Is there anything similar to the Glowforge that is available for purchase now, somewhere under $3,000? My brother is very interested in the Glowforge but we aren’t able to get a good idea of when they actually start shipping.
As far as I know, if you want to stay below ~$8k right now the only real options are the ChinaLasers. Some are distinctly better than others, there are some assembled here in the US that have domestic support and a pretty decent rep.
I went with Epilog because I can be sure of quality, and be sure to have support and spare parts available, since laser tubes ARE a consumable, no matter who makes it.
How easy is the epilog to use. My girlfriend really wants an etcher so we can customize products but I want to be sure she can use it as well.
It is exceptionally easy to use, Windows actually treats it like a printer. You design whatever you want to have engraved or cut (the laser interprets a line less than .003 wide as a cut, and great than that as an engrave) and tell it to print, just like you would to an inkjet. The “printer properties” panel is the dashboard from which you control laser power, speed, and all of its other options (and there are many!) then you can save the set of settings you have put in for re-use later.
Once you’ve printed the project (which sends it to the laser) you go over and put whatever you want in the laser, focus it (or let the laser focus itself, it has autofocus) and hit the green “go” button.
It really takes quite a bit longer to describe than it does to actually do. There are a LOT of options, too. For instance, the knife roll I engraved the leather for a couple posts up was engraved with the “center engraving” option. Basically, that lets you re-set the home position for the laser to anything you want, anywhere in the volume, then it treats that as the CENTER of your artwork. So, in the case of the roll, I turned on the pointer (a red dot, like a very small laser pointer, that shines down the main laser path but is eye-safe) and released the drive motors (there’s a button for that on the controls) to re-position the dot where I’d measured out the center of the logo should go. Then hit the “reset home” button, turned off the pointer, and sent the engraving job. Took about a minute to get it all set up, after a couple test runs just to be sure I wouldn’t obliterate the nice finished product with a bad power setting. All the test runs came out well, but I’m just a tad extra-twitchy with someone else’s stuff, so I did a couple just to be sure!
I just finished setting up a project with my wife out of cardstock, actually. She wants to make tiny little paper houses, so I drafted one up in CorelDraw, and used the “colour mapping” option to define between cutting and scoring. Red lines have one set of settings for the laser (15% power, 70% speed, 2500 Frequency) and green lines have another set (5% power, 90% speed, 500 frequency). That was chosen, with a bit of experimentation, to give a nice clean cut with no scorching around the edges, and a good, crisp score along the fold points without weakening the card TOO much. I’ll have to take a picture of a finished one, they look pretty cool!
This is set up with the full size of the work area being equal to the 18x12 size of the laser, and a black guide box drawn at the 8.5x11 size of the sheet of card to help me lay out the pieces. I print using a “selection” option, so the outline isn’t printed. If I forgot that, the laser would trace around the outside with “cutting” settings. Wouldn’t hurt anything, but would take more time on the run.
EDIT: Took a couple shots. This is of the prototype, the later version that I showed the graphic for has tabs for easier assembly, so it squares up a bit better. But this gives the general idea. Total laser time is 1min 12sec.
And here’s a project I’d been wanting to do for a while, another iteration of my pen stands. This is a knock-down stand, intended for the guys who take custom-made pens to shows and craft fairs. It packs down into a 4" x 4" x 3/8" volume (about six in a USPS small flat-rate box, for scale) and puts together in just a couple seconds into a stand for five pens. Was fun to make, too!
full spectrum has a 20x12 40w machine for $3499
And cranking the scale down to the small end! This is done in 110lb white cardstock, all the marking was done with the laser as well. Pay particular attention to the door, and the chimney! We need a better method of applying the glue, that’s our next weak point in the designs. I think a needle-tip applicator or a glue pen will be required.
I could actually make this about half the size without giving the laser trouble, but it’s already hard to assemble due to scale.