Laser cutters...

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So, does anyone here have a laser cutter?  Do you know people with laser cutters?  We're looking at getting one since three out of four of us (as a family) would use it.  They have them relatively cheap - 80w, 600x400mm cutting table for around US$1000 plus free shipping on Aliexpress.  Would like some more info before making a decision however.

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I have one. Well, three, but one hasn’t arrived yet and the other two will be sold. They are awesome but you get what you pay for. We had a $500 one that worked for about 5 minutes. But it was enough to learn some things on and we sent it off to my brother in law to use as he is a gadget genius. You may not get a super fine cut with a cheaper laser and it will be very difficult to focus and adjust the settings. But it may suit your needs. 

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3 hours ago, shannonc60 said:

I have one. Well, three, but one hasn’t arrived yet and the other two will be sold. They are awesome but you get what you pay for. We had a $500 one that worked for about 5 minutes. But it was enough to learn some things on and we sent it off to my brother in law to use as he is a gadget genius. You may not get a super fine cut with a cheaper laser and it will be very difficult to focus and adjust the settings. But it may suit your needs. 

Curious as to your implication that a US$1000 machine is "a cheaper laser." At what price point would one find one that is accurate and relatively easy to operate?

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Well, you can get good second hand ones for around $5-6k. Depends on age and size and a bunch of other variables. I guess what I am saying is go for a brand name one with a good reputation. 

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Kathie, I don't think I'll be getting one...

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1 hour ago, havanaholly said:

Kathie, I don't think I'll be getting one...

Neither me! :D 

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They sound very interesting Rebecca. It might be a good investment for your kids future (My kids were primarily schooled at home as well, I have 1 left) Depending on what they want to do in the future, being able to operate a laser cutter is a good skill. My husband started out with a jigsaw when he was 7 years old. His Dad got many a sideways look from other parents. He can build anything now and operates a large commercial cabinet shop.  Who knows, they may be future model designers....

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41 minutes ago, Mid-life madness said:

My husband started out with a jigsaw when he was 7 years old. His Dad got many a sideways look from other parents. He can build anything now and operates a large commercial cabinet shop.  Who knows, they may be future model designers....

At that age I was standing on a kitchen chair to reach Dad's full size wood lathe and turning out some decent looking candlesticks. About the only tool in his basement workshop that we kids were banned from using was the circular table saw; as I recall, it didn't have the safety features of today's models. That, plus Mom and aunts who sewed, knitted, embroidered and crocheted and taught us how to do it all, is probably why I'm fairly comfortable tackling anything 3-dimensional in just about any medium.  

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By the time I was seven, no one in my family did woodworking: however between my mother and her mother I mastered a sewing machine and crochet hook, so that later on using a lathe and scrollsaw weren't too intimidating.

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23 minutes ago, KathieB said:

why I'm fairly comfortable tackling anything 3-dimensional in just about any medium

My husband is the same way. He welds, does fiberglass, any thing auto-motive...from mechanical to paint and upholstery. When he is out at job sites where other trades are working, he asks them questions and then figures he can do it too. He always says, "having the correct tools make a difference in everything". Being able to see something 3 dimensional(not just a computer screen) but to touch it with your hands is so necessary during vocational education. Even for a girl to see how the pieces of a garment pattern go together, then sewing it helps......Also, not caring if it doesn't turn out perfect the first time....

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26 minutes ago, Mid-life madness said:

"having the correct tools make a difference in everything".

Ummm ... he must have overheard my Dad :D 

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1 hour ago, KathieB said:

Ummm ... he must have overheard my Dad :D 

Must have overheard my husband too!  He makes certain to have ALL the right tools - and even BACK-UP right tools just in case!  :D I wish I'd had more of an opportunity to learn woodworking skills but my Dad was just getting into woodturning when he suddenly passed.  I'm reasonable with tools as hubby is such a tool freak - but he mostly works on cars and our business builds stainless packaging machinery for the food industry - so metal, metal and more metal!  Hubby is keen for a laser printer to make custom car bits; I'm interested for mostly wood but can see I'd try out perspex and the engraving facility too.  Daughter cosplays and so would use it to cut through foam and card etc.  Son isn't interested but he's not interested in much lately - being 16, so that will probably change (as hopefully will his attitude).

