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 Chinese lasers and laser machines from western manufacturers

The market for laser cutting, engraving and marking machines is wide and diverse, which is reflected in the range of choice that customers have to select their laser supplier of choice. There are a number of differences between western and Chinese laser machines, which are reflected in the price and performance of the systems. Included in this range of systems are flatbed lasers, which fulfil applications such as laser cutting and engraving applications, to technically sophisticated production machines, where the focus is the productivity of the laser user. When purchasing a laser machine, there are two important factors which are the decisive factor when it comes to the selection, the intended use for the machine and the desired application result. This decision is strongly influenced by technical conditions. The main differences are explained below:

Quality of the laser engraving and laser cutting result

There are several key factors which influence the finished laser cutting and engraving result:
  • Laser tubes
  • Motors
  • Lenses
  • Interaction between the laser machine and the exhaust system

1. Laser tubes/laser source

There are two main laser sources found in the different laser machines. DC glass laser tubes are commonly found in Chinese lasers, while RF laser tubes with metal or ceramic housing are usually found in western lasers. There are many differences between the laser sources, including:

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.

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.
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 the high-quality result.
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.

2. Motors

Fast engraving is only possible with servo motors and steel-reinforced belts, which are required to prevent the belts from stretching. This is standard equipment for western brands, however typical Chinese lasers are usually equipped with stepper motors and plastic belts.

3. Lenses

An RF laser tube offers consistent laser 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

The quality of the results achieved when laser processing is an important factor, however the effort and cost required for maintenance should also be considered.
  • The plastic belts of Chinese brands require regular lubrication – 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.

User friendliness

User friendliness

A laser machine is only as effective as the operator. Western lasers feature intuitive operation methods, with the entire laser workflow being taken into account during development. This starts with the machine design through to automatic focusing methods tables and lenses for optimal results and laser software with recommended laser parameters. Chinese laser machines are suitable for certain applications, however they are not optimised for productive laser work. The laser software is also often mistranslated in English, further complicating machine operation. 



Glass tube laser machines are operated with high voltage, with many Asian manufactured machines 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: Do Chinese lasers make good entry-level lasers?

The initial low investment for a Chinese laser is often tempting for first time laser owners, which is particularly true for hobbyists, where the price is often the deciding factor for purchase. Educational institutions such as schools and universities will often opt for a Chinese laser as they can get a lot of laser power for a limited budget. This is where safety plays an important part. The safety of laser users must be guaranteed in public spaces such as universities, schools or MakerSpaces. In such institutions private users work with the laser cutting machine usually after a brief introduction to the technology. The initial cost is also deceptive in regard to maintenance costs. Whilst the machines initial outlay is significantly cheaper than a western competitor, the costs of replacing laser tubes and the incurred downtime make the cost of a Chinese laser rocket. The interaction between the laser machine and extraction system is another key consideration in terms of the finished quality of the laser engraving result. The Trotec Atmos exhaust system product line communicates with the Trotec 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 and the lasered material is soiled as little as possible, optimising the laser engraving result.  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.

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