphics

    klemgraphics Active Member

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    Lately I have had a quite a few jobs that I have been either subbing out or refering to a laser only shop fairly local to me. The other week at the NBM show I looked at all of the lasers on display and asked a few questions and the machines seem to be pretty simple on the surface.

    A couple of things I am not sure on....

    How is the learning curve?
    Where is a good place to look for used machines & what to look for in used machines?
    Are the chinese machines worth messing with?

    I'm sure I could keep it busy if I had one, undecided on if there will be more hassle than it is worth or not.

    Any and all insight is appreciated!
     
  2. lenwardus

    lenwardus Member

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    Bought a universal laser 32" on ebay 4 years ago. One year old, retailed for 25k, paid 11.5.
    The machine is bulletproof. Cuts dead on year after year..never fails.

    Learning curve is nill, if you have some onsight instruction.

    Use it for cutting twill, acrylic, leather. Engraving anodized aluminum, wood,
    Plexiglass, delrin, glass.

    I like the Universal brand..feel its a better build than epilog. Wouldn.t buy chinese
    unless I was in china. Then its a good deal as you have support with a low price.
     
  3. scuba_steve2699

    scuba_steve2699 Member

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    +1 for the Universal. We have a 35watt unit and it runs day in and day out. Better software interface than the Epilog as well.
     
  4. CES020

    CES020 Very Active Member

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    We currently own a 4 year old Universal and a 6 month old Trotec. Prior to that, we owned an Epilog. The Universal has been bulletproof. It runs. Period. I love the driver on the universal. It's by far the most adjustable driver on the market. You can fine tune and tweak things until they are perfect, all very very easily.

    The Trotec is a rocketship. It's unbelievably fast. It's almost so fast in moving from place to place that you actually can't see it move, you just see it one place then it's somewhere else. It's definitely built far better than the Universal. The driver isn't as good as the Universal, in my opinion, for our needs, but both machines just run.

    The learning curve isn't large. If you can draw in corel or illustrator, then you're set. Both of the machines we have come with material databases, so I'd say within a couple of hours, you'd be engraving product. It'll take you a while to get your materials dialed in, but overall, they are very easy to use.

    I see a number of people going the Chinese route. It's not a route we would take. I say that because I see what people have to do to get them running and to keep them running. Some people think that's a great level of service, while I don't share that view. I can't have a machine down for days or weeks. With all the name brands, if you have an issue, you'll have parts in hand the next day.

    Also, when we added the trotec, moving jobs from the Universal to the Trotec, we cut the time in 1/2, so we became twice as profitable by adding that machine because we didn't lower our prices.

    With the Chinese machine, it's going to be fairly slow compared to the Trotec. And when time is money, you might save $10000 up front, but you'll lose it before the year is over in time, and then you'll keep losing it in time every year after that.

    That's just my opinion.
     
  5. klemgraphics

    klemgraphics Active Member

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    Some good info here! I'm thinking my best bet might be to stay away from the Chinese machines and look for a used unit. My current sub for laser work runs nothing but Universal so I guess that should mean something.

    Any suggestions on where to look for one? I have been looking on ebay and cl but not sure where else you might find them.

    One other question that is probably better suited for the premium section.....do you deal with lowballers and hacks in engraving work just like we do in signs?
     
  6. Kevin-shopVOX

    Kevin-shopVOX Active Member

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  7. CES020

    CES020 Very Active Member

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    One good thing is that I don't think the lowballers are as plentiful in that market. There's a few places around town that have people working out of their home as a side job, that seem to think making $6 per hour is a great return. We don't compete with them at all. Our customers want someone they can call during the day and get a person. If they need something today, which often happens, we can do it, while the part time job at home person is at their full time job during the day, so they can't compete with us.

    Plus, our Trotec is so fast, we could literally get down to their numbers and still make money, where they would be struggling, especially if they are dealing with the older Chinese machines. What might take them 10 minutes to engrave, we can do in 2 minutes, so we have an advantage over them in that respect, so if we wanted to cut their prices, we could, which would shut them down, but it's not worth the effort.