Just watched this youtube vid which is really good - just have to look for the things this guy has mentioned.  Trouble with the Chinese brands is that all the sellers seem to re-badge them so the same machine may be sold under 5 different names!  

Here's where we're looking to buy from....

https://www.aliexpress.com/af/laser-cutter.html?g=y&isNew=n&blanktest=0&origin=n&maxPrice=1800&isFreeShip=y&jump=afs&groupsort=1&SortType=price_asc&SearchText=laser+cutter&isBigSale=n&CatId=0&isFavorite=all&initiative_id=SB_20180622144442&needQuery=y&minPrice=800

 

 

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4 hours ago, Mid-life madness said:

They sound very interesting Rebecca. It might be a good investment for your kids future (My kids were primarily schooled at home as well, I have 1 left) Depending on what they want to do in the future, being able to operate a laser cutter is a good skill. My husband started out with a jigsaw when he was 7 years old. His Dad got many a sideways look from other parents. He can build anything now and operates a large commercial cabinet shop.  Who knows, they may be future model designers....

How old is your 1 left Carrie??  My daughter is currently an Electrical Engineering apprentice - one of only 3 girls out of three full classes!!  However once she has her trade she'd like to do something creative ie work for Weta Workshop (an internationally renowned movie prop making business here in NZ) or similar.

2 hours ago, Mid-life madness said:

My husband is the same way. He welds, does fiberglass, any thing auto-motive...from mechanical to paint and upholstery. When he is out at job sites where other trades are working, he asks them questions and then figures he can do it too. He always says, "having the correct tools make a difference in everything". Being able to see something 3 dimensional(not just a computer screen) but to touch it with your hands is so necessary during vocational education. Even for a girl to see how the pieces of a garment pattern go together, then sewing it helps......Also, not caring if it doesn't turn out perfect the first time....

Here in New Zealand we talk about having the 'Number 8 wire mentality'!  Basically because we're so far away from the majority of the world, NZer's have always had to work out how to do things more or less on their own with limited supplies.  Obviously what with international internet shops etc this has and is changing.  But still, many Kiwis are similar to your husband in that they work out how to do things with what they have and on limited budget.  It's a shame that seems to have changed for this youngest generation!  No doubt most other countries see the same thing!

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My youngest is a 16 yo boy....I am his least favorite person at the moment.I think I can relate!!!  He idolizes his dad and is very mechanically inclined. He wants to be a welder. My oldest daughter is 21 and is in pre-nursing here. My middle son is 18 and just graduated. He really wanted a military career, but has had some recent medical diagnosis that have squashed that dream. He is into computer gaming which is not my favorite thing. He built his own computer which I was impressed with.

That is so awesome for your daughter. I want my kids to have a skill so they will never be hungry, then they can pursue a passion that is more on the creative side if they want.

My husband is the way he is, out of necessity too. He grew up pretty poor and his dad was pretty handy.  The biggest thing my husband has going for him (I think) is that he isn't afraid to try.

I am worried about the shift in schools to push kids to university degrees etc.....I want my kids to have a secondary education but not all people are made to go to university. I want everyone to have a chance to go if they want it, but the extraordinary debt they face here post-grad is sickening.  Gosh, I need to get off my rant.

9 minutes ago, Shareb said:

Son isn't interested but he's not interested in much lately - being 16

 

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I love tools... I would only order a laser if I am going to get software support.  If you already know how to program to cut, then you should be good, but without software you have a $1000 tool that you can't use.  Here in the US, we have makerspaces popping up all over in our communities... I would guess in our 2 county area of our home we have half million population, the larger population, the more likely you will have a makerspace.   There is a robotics type techie group in my neighboring county, and a makerspace in my home county.  My local makerspace has a Bosslaser,  3D printer, they have a pottery kiln, sewing machines, and woodworking equipment, although I have never seen the woodworking equipment.

I recommend investigating the online community for software support before I made a purchasing decision.  Chinese manuals translated to English can be very challenging to use.  You also want to confirm that the laser you purchase will work with software that you can use.  It is my opinion you have to make decisions about your software first before the acquisition of the laser, especially important in the $1000 range.

