CO2 Laser Engraver Purchase
|Rabbit Laser QX-80-9060 setup in my garage.|
In January of 2015 I bought a CO2 laser engraver. The idea was to operate a small business out of my garage and to make some cool stuff. I named the small business Mutant Lasers. I didn't have a big budget or a big space to put it but also wanted a powerful machine with some automated and industrial features. I owned the machine for 1 year before my semi-retirement started. In that year it made enough money to pay for itself and make a little profit.
- $10,000 budget
- 60W min - Should be good entry level of power for cutting 5mm sheets of plastic and wood.
- 24"x24" table size min - For large cutting boards, boxes and raw material sheets.
- Water cooled - Needed for doing sustained cutting. (Industrial feature, not on hobbyist machines)
- Must run off of 110V AC. Typical wall outlet in a normal garage or apartment.
- Air assist - Makes cutting easier. (Not typically on hobbyist machines)
- Rotary Attachment - Needed for engraving round things like glasses and bottles.
- Automated height control - For quicker setups. (Industrial feature, not on hobbyist machines)
- Must fit in back of mid sized Toyota truck. I rent so may have to move when my lease expires.
Machine Supplier Options:Direct Chinese Import
Buying direct from a Chinese manufacturer is the cheapest way to go. It is a great option if you have experience with lasers and don't need assistance with setup or if something goes wrong. There is no help or assistance with anything. Dealing with importing, customs and shipping can be a nightmare. There are also horror stories of people sending money to the manufacturer and never receiving a machine or getting their money back. For me this risk seemed to high even considering the potential $5,000 savings on a $10,000 machine.
Rabbit Lasers USA.
A small importer specific for lasers based in the Ohio, USA. Has a good assortment of chinese made machines and has a good reputation. This is who I bought from. The mid range price point and the included setup and training in my garage was a big selling point for me.
|Quote for QX-80-9060 Rabbit Lasers.|
I bought this one.
|Quote for the slightly larger QX-80-1290|
from Rabbit Lasers.
A manufacturer/importer for chinese machines. Physical machine is made in china but the software and control system is upgraded here in the states. Have heard great and bad things about the business and machine. For me I wasn't sure if the added software and controller was good enough to offset their higher prices. All prices are listed on their website, no need for quotes. There was also a concern with their reported lack of customer service.
Epilog, Trotec, Universal.
These are the higher end lasers. They are well made machines that last longer, cut better, engrave better, have outstanding software and also run faster. The price also reflects this. I really wanted to buy a used machine but could not find one that met all of my requirements. I did get two unofficial quotes through a local Universal Laser dealer. A used VLS 4.60 for $15,000 and a new VLS 4.60 for $22,000. This included shipping but nothing else. No setup, training or rotary attachment.
|Screenshot of the machine cost info I gathered. Including an estimate of how long it would take to payoff each machine.|
The Machine:I bought a Rabbit Laser's QX-80-9060. It met all of my requirements and was only a few hundred over my budget. Best of all the price included shipping, setup, training and a warranty. For a complete list of the specifications including final price, read the quote shown above.
My first impression of the QX-80-9060 and Rabbit Lasers was good. Ray, the owner of Rabbit Lasers, is the one who came out for the instillation and training of my machine. He was very knowledgable and had clearly trained dozens of people how to use these machines. He didn't waste time, had answers to every question and told me many tips on how to use or modify the machine.
The machine itself was simply good enough. It had some slight cosmetic and functional problems. The access panels didn't open or close perfectly, the buttons on the control panel sometimes didn't work and many of the machined parts had sharp edges. The machine looked and felt like a cheaper Chinese manufactured product. But all of these problems didn't mater because the machine worked where it counted. It was able to cut accurately, consistently and quickly. It didn't have any software issues where it froze or needed to be restarted. The laser spot size diameter and focal point length was easily set and didn't slowly move out of adjustment. The machine worked and operated as advertised which was better than I expected.
|Rabbit Laser QX-80-9060 arrived in a big box.|
|Machine mid way through install. The rotary drive needed |
to be installed. A few small parts were also found
to be defective so were swapped out on the spot.
|First test cuts with the laser. Patterns were |
provided with the included software.
|Finished install. I made the wood shelf to the right of the |
machine. Includes override switch for air assist and exhaust
fan. This way they can be turned off when the laser isn't
running. Makes things a lot quieter.
|Rotary attachment. It sits on the table and replaces the Y Axis.|
Sample work throughout my year:
Here is some sample work from throughout my year of owning and running the laser. Most of the production I ran was engraving large blocks of pine. It worked great but isn't very exciting. These are smaller projects and ideas I tried for fun.
|Mutant Lasers Business cards and box. |
Both made completely with laser cutting.
|Program to see how engraving power and speed affects bamboo.|
|AR-15 Lower Receiver engraving.|
|Testing engraving an image using multiple power settings. |
Top is a single low power layer.
Bottom is with two layers with different power levels.
|Continued test engravings with multiple power settings.|
Top is with three layers.
Bottom is with four layers with different power levels.
|Gear box business cards.|
|Shop signs all cut and engraved in one setup.|
|iPad key guard. Attaches to iPad screen so people |
with disabilities can find the buttons and type a message.
Resources:Sawmill Creek Forum
This is the best forum for all things laser engraving and cutting.