Laser engraver: taking the low road
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Laser engraver: taking the low road

by salsaman on Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:32 pm

I'm very interested in running my own laser engraver, and am curious about commodity Chinese machines (<$2000) as opposed to more expensive machines like the Epilog Zing (~$8000). My primary interests are cutting and engraving acrylic, soft woods, and other plastics, mostly 1/4" thick or thinner. This would be used primarily for my own projects and experiments, but I would likely offer some services (like "tech tattoos") if I can get something working reliably.

Of course I would prefer an Epilog-- I can only find raves about it searching online-- but the lowest prices are too high for me to consider at the moment. I don't mind having to tinker with a low cost machine to keep it running, but complaints about less expensive machines have me spooked, so I want to make sure to do as much research as possible before making any decision!

I've sifted through the posts here-- great info! I'm also looking at these forums:
http://www.cnczone.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=347
http://www.sawmillcreek.org/forumdisplay.php?f=8
Are there other forums worth checking out?

Most importantly I guess: which vendors or distributors are particularly helpful, and which should avoid at all costs?!

Any information about lower cost machines would be most appreciated :D
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Re: Laser engraver: taking the low road

by 250 Coupe on Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:41 pm

Your question sent me off to eBay and I don't like what I see.

I looked at a Triumph TR-6040H and it looks like it's not well engineered or well built. The second mirror is mounted on a piece of all-thread, the laser tube looks like it's mounted with a single metal strap and the screws for the USB jacks aren't even counter sunk properly. The table height adjustment is a knob on one corner of the table and I don't think it will be (or stay) square to the laser head. There is no cutting grid or vacuum hold down. No mention of dust/smoke evacuation. No rulers on the table. The fact that it's water cooled makes me nervous.

I've no doubt that it can do all the things shown in the listing but wonder how much tinkering it needs and what compromises you need to make.

Michael
70W Epilog Legend 24, bought it new in December 2002
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Re: Laser engraver: taking the low road

by salsaman on Mon Sep 13, 2010 5:12 am

Things ended up working out nicely-- yesterday I bought an old (1994!) Epilog Summit from a sign company. It was on mothballs for years but fired up right away. It came with a PC running Windows98 and CorelDraw, also a rotary attachment, all for a very fair price ;) Compared to the less expensive machines on EBay, this thing is built like a tank; looks like I found a different "low road"!

I'm completely new to this and didn't have time to prepare for the laser's arrival-- I had to act fast!

So far I've installed 3" casters on the cart for easy moving, and the old, slow PC works fine. No clue how to set up the rotary attachment; I mailed Epilog for information, hoping I can get a PDF or printed manual.

Most import is that it's working! I've done some simple testing on tongue depressors, thin acrylic sheet, paper, cardboard, a banana, and a tortilla :D

So... now to tackle some more complicated stuff:
  • How to vent and filter the exhaust? I have it hooked up to my shopvac, which is NOT ok for more than testing... and arguably not OK even for testing. There's a window in the office I could use as a vent outlet, if I need one. Looking at the info on ladyada.net (http://www.ladyada.net/library/laser/equipment.html), I need to investigate products from Electrocorp and Purex; any others?
  • How to transfer files to the PC? It's running Windows98 and has every slot filled with extra SCSI and parallel port cards. It does have serial ports and a modem, plus 3.5", 5.25" (!), and a CD ROM drive. USB but no ethernet! Best would be to swap one of the port cards for an ethernet card, but I don't want to upset the delicate balance.
  • Looks like I need to buy a halotron fire extinguisher.
What else? Any suggestions are very much appreciated!!
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Re: Laser engraver: taking the low road

by Philly on Mon Sep 13, 2010 10:14 am

Could you use a USB wireless dongle, then install drop box on the machine(if possible) and share files that way?
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Re: Laser engraver: taking the low road

by 250 Coupe on Tue Sep 14, 2010 6:33 am

You can get a usb-ethernet gizmo or use a USB data transfer cable. There may be issues with drivers for WIN98 so you'll need to do your homework before shelling out your hard earned cash.

http://www.compusa.com/applications/Sea ... &CatId=445
http://www.compusa.com/applications/cat ... 20ethernet

Epilog support has been very good although I must admit that I've not called them in 7 or 8 years. Have not needed to, it's that well built.
You might take a look at the manuals here,
http://www.epiloglaser.com/laser_manuals.htm
They don't go as far back as your Summit but the Legend 24/32 manual shows the rotary fixture I have.

