Help compare alternatives

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#1

I’ve signed up for a Basic 40w GlowForge, but I’m starting to think it’s overkill for what I’ll be doing with it, especially given the cost and repeated delays. I’m eyeballing the current crop of 40w chinese systems on ebay -

http://www.ebay.com/itm/40W-CO2-Laser-Engraving-Cutting-Machine-Engraver-Cutter-USB-Port-High-Precise-/142243645892

http://www.ebay.com/itm/High-Precise-40W-CO2-Laser-Engraving-Cutting-Machine-Engraver-Cutter-USB-Port-/132063047369

I am a hobbyist, mostly cutting low quantities of mdf and acrylic for my own amusement, maybe some foam for packing (don’t know if that’s possible, but think it must be…). So what are the features of the GF that these cheaper systems won’t be able to do? Basically, I’m trying to assess if it’s worth the extra $1800 and a seemingly ever expanding amount of months more.


#2

Go to FaceBook and read some of the comments there on the Chinese lasers and the problems they are having. Just the peace of mind of a US made unit and a support staff is more than worth the price to me.


#3

I have the blue version you listed and I have given up on it, It is worth waiting on the glow forge and I can say that with out even having it yet. I spend more time fixing, realigning, and reprinting messed up prints. I can never run the same print twice due to the way its setup the head moves each time just a bit but then you have to realign everything manually then test print then reprint everything. I know you can spend an extra $1200 on it to mod it to get it halfway decent but I would highly recommend holding out, it will save you a headache and the space that it takes up in the house. @takitus had a similar one he might have had more luck than I and he might have more input as I think he has both at this point. I hope this helps and I am not trying to be a fan boy by no means(like I said I don’t have the GF yet) just giving you true user experience it is hands down such a pain to tinker with all the time. But if you like to tinker and have the time it is cheaper. The GF just seems so much nicer with auto align and focus. That alone is worth it, and the draw and trace will be awesome for quick edits. Lets say if you get lucky for 4 hours per print due to realigning and multiple prints to make sure you get it just right like I usually do minimum wage is $8.10 so lets say you make that, thats $32.40 per print just to get it perfect plus the extra material cost for the scrap prints for test printing. Lets just say it would add up to the extra cost very fast. I hope this helps and like I said I am going off the machine I have, others might have had more luck.


#4

There are a few forum members who already own a Chinese laser cutter. @jamesdhatch and @takitus are the two I remember, but if you search the forums you’ll probably find several reviews/comparisons. I went with the Glowforge for the reasons @lcronkite mentioned along with the fact that I don’t want to spend half my time tinkering with my laser cutter – I just want to make stuff with it.


#5

You’d be way better off with a glowforge. I speak from experience.


#6

:thumbsup:This! Same reason I went with an Ultimaker 3D printer: wanted to print hands for kids; not fix, fiddle, & adjust all the time.


#7

There are several of us who also own one of the Chinese 40W (or more even) lasers. The short answer is that technically a 40W CO2 is capable of the same things. So what the GF cuts or engraves the others will too.

But the reality of the actual implementations of the technology is that the Chinese lasers represent a device that meets minimum specifications or capabilities. The GF represents a product that is built to higher quality specifications that results in better performance. So I get more consistent results over a variety of materials with the GF Pre-Release unit I have than I get with either my K40 or the 60W Redsail.

Almost all K40s (those 40W $500 lasers) have issues with their components. They all have external cooling pumps that you place in a bucket of water and hook to the machine. It’s a repurposed pump usually used for water gardens. If it comes with air assist it’s air pump is either an aquarium pump or small general purpose air pump. The mirrors & lens are the smallest & cheapest that will work. The electronics are generally sketchy - minimally capable of supporting just the base components in the machine. Often the wiring is not actually connected correctly - one of your first tasks is to check that before you fire it up and wire the grounds correctly.

