Billy Hell

40W Chinese Laser - Engrave and Cut Leather - Discuss

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I am a maker of belts, holsters, wallets, etc. I hand tool everything I make. I have a Cowboy 3200 to handle most of my stitching. 

I had a friend request and interesting concept for some wallets to give as prizes at an air show aerobatics competition. 
It was suggested I use a laser for the precise map like cuts. I had look at a laser in the past but the cost was too much for a night time maker like me. 
electrathon pasted a link to a chinese 40 watt laster that is around $330. 

Since then I have been doing as much research on this as possible. I have the money but want to make sure I'm making the right decision. 
PROS
The entry price is doable. 
A 40w machine can do almost anything I need to leather. 
Things that can be done - engrave, cut, make stitching holes (not needed for me but good for other makers), and more. 

CONS
Wiring usually needs to be gone through.
Need to make sure the unit is grounded properly.
Provided water pump could be dangerous.
Software is dicey.
Only runs on Windows machines. 
I've read that cutting leather is really smelly. 
Lasers can blind you.

MY POSSIBLE USES
Cut out holsters and pieces cleanly and perfectly with laser. 
Create templates so the laser could burn in some very cool nuances that I would tool around. 
Try new things on notebook covers and wallets (design in Photoshop and then burn on). 
Learn the machine and then create things I have yet to think of. 

QUESTIONS
Can I create my designs on my Mac and then import them into the Windows software? 
With the provided fan can I get most of the bad smell outside?
Does anyone on Leatherworker use one of these units? 
Is it better to purchase from one seller over the other? If so who? 
Should I spend $100 to buy from Amazon? (Cheaper on eBay).
 

I'm pretty close to just pulling the trigger and taking the plunge. I would really like to hear from someone like me that already has done this. 
My biggest question is if the Chinese laser is worth the hassle. 

Links to the units I'm describing:

Amazon (the beauty here is that you can return it) $427.99
https://www.amazon.com/Engraving-Machine-Engraver-Cutter-Exhaust/dp/B01AJGFS7Y/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1497892156&sr=8-4&keywords=laser+engraver

Ebay Cheapest (This unit has minimal controls) $318 with shipping
I have to think there is no returning what you get. 
http://www.ebay.com/itm/High-Precise-40W-CO2-USB-Laser-Engraving-Cutting-Machine-Engraver-Wood-Cutter-/200902245694?hash=item2ec6b4fd3e:g:fsUAAOSwFdtX146J

Ebay Upgrade (This appears to have a better control panel) $387
http://www.ebay.com/itm/40W-USB-Port-CO2-Laser-Engraving-Cutting-Machine-Engraver-Cutter-W-Wheels-/152106266467?hash=item236a3d6f63:g:E-MAAOSwyltZQz1o

POST
Please post your thoughts, your research or your experience with these machines. 


 

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I'll jump in with what I know, it is admittedly limited. 

CONS
Wiring usually needs to be gone through.  I do not understand this statement.  What wiring?  Are you assuming it will not be wired properly out of the box?
Need to make sure the unit is grounded properly.  This is true with all modern electronics.  TV, stereos, washing machines.  Not sure why this is singled out.
Provided water pump could be dangerous.  Again, why?  Dangerous to use like a dishwasher, fish tank, water heater?
Software is dicey.  No real answer here but is runs on Corel Draw.  Massively popular software.
Only runs on Windows machines. 
I've read that cutting leather is really smelly. Very.  Use the exhaust fan and vent outside.
Lasers can blind you. If you could get your head into the machine and look at it as it runs you would be in a bad way.  I don't think this is possible.

My main concern with the machine is really only long term durability and the learning curve on how to draw.

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Laser videos:

 

 

 

 

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Need to make sure the unit is grounded properly.  This is true with all modern electronics.  TV, stereos, washing machines.  Not sure why this is singled out.
It has been shown that some of these unit will shock you and you need to ground it. Not something I usually deal with except in my old guitar amps. 


Provided water pump could be dangerous.  Again, why?  Dangerous to use like a dishwasher, fish tank, water heater?
Some of the provided pumps allow electricity to seep into the water and users have received a shock when checking water temp. Be aware. 


Software is dicey.  No real answer here but is runs on Corel Draw.  Massively popular software.
I'm a Mac guy. I do have a PC and some of these come with Corel and some don't. 


Only runs on Windows machines. 
I've read that cutting leather is really smelly. Very.  Use the exhaust fan and vent outside.

This is one of my main concerns since everyone in the house might have an issue with it. 


Lasers can blind you. If you could get your head into the machine and look at it as it runs you would be in a bad way.  I don't think this is possible.
I'm not too concerned but I saw a guy on Youtube using a mirror on a stick to see if the laser was cutting through. All I could think was, "STOP!!"

My main concern with the machine is really only long term durability and the learning curve on how to draw.
I'm a user of Photoshop and pretty good with Illustrator. I'm hoping I can do the majority of work on my Mac and then import it into Corel. 