I've only had a few fires, easily put out with a trigger sprayer full of water but I take great care not to drown my machine. My Halon extinguisher has lost pressure so I keep a Tundra brand spray can extinguisher near the machine but the best thing is to not leave the room.

Michael
70W Epilog Legend 24, bought it new in December 2002
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Re: Laser engraver: taking the low road

by salsaman on Tue Sep 14, 2010 3:54 pm

Thanks for the suggestion, a USB dongle for wireless or ethernet would still need some drivers, and I can't get USB to even recognize a thumb drive, not sure if it works at all. The CD ROM drive doesn't seem to read CD's either... For now, a colleague is lending me a USB floppy drive for my Mac so I can just use the old sneakernet :)

The plan is to replace the PC entirely with something slightly newer/faster with a network card. Not sure how to get CorelDraw running on that, but the Epilog driver should transfer fine on a floppy.

I ended up ordering a small halotron fire extinguisher since I'm renting and want to have safety covered, should be delivered Thursday.

I called Epilog yesterday and they were very helpful-- they sent me a Summit manual from an old stack, I pay only for shipping. Looking forward to using the rotary attachment-- I can't figure out where to plug in the Molex connector :o Glad to hear your Legend is holding up well without much fuss!
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Re: Laser engraver: taking the low road

by 250 Coupe on Tue Sep 14, 2010 9:04 pm

Sounds like either the USB updates for 98 may not be installed or it's not turned on in the BIOS.

A floppy drive and sneakernet should work fine, most of my files are under 45kb. I picked up a 100mb USB zip drive for $6 at a thrift store a few months back and there are still parallel port units out there.

I ran a 333mhz P2 with WIn98 and CorelDraw 9 for years. With that setup, I sent the files to the laser via Ethernet. I'm now using a 2.8Ghz Dell with XP and CorelDraw 12 and was using Ethernet until the software quit working, I then put in a parallel port card and a 25 foot cable.

Older versions of CorelDraw can be found on surplus software sites but you do have to spend some time searching. You can try a software relocation program to move your current version to a new PC. I tried one time with PC Relocator but couldn't get it to work.

I'm interested in your extinguisher, I'll have to look halotron up. Well whataya know, the first place I found one for sale at is 15 minutes from my house.

On my machine, the molex is tucked just under the edge of the left hand guide rail. It sticks out about 1/4"

Michael
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Re: Laser engraver: taking the low road

by Dead_Triumph_Laser on Fri Mar 18, 2011 7:35 pm

I should just warn anyone else considering buying from Triumph that there is absolutely NO back up when anything goes wrong.

More depressingly there is no attempt at customer service - denial that any problem exists is more like it.

To be fair when the machine was working it did the job - and the initial comments are perhaps a bit unfair - but my machine only had light use before the problem started.

I ran into problems with the onboard computer - or the stepper motor drivers - or the stepper motors - the problem hasn't been addressed despite a lot of emailing. If you wish to see the problem then visit here http://www.betterbeverage.net/triumph where I have put a video and explanation on the problem I encountered.

Now I appreciate that this may be an old post and that luckily for you you found an alternative.

But it came out on page1 of Google so I thought that I'd just register and flag up the potential problem if anyone else is thinking of buying a machine from Triumph.

If anyone wants to know more please feel free to ask.

Similarly if you wish to distribute this post to anyone who may be interested feel free.
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Re: Laser engraver: taking the low road

by shobley on Mon Apr 11, 2011 3:12 pm

I recently received a Laser Engraver from a Chinese vendor through eBay.
(strong_signstech)

The cabinet is quite well made, and the mechanical fixtures seem to be adequate - however there was a lot that needed to be fixed.

I did a strip-down and rebuild, cleaned all the optics, added proper spring returns to the mirror mounts (I have some "real" mirror mounts down in the basement that fell of the back of a laser harp - I might therefore be replacing them). Then spent a couple of hours futzing around with the alignment.

So far it's working correctly, but the software seems a bit clunky. I may well be replacing the controller with a proper one and hooking up banned.

