Why it pays off to buy a premium laser
Low-end lasers differ from premium laser systems – not only in terms of application results and durability, but also when it comes to user friendliness and safety. It usually pays off to look at life-cycle cost rather than buying price only.
A comparison of low-end lasers and premium laser plotters
If you want to compare all laser systems manufactured in Asia and western countries, there is a very large selection. There are differences in price and performance. The range extends from laser plotters, which fulfill basic applications such as laser cutting and laser engraving, to technically sophisticated production machines, which focus on the productivity of the user. The intended use and desired application result are decisive when it comes to the purchase decision. This is strongly influenced by technical conditions. The main differences are explained below.
Quality of engraving and cutting result.
The main influencing factors for a good engraving and cutting result are:
- laser tubes
- interaction between the laser machine and the exhaust system
1. Laser tubes/laser source
Between a DC glass laser tube, which is usually found in the so-called “China Lasers”, and a RF laser tube with metal or ceramic housing, which is usually found in western-made machines, there are the following differences:
DC glass source: DC = Direct Current
The resonator of the laser source, i.e. the point at which the laser radiation is generated, is made of glass.
Speed : With a DC tube you can reach up to 1m/s and 1 g.
Quality : Glass tubes pulsate slower. The result: At high speeds, razor-sharp engravings are not possible and small fonts, such as a 3-point font, are not legible. Only fonts from 6-10 points are legible.
RF laser source: RF = Radio Frequency
The resonator of the laser source, i.e. the point at which the laser radiation is generated, is metal or ceramic.
Speed: With an RF tube you can reach speeds between 2.5 and 4.3 m/s and 5 g.
Quality: Small fonts can be engraved legibly with an RF laser tube. A high engraving speed does not change a high-quality result.
Fast engraving is only possible with servo motors and steel-reinforced belts, which are required to prevent the belts from stretching. These are standard equipment for western brands. Typical “China Lasers” are usually equipped with stepper motors and plastic belts.
An RF laser tube offers consistent engraving quality over the entire work surface. This is achieved through high-quality lenses and through the low divergence. When using a DC laser source, the longer the beam path, the larger the diameter of the laser beam. There is a performance difference of up to 15% on a work area of 1300 x 900 mm. When cutting, this is visible through a wider kerf. When engraving, however, the result is no longer clearly visible.
Reliability, maintenance and durability.
In addition to the quality of the application result, the maintenance effort and costs should also be considered:
- The plastic belts of the Asian brands have to be lubricated regularly – approximately once a month. With closed systems – the InPack TechnologyTM from Trotec ensures maintenance-free and productive work – this effort is eliminated.
- The usual warranty period for glass laser tubes is one year. With Trotec laser machines, this period is twice as long and applies to the entire laser machine, not just the laser tube. With the TroCare protection package you get a guarantee of up to 10 years.
- After approx 1,000 hours, the service life of a glass laser tube is exhausted and it must be disposed of. Typically, RF laser tubes perform consistently for 5-6 years. If there is a drop in performance, they can be refilled with CO2 gas, thus extending their service life to up to 10 years. Laser tubes can be reused, waste is reduced.
A glass laser tube is operated with high voltage. Machines manufactured in Asia don’t usually comply with western safety standards. Trotec laser machines are CE-compliant and meet the requirements of the EC Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. In addition, Trotec has set itself the highest quality guidelines; Trotec production is certified according to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.
Conclusion: Is a “China Laser” a good entry-level laser?
The low initial investment for a “China Laser” is definitely tempting. Especially if it’s a hobby, the price is often the main criterion when buying. Schools and universities use Chinese lasers because they get a large work area and a lot of laser power for a limited budget. But at what price? The safety of laser users must be guaranteed in public spaces such as universities, schools or MakerSpaces. This is where private individuals work with engraving machines, usually after only a brief introduction to the laser.
Maintenance costs and costs for wear parts are disregarded in this calculation. If you include the cost of replacing a laser tube and the downtime costs of a laser machine, the costs for a Chinese laser rocket.
The optimal interaction of laser machine and exhaust system is another important point for the engraving quality. The Trotec Atmos exhaust system product line communicates with the laser machine at all times. For example, the exhaust system can be activated at the same time as the laser process and keeps running after the laser process. Dust and gas are removed as best as possible, the lasered material is soiled as little as possible and the engraving result is optimized.
If you want the laser to contribute to your economic success and your productivity, we recommend using a western product. What initially looks like high costs becomes easy to finance through leasing offers.
What do we like about Trotec? Speed, precision, quality and RELIABILITY. We really appreciate the support of the technicians and the regular contact with the sales representative, as we can always get some help or tips in relation to our applications.