    But overall, I can't think of too many times I've even been asked to price against a lowballer.
     
  8. CanuckSigns

    CanuckSigns Very Active Member

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    We also have 2 Trotec speedy 300's, very rock solid machines, one is 8 years old, the other is 2.

    In regards to lowballers, you get them in every market, I've noticed it mostly in the industrial markets (lamicoid tags) but generally with that market, price is second to turnaround time. if an electrical company needs 2000 circuit tags to sign off on a project, they don't want to wait 2 weeks for them from someone running out of their basement, we turn that type of order around in 2-3 days.

    Generally they find someone cheaper, but 95% of the time, they come back because they can't afford the waiting time.
     
  9. nuke

    nuke signs since 1999

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    I have universal laser

    I have universal laser we are selling in central ky. we just purchased larger one
    if you want to call 270-699-1170
     
  10. V-ENGRAVE

    V-ENGRAVE Member

    If you are after used one contact Rob at .....http://www.usedlasers.com/

    I also own an older model of Universal and as others have said it just runs and runs.
    Universal also makes their own tubes that are pre-aligned and can be replaced within 5 minutes.
     
  11. CanuckSigns

    CanuckSigns Very Active Member

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    I've never understood why Universal chose to use that as a selling feature, our 8 year old Trotec is on it's 2nd tube, so it's not something that should need to be changed very often. It's like Ford saying you can swap the entire engine and transmission in the new Focus in 30 minutes, doesn't instill much confidence.
     
  12. V-ENGRAVE

    V-ENGRAVE Member

    Well, you have to see it to appreciate this feature.
    In eleven years that I have this unit I replaced the tube once in 2009.
    Price for the exchange with delivery and taxes $1725.00 for 45watts. Zero time down as factory sent replacement and I returned old one after installation. This is another reason that I lean towards ULS.
    I got quote from Trotec as I am looking into upgrade/addition and the cost for tube exchange when time comes is $4000-4500. Is this typical for Synrad tubes?
     
  13. CanuckSigns

    CanuckSigns Very Active Member

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    Trotec has recently changed their supplier of tubes, they now use a ceramic tube with no metal parts, this is ment to reduce the amount of air leakage into the tube over time, and stop the slow offgassing of hydrogen from the aluminum over time. but in regards to price, yes a 45 watt tube replacement outside of the 2 year warrentee is about 4 grand.
     
  14. V-ENGRAVE

    V-ENGRAVE Member

    Thank's for confirmation.
    I would love one of those Speedy 300 Flexx machines but it is a pricy at this point.
     
  15. CanuckSigns

    CanuckSigns Very Active Member

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    yeah the flexx machines are very nice, it would be nice to be able to etch stainless steel without using toxic cerdex.
     
  16. CES020

    CES020 Very Active Member

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    I've got a couple clips up with one being a comparison between vector marking on the trotec versus the universal. It's like watching paint dry, but you'll get the point.

    Also, just a couple of clips showing a couple different things.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/CustomEngravingSigns
     
  17. Baz

    Baz Very Active Member

    I bought a laser engraver last year ... I love it!!!

    It's been a great addition to my shop and my customers love it also. I had looked at Universal and Epilog but went with a Gravograph unit basically because i had been talking with the local rep quite a bit and decided to go with it since it came with software and a blower unit. It was really a complete system and once everything was plugged in and i got my one day of training .. I was in production! Learning curve for straight engraving and cutting is not much .. I think it will be a little more for doing photos. But thats just by accumulating experience.

    Only reason i did not go with the Universal was the cost up here in Canada was a little more than what i wanted to spend. But i think my Gravograph is also built rock solid. Works like a charm!

    And CES020 was a big help in guiding me as to what to look for in these units.

    Knowing what i know now ... I would by a larger unit like the ones i saw at the Orlando trade show last march .. Those suckers had open ends front/back and would cut through 1/2" acrylic like butter! I think they were 100 watt machines.
     
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