Why buying a premium laser system pays off

Low-end lasers and premium laser systems differ not only in terms of application results and durability, but also user friendliness and safety. It usually pays off to look at life-cycle cost rather than buying price only.

Comparing low-end and premium laser plotters

If you want to compare all laser systems manufactured in Asia and western countries, there is a very large selection, with price and performance being key differenciators. 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 user productivity. The intended use and desired application results are decisive factors in the purchasing decision, strongly influenced by technical conditions. The main differences between the systems are explained below.

Quality of engraving and cutting results.

When laser engraving and cutting, the main influencing factors for a good result are:

  • Laser tubes
  • Motors
  • Lenses
  • Interaction between the laser machine and the exhaust system

1. Laser tubes/laser source

Between a DC glass laser tube, usually found in the so-called “China Lasers”, and a RF laser tube with metal or ceramic housing usually found in western-made machines, there are the following differences:

DC glass source: DC = Direct Current

The resonator of the laser source, 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. 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, 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 laser engraving speed does not change a high-quality result.

2. Motors

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.

3. Lenses

An RF laser tube offers consistent engraving quality over the entire working 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, while when engraving, the result is no longer clearly visible.

Reliability, maintenance and durability.

Alongside the processing results, maintenance effort and costs also require consideration:

  • The plastic belts of the Asian brands require regular lubrication, approximately once a month. With closed systems, the InPack TechnologyTM from Trotec ensures maintenance-free and productive work removing the effort associated with entry level lasers.
  • The usual warranty period for glass laser tubes is one year, while 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. Typically RF laser tubes perform consistently for 5-6 years. If there is a drop in performance, they can be refilled with CO2 gas extending their service life to up to 10 years. Laser tubes can be reused, reducing waste.

User friendliness

Laser machines are only as good as the user. Laser systems developed in Europe or the USA offer intuitive operation. The entire laser workflow is taken into account during development, starting with the design of the machine, through to automatic focusing methods, tables and lenses for optimal results, to software with a database with recommended laser parameters.

Laser devices that are developed in Asia work, but are not optimised for productive work. The English software is often incorrectly translated, further complicating machine operation.

Job Control Parameters


A glass laser tube is operated with high voltage., with machines manufactured in Asia usually not complying 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 often tempting, especially for hobby use where the price is often the main buying criteria. 

Schools and universities often use Chinese lasers due to the large working areas 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. In these places individuals work with engraving machines usually after only a brief introduction to the laser.

The 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 greatly increase. 

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. The exhaust system can be activated at the same time as the laser process, remaining running even 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 optimised. 

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.

Anna Rzeszutek
Owner of Tadam

Because individual requirements require individual advice.
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