On top of better hardware (Tesla vs Yugo), the software used is miles better than the Chinese lasers. Those lasers ship with two packages - a machine control software that is cryptic, undocumented and supports 1 operation at a time. The design software bundled with the machine is a pirated copy of Corel Draw from about 10 years ago. If you read Chinese you may be able to read some of the documents that ship with the K40.

The Glowforge control software is documented, supported and allows for many operations in a job (combinations of cuts and engraves in a single job). This is far more streamlined than the K40 and much more robust as well. Oh, and it’s all in English.

The K40 (that’s a general term for all of these cheap 40W machines) is generally unsupported - your most likely fix for any problem is potentially a token refund of money when your tube dies or the power supply shorts out. You’ll usually be left on your own to source and install the part. You’re also limited not by the usual “2 year warranty” period but the 60 or 90 day dispute period you payment method provides. Once you can’t dispute the charge your emails will generally not be returned and you’re on your own.

Google K40 lasers and you’ll find a lot of info on how to modify it. Replacing the lens, mirrors and electronics are common mods. Add safety features is also an area where you’ll find a fair amount of modification information on the Internet (from the factory these don’t usually have any safety features installed to prevent laser operation with the lid opened for instance). We all modify our K40s :slight_smile:️ It’s a tinkerer’s machine. If you get a good one and are able to use the software you can use it stock, but that’s not the norm. Usually you have to tweak it. Lifespan of major components tends to be a year or less so you can wait for the parts to fail and then implement your upgrades. You just need to be comfortable swapping parts and a bit of rewiring.

One thing you get with the K40 machines you won’t get with the GF is the ability to engrave thicker materials (Glowforges have a much larger bed than the standard K40). You can get a 2" thick piece in the GF but you can get 4-6" material in most K40s.

If you’re not a tinkerer and comfortable with electronics and expect it to just work out of the box both hardware and software, the K40 machines are going to disappoint you. The GF just works.

Best of luck with your decision. But as a point of reference, I have a K40 and have not turned it on since March. I also have only used the 60W Redsail once. Everything else I’ve done has been on the Pre-release machine GF gave me to use to help shake it out. I have a Pro on order and will likely jettison the K40 when I find the time to scrap it. It was a nice way to get an education but it’s not a “forever” machine for me. I am an engineer but I’m not using the laser in a business.


#8

As a holder of a PRU, even if they recalled my PRU today and it looked like months until my forever unit would ship, I’d wait. I wouldn’t be happy, but I’d wait.


#9

I have a 60w eBay laser. It looks like a redsail, but I’ve been in contact with redsail directly and they say they don’t use eBay. I browsed through what the seller also sold in the past and credit card blanks and number press for credit cards showed up, so… I’m guessing not the most legit.

It was a pain, there are air bubbles in the glass tube(in the glass) so it will have a shortened lifespan. I am not an electrical engineer, but I know one, who helped me set it up. Without him I’m sure by now I’d have fried the machine.

I can never get it perfectly aligned across the whole bed. Some designs I made last year have room for minute imperfections, but about 2/3 of my stuff I make is things that assemble together that need to be the dimensions I tell it to cut and end up being not able to be used.

I wish I had the full 12x20 bed to use with the GF, I have a lot of designs I need to adjust or rework completely. The clone 60w laser has a bed of like, 20x28 or so, which is valuable, but not enough to make me happy.

My antivirus called the Corel install dangerous, but got rdworks to come off of it. It’s the software interface that lets me import a BMP/PNG or dxf file and send it to the laser. It also allowed to input text, make simple shapes, and assign different speeds/powers to various colored lines or rasters. There are times with the GFui I’ve wanted to draw an outline cut box and realized, “fu#$, I need to go back into inkscape for that” or take a generic design for a box, load it in, and realize I have no text for the final personalization step. So I go back into inkscape, add it, remember to convert object to paths, and then save it as a separate file, which can be a little cumbersome. I like to print the terrain plate model number and my registered trademark on the underside of the role playing 3d tiles I make, and was quickest with rdworks, so until GFui can add extra elements like the text, I have to double the amount of files for each piece and try not to mix them up.