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Need to make sure the unit is grounded properly.  This is true with all modern electronics.  TV, stereos, washing machines.  Not sure why this is singled out.
It has been shown that some of these unit will shock you and you need to ground it. Not something I usually deal with except in my old guitar amps.

If it is shocking you there is something seriously wrong.  A ground wire will make the circuit breaker blow by taking the circuit to ground, but that is not the cure for the issue, That is the band-aid.  If the housing is plastic, there is nothing to ground, if it is metal, then a ground wire is usually included.


Provided water pump could be dangerous.  Again, why?  Dangerous to use like a dishwasher, fish tank, water heater?
Some of the provided pumps allow electricity to seep into the water and users have received a shock when checking water temp. Be aware. 

Same response as above.  If this is a true issue, the fish tank pump is the issue, not the laser.


Software is dicey.  No real answer here but is runs on Corel Draw.  Massively popular software.
I'm a Mac guy. I do have a PC and some of these come with Corel and some don't. 


Only runs on Windows machines. 
I've read that cutting leather is really smelly. Very.  Use the exhaust fan and vent outside.

This is one of my main concerns since everyone in the house might have an issue with it. 

I fix things all the time.  if burning flesh was the worst smell I created I think people would be happy.


Lasers can blind you. If you could get your head into the machine and look at it as it runs you would be in a bad way.  I don't think this is possible.
I'm not too concerned but I saw a guy on Youtube using a mirror on a stick to see if the laser was cutting through. All I could think was, "STOP!!"

Moron.  I suspect if you pee in wall plug it may make your penis hurt, but it would never make me recommend that you remove the electricity from your house.

My main concern with the machine is really only long term durability and the learning curve on how to draw.
I'm a user of Photoshop and pretty good with Illustrator. I'm hoping I can do the majority of work on my Mac and then import it into Corel. 

Far better issue to deal with than if they had propriety software.

I will watch the videos and see what is being said.

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If you buy this Chinese death trap, at least plug it into a gfci, and never, ever leave it plugged in when you are not monitoring it. 

Can you rent laser time somewhere, just to see if it does what you want?

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8 hours ago, Billy Hell said:

My biggest question is if the Chinese laser is worth the hassle. 

I own a 100 watt Chinese laser cutter, and use it successfully for engraving and cutting leather. You might find the smaller 40 watt unit not worth the trouble. Plus the work area on the 40 watt really puts a limit what you can do. I would take 480Volt's advice and see if you can rent a laser cutter (maybe at a "maker-space" if you have one nearby). There is a fairly steep learning curve to the software (I use Adobe Illustrator), and there almost always seems to be some technical issue with the files when marrying my designs to the laser cutter's software. The thing that I've learned in doing this for the past year is that even when leathers are the same weight, they can certainly have a varied response to the laser beam (cowhide, bullhide, buffalo; chromexcel, veg tan; stuffed leather, etc.). Some of these materials take several passes to make the cut.

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thanks Billy, and all you guys for the info! I have been interested but not sure what to ask or who to ask!

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I am going to order one.  I will post after it is up and running to good and the bad that I find.

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I've read up on the 40w machines too, and the opinion appeared to be that some do need a bit fettlin' with the wiring (loose fittings and connections).   Also the mirrors may not be aligned properly, and expect loose nuts/screws.    The water pump is also the first upgrade to be made.

It does appear though, that if you are prepared to accept that it may not work directly out of the box, and are willing (or able) to do what's needed, they are worth getting.   There again, who doesn't do a check over for loose parts on a new machine before they use it.

Biggest thing to check out, would be the supplier.    Some of the laser forums list the sellers who are more concerned with the quality of the laser engraver they sell than others.   Check that out, and buy from them.

Me?  I have no experience with lasers, so I bought a little A3 5w laser engraver.   It can do engraving, and will cut thin material.   More of a toy for me to learn about lasers than anything else, I suppose.     Because it is basically an open cnc plotter style frame, I can move it onto a hide or wooden surface of any size, and engrave a shape or image.    

I'd love to have at least a 40w machine, but have neither the space or confidence at the moment.   This is why I eagerly await further reports from electrathon.

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Here is an experiment with safety glasses. I'm adding it the thread so you have info on potential damage and why laser safety glasses are worth the investment. 
 

 

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Interesting video.  That was a 80 watt laser, very powerful.  Also I think it is rare to get your eyes in the line of the laser.  I believe most of the machines are going to make you shut the door in order for it to run, just to be safe from being stupid with it.

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I have been looking at this machine for about 4 years now and still have not pulled the plug on it. At the time when I first started researching it the price was over $800, now on Ebay they are half that.  Over on the CNCZONE forum they have a section that is dedicated to these units with all the different mods and upgrades to turn this unit into a great little laser cutter, plus you can get answers to any newbie questions you may have or problems you may run into.  

@electrathon it will be interesting to see how you get yours going and the issues (if any) you run into. If the build goes well I may go ahead and grab one. I have an X-Carve CNC machine and a company called J Tech has a laser cutter attachment for my CNC machine, I was leaning that way, but if things goes well with your set up, I might just rethink adding a laser to my CNC and get a separate unit, that way I can CNC and Laser cut/engrave at the same time instead of tying up my machine and have to wait until one is finished.