I started a diary here: http://www.stephenhobley.com/blog/2011/ ... -part-one/

Steve
http://www.stephenhobley.com
http://www.youtube.com/shobley
For all your laser harp, tesla coil, and killer robots from outer space needs.
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Re: Laser engraver: taking the low road

by bcook65 on Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:44 pm

I myself have been considering getting one of the relatively inexpensive laser engravers to play with.. However I have seen some people say that they need a lot of work to be made useable, but have not seen much on what all is typically done to make them useable. I know many of these are from china but, they are not good to go out of the box?
What all in general needs to be done?
this is the one I am lookng at:
http://www.allimageprinting.com/us/laser_engraver.html

Would greatly appreciate any guidance on this as I would love to get into this as a hobby but dont have $5K or more kicking around
BCook65
Electricity is your friend and your friend needs a hug... :O
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Re: Laser engraver: taking the low road

by alec01 on Wed Jul 17, 2013 3:26 pm

I am new here, I just got a Chinese Triumph 50.30 machine,
when I try to do engrave
I have problem with "not enough extend space please esc"
after that no matter what I try, just cut a word,
it happen again, try email Triumph Laser,
no reply, some one here may able to help here
I thinking to replace a new DSP controller
any one can help is appreciated

Unhappy Triumph Laser customer
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Re: Laser engraver: taking the low road

by xl97 on Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:06 pm

been eying up a 5th gen laser from FSLaser.com


has removable floor so you can still cut/engrave on pieces that wont fit under the hood.

not the greatest work envelope coming in @ 21 x 12 or something.. but a smidge bigger than entry level ones

their entry level is only $1800 or so (needs more to get up and running)

their 5th gen is about $3500 or so (needs more to get up and running)
*Not sure if that big of an increase in price with that little increase in work area is worth it?

What I'd really like to hear about is their software? Print from any windows/printable program...etc

and how their 'support' is on tech calls..
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Re: Laser engraver: taking the low road

by Dead_Triumph_Laser on Tue Oct 08, 2013 12:21 pm

A while back I posted on the subject of my malfunctioning Triumph laser.

This is an update and a message for alec01 who seems to be suffering the same problem.

Triumph kept insisting that the "parameters" were set incorrectly - what they failed to point out is that the "parameters" which we loaded onto the machine from the manufacturer's option dropdown menu (and which they kept sending us) were NOT the only "parameters".

If you look under the "Settings" tab on the interface (above the download button in phCAD) and read those "parameters" then you might get somewhere. This was a "lost in translation" fault, and to be fair to Triumph they at least can converse in English vs. my nil in Mandarin. A small hazard of buying outside your language competencies.

Anyway if alec01 is following this thread then the settings you need are (or at least the settings culled from our machine are)

Work Paramaters
Space Speed - 400.00
Space Acc - 2400.00
Start Speed - 10.00
Min_Acc - 25.00
Cut_Acc - 2400.00
Engrave_Acc - 8000.00

ControlPanel Parameters
RunBox_Speed - 150.00
ClipBox_Speed - 80.00
Cut Mode - SoftLocation
Laser Mode - Auto
Push_Move - No

Other Parameters
Speed Mode - precision_cut
Reset Speed - 50.00
Broken delay(ms) - 2000
Focal Length(mm) - 0.00
Focal Multiple - 5000

Hope this helps on your problem.

Anybody else wondering about Triumph's lasers - overall I have no complaints about the machine - yes the table is operated by a single screw and no it doesn't have rulers - but please remember it isn't rocket science to compensate for this, and compared to the similar sized European/American machines its' price differential makes it a no-brainer. Someone else commented on the water cooling - not been a problem here, and if you have concerns then just run the box using an RCD fuse.

The software is perhaps my biggest gripe - it works but if you plan to do anything other than basic engraving, shapes and text do not for one minute think that running this without a copy of CorelDraw will be possible.

We do all our work in Corel (and save it here as well) before pushing it over to the phCAD driver software (our copy seems to be a bit buggy on the saving front so we also keep a paper log of the run speed and power settings for each job/material type just in case).

The software (or at least our copy) will not import all the file formats specified (well Adobe Illustrator is out for us anyway - which given that was what we are using was a pain). We have found that it is best to stick to jpeg/gif imports only and anything else run through Corel.
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