Speedy 400: Fastest laser machine on the market

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.

If you've ever shopped around for lasers, you likely noticed the broad selection of machines available in different sizes and configurations — from printer-like units small enough to fit on a desk, to massive flatbed systems equipped with mechanical arms. 

It may seem daunting to try to understand which laser system would be the best choice for your business or organization. One simple way to narrow down your options is by identifying the the manufacturer, which will indicate what you can expect from their products.

Laser manufacturers generally specialize in either production-grade or low-end systems. At first glance, the price tags of the latter tend to be lower. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the differences between these categories.

What's of greater relevance is which features will allow you to best reach your objectives while meeting your standards. In this regard, the following are particularly important:

  • Quality of the results
  • Reliability and maintenance
  • User friendliness
  • Safety

Read about each of these criteria below.


Quality of the Results

Three main laser system components influence the quality of your results:

  • Laser tube
  • Motor
  • Lenses

This holds true regardless of whether you are cutting or engraving a workpiece.

1. Laser Tube

Your laser's tube, which is sometimes called a resonator or cavity, contains a substance that is fundamental to creating a laser beam. In the case of CO2 lasers, there are two common tube types:

  • Direct current (DC) tubes - commonly found in low-end lasers
  • Radio frequency (RF) tubes - commonly found in production-grade lasers

While both tubes house a carbon dioxide gas mixture, there is a difference in how each is generates and emits a laser beam. This ultimately impacts the precision and speed with which you can process your materials.

Direct Current (DC) Tube

Speed
With a DC tube, you can usually reach speeds of up to 1m/s, and an acceleration of of to 1 g.

Quality
Glass tubes fire their beams at a relatively slow rate, which means that fine engravings cannot be made. To put this into perspective any fonts smaller than 6-10 pt. would not be legible.

Radio Frequency (RF) Tube

Speed
With an RF tube, you can reach speeds of between 2.5 and 4.3 m/s, and an acceleration of 5 g.

Quality
Regardless of how quickly you process your workpieces, intricate details can be clearly engraved with an RF tube.

2. Motor

Production-grade lasers typically employ servo motors, which allow users to achieve a significantly higher degree of precision and speed. Due to the process by which it moves, a servo motor allows users to process their workpieces at rapid speeds while obtaining a high degree of precision. This advantage is especially apparent when creating curved or high-resolution designs

In contrast, the stepper motors that are typically found in low-end lasers move relatively slowly. As its name suggests, a stepper motor literally takes steps when moving, which slows the speed at which a job can be completed. In addition, the position control of a stepper motor is not as robust as that of a servo motor, which means that users can find it difficult to attain quality intricate designs.  

3. Lenses

An RF laser tube offers consistent engraving quality over the entire work surface. This is achieved through high-quality lenses and through the high 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 and Maintenance

In addition to the quality of your results, there are notable differences between production-grade and low-end lasers when it comes to reliability and maintenance.

Production-grade laser parts are designed to be durable. Users can anticipate running jobs on a consistent basis, without the need to replace parts for extended periods of time. Not only do users save on part costs, but there is a significantly lower likelihood of needing to stall production to replace a part.

Low-end machines generally incorporate more fragile parts that require more frequent maintenance and replacement. In addition, their components are not capable of handling large workloads. If these machines operate beyond their capacity, their parts can break prematurely.

Let's take a closer look at how three components — the laser tube, belt, and cooling system — differ in production-grade and low end systems.

Laser Tube

The standard glass DC tube has a service life of 1,000 hours, and the component is typically covered under the manufacturer's warranty for 1 year. Depending on how frequently a laser is in operation, this part will require replacement after 8 months – 1.5 years. In comparison, a metal or ceramic RF tube maintains its  for 5 – 6 years. If there is a drop in performance, it can usually be refilled with the CO2 gas mixture. This can extend the service life of the part by another 4 years.

Laser systems in Trotec's Speedy series are equipped with 100% ceramic tubes developed with CeramiCore® technology.* With regards to warranty, Trotec offers standard 2-year warranty on the entire laser unit. With a TroCare Protection Plan, users can receive coverage for up to 10 years.

*Models in the Speedy series with a maximum power level exceeding 30 W.

Belt

A laser's belt lays a key role in moving a laser's gantry. Production-grade systems usually incorporate steel-reinforced belts, which are resistant to stretching. Plastic belts, on the other hand, are commonly found in low-end lasers. These belts need periodic lubrication to function properly, and they often require frequent replacement.

On the whole, production grade-belts require minimal maintenance. Trotec's InPack Technology™ keeps the belt and other components well protected from dust and debris, even under extensive usage.

Cooling System

Heat is produced when energy is building up inside of a laser tube, which can damage both the tube and machine if it is not released. At lower wattages (i.e., ≤ 120 W ), production-grade systems usually incorporate fans that are automatically activated when the laser turned on. Low-end laser tubes are typically cooled using a tank filled with a special coolant. Users must periodically replace the coolant, and frequently monitor its level.

CO2 lasers, regardless of grade, produce substantial amounts of heat at high wattages (i.e., ≥ 200 watts). In this case, most machines require a tank and coolant to maintain a safe tube temperature.


Software Usability

Software Usability

In addition to the hardware variability between production-grade and low-end lasers, there are also differences in their laser software.

In general, production-grade laser manufacturers make sizeable investments in research and development, identifying areas for improvement by studying the workflows of many different users. As a result, their software tends to be more flexible and user-friendly than that of low-end laser manufacturers.

For instance, Trotec's JobControl® software includes a full suite of convenient features that can be used to save time attain the best possible processing results. 

Rudimentary software is typically developed by low-end laser manufacturers for use with their lasers. Oftentimes the programs will have limited functionality, which can hinder productivity and can result in material waste. Further complications usual arise if the software is not available in English or in a language understood by the user.


Safety

Safety

Production-grade laser manufacturers take special care to ensure that their users have a worry-free experience, even in demanding environments. To affirm their commitment to safety, and verify their compliance with relevant legislation, these manufacturers will have been certified by reputable accreditation bodies. For example, Trotec laser systems are CE-compliant and meet the requirements of the European Union's Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. 

In addition, production-grade lasers are commonly used by manufacturers and educational institutions, each of which have specific requirements that must be met by their suppliers. Although the majority of production-grade models are already equipped with a suite of protective features, additional safety enhancements are often possible.

It is not common for low-end equipment to have met global safety standards. This oftentimes the case for lasers manufactured in jurisdictions governed by lax health and safety law. If a business or organization is found to be in breach of the law, serious and costly legal repercussions could follow.


The Bottom Line

All-in-all, there are a number of factors that differentiate production-grade systems from their low-end counterparts. These distinctions are important to think about when determining which manufacturer's products you may want to examine more closely.

We recommend keeping the following questions in mind while doing your research:

  • What output quality and processing speeds do I require?
  • Will machine maintenance and part replacement be a significant impediment?
  • How much time can laser users dedicate to learning the software?
  • What are the relevant safety laws and standards I need to adhere to?

As like with any piece of equipment, a laser is a capital investment. Consider not only your present requirements, but also what your needs could be in the coming years.

Here at Trotec, we understand that our clients have different budgetary constraints. That is why we offer personalized financing and leasing offers.

We're also proud of our long history of providing our production-grade laser systems and dedicated after-sales support. You don't need to take our word for it — read what one of our clients had to say directly below!

"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."
- Anna Rzeszutek, Owner of TADAM - Read TADAM's Success Story -

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