You should also understand the replacement cost of your Laser tube, and the ability to get a replacement.  Finding a vendor in your country who has been in the business for a long time, is the best way to understand your ongoing maintenance and replacement parts of your Laser Tube, even if you don't buy from them.

Our club's local laser cutter uses Epilog lasers, and they sell at the Chicago International Bishop Show... so I have done some research, but purchasing an Epilog is like buying a used car, and if I wanted to cut something on a laser, I would go to my local makerspace at this point in my creative life.

 

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, Mid-life madness said:

I am worried about the shift in schools to push kids to university degrees etc.....I want my kids to have a secondary education but not all people are made to go to university. I want everyone to have a chance to go if they want it, but the extraordinary debt they face here post-grad is sickening.  Gosh, I need to get off my rant.

Totally agree Carrie!  It's the same thing here.  We've employed one straight from university but we won't again.  He had no real idea of what working meant and because he had a degree, he believed he knew it all!  It took a couple of years for him to understand how little he does actually know and then he left to work as a ski instructor in Europe!  :D 

1 hour ago, Neverfinished2005 said:

I love tools... I would only order a laser if I am going to get software support.  If you already know how to program to cut, then you should be good, but without software you have a $1000 tool that you can't use.  Here in the US, we have makerspaces popping up all over in our communities... I would guess in our 2 county area of our home we have half million population, the larger population, the more likely you will have a makerspace.   There is a robotics type techie group in my neighboring county, and a makerspace in my home county.  My local makerspace has a Bosslaser,  3D printer, they have a pottery kiln, sewing machines, and woodworking equipment, although I have never seen the woodworking equipment.

I recommend investigating the online community for software support before I made a purchasing decision.  Chinese manuals translated to English can be very challenging to use.  You also want to confirm that the laser you purchase will work with software that you can use.  It is my opinion you have to make decisions about your software first before the acquisition of the laser, especially important in the $1000 range.

You should also understand the replacement cost of your Laser tube, and the ability to get a replacement.  Finding a vendor in your country who has been in the business for a long time, is the best way to understand your ongoing maintenance and replacement parts of your Laser Tube, even if you don't buy from them.

I LOVE the idea of a 'makerspace'!!!!  What a fantastic place that would be!  We just don't have the population to support that sort of initiative I don't think.  My city Auckland is the most populas place in NZ and we have about 1 1/2 million here.  In NZ in total we only have about 4.5million!  If the makerspace was in the middle of the city it would probably work but most of us in the outlying suburbs would probably not want to battle the traffic to get to there.  You make some really good points about things to think about pre-purchase!  My son programmes and could probably work out the software side pretty easily.  Hubby is an engineer and daughter has an engineering brain so even if I couldn't figure it they probably could.  Thank you!

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Our County has a population of 266,000+, and our makerspace has been in business since 2015, although she posted her first blog post December 2014, so this husband and wife dynamic duo look like (to me) that they have hit the 3 year mark.  It think a population of 1.5 million in a city would easily support a MAKE OZ Destination.  I believe The Dallas Fort Worth (TX) makerspace has the largest membership and the most successful of our makerspaces in the USA.  If I remember the model correctly at our makerspace, it is about a $4,000 laser.  

For the non-engineering miniaturists, Programming a Laser should be as simple as programming an inkjet printer or a Cri-Cut machine to cut, but substitute a laser for the printhead or the drag knife.  Here is a post about software options.

https://www.sculpteo.com/blog/2016/07/11/top-8-software-for-laser-cutting/

Good Luck with your decision!

 

 

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Be aware that a laser cutter will only mark metals. And you can’t cut certain materials like foams and some plastics as they will destroy the laser. And the regassing of your tube is likely to be costly (for my small machine, I am looking at about $5000aud through the actual company).

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I've been eyeballing the Glowforge. Because it cuts and etches and it also scans what's in the bed and saves it. But it's not cheap.  The justification for me is that my business can use it for a variety of crafts.  

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That looks like a really great little unit at a great price. I think using 3d and printer in the title is a little misleading. For anyone thinking of getting a laser cutter, pretty much any laser cutter will do a 3d engraved image. It’s just a matter of how you set up your files. Having said that, easy to use software and it’s other features look pretty awesome. I don’t want to sound negative, there is just a lot to consider with these machines. After 2.5 years, I still get a lot wrong.

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