I hope/think that should be in the hopper so I’ll live with it. I AM happy with my basic unit. The software will come around. I haven’t learned all the tips and tricks and intricacies of all its beauty yet. I feel like this is a good place to insert a joke about finally taking it to the next level a month ago and finally meeting in person after a year and a half long distance relationship. I will get to know my GF more and it will grow and learn new things too.


#10

Thank you for the input, a lot of good info to consider. My one lingering thought in favor of a K40s is that the GF basic model, as I understand, only has a 6 month warranty, and with a significant maintenance cost for tube replacement. I’ve read some comments where people have suggested to expect to have to replace the tube every 12-18 months. Have we seen the cost of the do-it-yourself tube? All I can find is $499 for them to do it for us, which is almost twice the cost of a complete new K40…

Right now, the warrantee and predicted maintenance costs for the GF don’t seem that great. I might reconsider if GF extended the warranty to be at least as long as it takes them to ship my unit :wink: . I’m all for ease of use, I just don’t know if it’s worth $1800. And not to be too salty, but I could have a K40 before GF announces the next delay… Hmmm, decisions, decisions.


#11

Best of luck with the laser you decide to go with.


#12

24 months is the conservative estimate to replace a tube under “heavy use” conditions.


#13

I would serious ask you to do some indepth research of the K40’s.

From the K40 Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/888394261237059/ ) user group (today):

That is just one of the multiple users each day having issue with a $500’ish laser.


#14

Just want to echo that statement! I came very close to canceling my order because I really couldn’t afford to wait much longer.

The alternatives that I was considering were: a K40 (nixed for all of the reasons that @jamesdhatch has outlined above) a Muse (nixed because I’m disgusted by their Tonya Harding style business model, and saddened by the reviews by Muse buyers) or a Makerspace (unfortunately, the nearest one is not particularly convenient or affordable for my needs).

Based on my experience with the PRU, I would wait - even if they recalled it and I knew it would be months before I received my forever unit. I’d suck it up and use the inconvenient/expensive Makerspace, because I’ve realized that the GF really is the best option for me. My work involves many steps, of which the laser is just one - I really need it to just work, without a lot of futzing or hassle. The GF does just that.


#15

That’s classic. Totally stealing that.


#16

Your K40 would not really have a warranty. You will get a response only until you no longer have the option to dispute the credit card transaction or file a PayPal grievance. Once those levers are gone you won’t get service. The K40 forums are full of those stories (I don’t recall ever seeing someone say they got help 6 months later). The 2 year warranties are fantasy. If you can’t call or email them you can’t get service.

Those machines are made by general electronic manufacturers. They’re not laser companies. They’re building hoverboards or knockoff PCs or anything else they see has a market. They’re good for what they are but they are not an unbox and start making things product.

I’m amazed they can make one that works even as a base for modding at that price and get it shipped halfway around the world. But they’re simply not in the same league as a GF. Which is reflected in the price difference :slight_smile:

More appropriate comparisons would be between the GF and Trotecs or Epilogs. (Size notwithstanding.)


#17

Me too! :smile:


#18

Me three! That is some Dennis Miller level referential humor there.


#19

I have the blue one (K40)… My GF is in a totally different class. Bottom line, my K40 tube appears to have petered out after several months and probably less than a few hours (if that) of actually running time. I could count my projects n my 2 hands… Plus the water pump and water bucket… questionable exhaust fan/assembly. I had some fun with it, but if you have a GF on order, I’d think long and hard before cancelling… read some K40 stories…(yes some people have had great luck, but they also put time into them and probably swapped out some boards and lenses,etc.)

Just my 2 cents


#20

And you were even using PRU for comparison.