Karina

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My laser arrived today!  Whoop Whoop! 

In a few days I hope to post a few pics of work from it.

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Here is what I did with my leather tools...

19875221_10213651682111815_2720196167858940330_n.jpg

19756372_10213651681391797_6155057140831535564_n.jpg

19732042_10213651679871759_6384324257032185754_n.jpg

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Billy you did this with tools meaning none laser or with a laser.  And electrathon I look forward to your report.

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No laser, just stamps and a ceramic blade. WHOOPS, wrong thread. I'll put this in my original thread. Carry on with your laser discussion. Anxious to see how it goes. 

Edited by Billy Hell

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I know someone mentioned checking out a maker space, that's a great idea. I've also found a laser to practice on at a local library (Epilogue Zing 60 watt, retails for about $14K, so pricey but top of the line). It's free and they offer some training and I've been able to pick their brains a little about the laser itself as the library is on its second machine (first was an early Full Spectrum), and these guys made the purchasing decision.

As for my experiences to date.... as others have said, a fan is a must, as the leather does smell and the fumes generated by the laser in general can be intense. Laser cut leather can also sometimes get a little brittle and the laser will leave permanent dark burn marks both on the edges it cuts and on anything it engraves (though it's easily the most precise cutting and engraving I can get on leather so far). It doesn't take much experience to quickly learn to ID anything (leather or otherwise) that a laser cutter has touched because of these marks (example 1, example 2). I tried using masking tape and painters tape on some veg tan to limit the burn marks, but that didn't come off very cleanly and in some cases took the top layer of the leather with it - so don't bother.

Corel Draw is similar to Adobe Illustrator (though significantly cheaper), if your familiar, but if you're not, expect a little bit of a learning curve. You'll need to learn about raster and vector images, and line thickness, which is is really important in terms of the laser reading a marking as a direction to cut or engrave. I believe the cutting lines in Corel also need to be set to "hairline" or they'll just engrave. If like me, you're trying to design in Illustrator and import to Draw, it can be kind of a pain, as the two softwares sometimes interpret things differently. I've found it's easier to bring an Illustrator-generated PDF file into Draw than an .EPS or .SVG file (I forget which Draw uses). Though if you're designing directly in Draw and you're not working with a machine that will lock you out after an hour (thanks, library), then you shouldn't have that problem.

In terms of buying one... sometimes you'll see the real professional brands like Epilogue available used, but they're aren't usually a ton, and they're still pretty expensive. The Chinese imports are definitely the cheapest and my sense is that they're getting better, but you still need to be pretty capable as there's not really any support, the software can be wonky, and they don't always arrive (or stay) in working order. I've noticed though that there's another class emerging which are intended for home use, run about $3K to $5K and are coming from places where you might expect a little more quality control. These include Glowforge (US), Full Spectrum (US), Fabool (Japan), Emblaser (Australia), and Mr. Beam (Germany). Most of these are in at least their second generation and while they're not "professional", they are coming with at least 30 to 40 watt lasers, and in some cases more. I've been researching them for a few months now, and it seems like the major limitations (aside from Glowforge being massively delayed) is that you can't run the lasers non-stop like you could with something like an Epilogue and the beds tend to be smaller. Though I haven't bit the bullet yet, I'm sort of hovering between the Emblaser 2 and the Fabool 2. The Emblaser has a different type of laser (diode, I think?) which can run longer than the about 30 minutes most of the home lasers can safely run, but the bed is sized to non-US paper sizes (A3, I think) and thus a little small. The Fabool has the biggest bed and a stronger laser, but it has the type of laser that needs rest time. I also like the idea of buying a machine that comes with software written by native English speakers, as non of these companies are really "global" yet. As you seem to have noticed, it's also never as simple as "just buy this laser and you're good to go". You'll also need to buy a handful of accessories (fans, guides, etc.) in order to operate it safely and effectively. I'd estimate you could easily spend an extra $500 on relatively important accessories.

Anyway, those are my two cents. There are a number of Facebook groups out there where users are talking about these machines. It might be worth joining and seeing what they're saying.

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I had the time to get the unit out of the box.  I did find that two of the four caster wheels on the bottom were knocked off during shipping.  Also the final mirror was knocked off of its mount, with the mount bent.  I had time to reinstall the wheels, hope to straighten the bent mount tonight.

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keep it coming

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6 hours ago, electrathon said:

I had the time to get the unit out of the box.  I did find that two of the four caster wheels on the bottom were knocked off during shipping.  Also the final mirror was knocked off of its mount, with the mount bent.  I had time to reinstall the wheels, hope to straighten the bent mount tonight.

This mirror is simply the guiding mirror or is it the exit mirror of the laser?  I hope , for you that it is the former.

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Electrathon, how is the build of the laser coming along?  I am hoping you will have some good info on that machine for us here in the very near future.

Thanks

O n S

Ron

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I have been rearranging the shop and building a table as a permanent location.  Once that is done I will address the operation of the unit.

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I got the bench finished that the laser will reside on today.  On to the next step.

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:popcorn:

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