Cheap Laser Engravers

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beloitdavisja

James
Corporate Member
Wondering if anyone has any experiences with the cheap chinese laser engravers that are all over ebay? Mainly wanting it so I can start engraving pens (wood & acrylic) as well as burning a logo in the bottom of my bowls. Because of the bowls, I'm looking at the engravers that have an open floor like this one so I'm not limited by the height of the object.

https://www.ebay.com/i/123099249258

From what I've read, the curvature of the pen won't affect the engraving too much if you stay close to the middle of the cylinder.


I'm a hobbyist, so an expensive commercial engraver is out of the question. Looking to stay in the sub-$200 range, 1000-2000mw laser.


Thoughts?
 

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Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
Interested to see what you learn. For $200 I would probably get one depending on quality and ease of use.
 

beloitdavisja

James
Corporate Member
Just pulled the trigger on this one: https://www.ebay.com/itm/183188991620

2000mw laser, 65x50cm engraving area. [FONT=&quot]MORE18EBAY coupon code took $10 off, and it's shipping from New Jersey. Should be here Wednesday or Thursday next week. I'll post updates on assembly and first trials. [/FONT]
 

Vetteman9956

Brad
Corporate Member
Don't mean to burst your bubble and I wish you good luck, but from what I have heard in some of my laser groups is that the experience using these cheap lasers usually very frustrating and parts and service support is non existent. In this area, you get what you pay for. For example my laser is American made and runs over $20k not including software. Expect a long learning curve. I took almost 3 years before I felt that I had some what mastered it. the hardware is the easy part.
 

beloitdavisja

James
Corporate Member
Don't mean to burst your bubble and I wish you good luck, but from what I have heard in some of my laser groups is that the experience using these cheap lasers usually very frustrating and parts and service support is non existent. In this area, you get what you pay for. For example my laser is American made and runs over $20k not including software. Expect a long learning curve. I took almost 3 years before I felt that I had some what mastered it. the hardware is the easy part.
No worries. I’m under no illusion that it will be comparable to a $20k, or even a $1k laser. My expectations are pretty low. I’m hoping that it will function enough to get what I want out of it.

I’ve read a lot about the software that comes with it and there’s a few YouTube videos that take you through the basic setup - step 1 always being to change the language from Chinese to “English-ish”. All those lasers are basically generics from the same factory, and I know I won’t get any support. But it’s cheap enough I’m willing to take a flyer on it.

It shipped Friday from the seller and the tracking says I should have it Thursday. Looking forward to giving some updates.
 

JGregJ

Greg
User
I did note that the power of the two e-bay models are different 650mw vs. 2000mw. The other parts look almost identical - the 65x50, moters, and the controller look similar. The controller has an Ardiuno micro-controller, which is a very populate hobbyist micro-controller for folks who like to tinker with building electronic devices. Does look like a very interesting tool, could be lots of fun or frustrating depending on your patience in tinkering and debugging.

Found a build it yourself version at instructables.com -- the e-bay kits and this set of instructions look very similar - specially the controller.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Benbox-With-Eleks-Laser-Engraver-GearBest-Banggood/

The advances in micro-controllers and supporting sensors & attachment have grown tremendously in the past decade. That Arduino chip which is the brains of the controller is < $5 and has about as much power as the a PC-AT from the 80's. What once was the territory of the hard-code engineers has been simplified so hobbyist who like to tinker with electronics and programming can build some complex machines with very inexpensive parts.

Likely hobbyist level quality as well, but it looks very interesting - likely can etch on wood better than I can by hand :)

I'm looking forward to hearing about your experience.
 

beloitdavisja

James
Corporate Member
Greg - Yeah, I realized after I posted the first eBay link it was to one that was only 500mw. The one I ordered is a 2000mw

The instructables link you have is basically the same as what I got. Same Benbox software. Gearbest and BangGood are mentioned a lot for buying the lasers. The ebay seller I got mine from is basically the same. Gearbest & BangGood are just online stores for cheap chinese products. I suspect mine is probably from the same factory.

Looks like my package is being delivered today! Hopefully get it up and running with some tests in the next couple days.
 

beloitdavisja

James
Corporate Member
It arrived! Chinese packaging tape and all.


Everything was nicely secured inside in foam


All the contents laid out.




Organizing everything.


Now came the fun part. As I expected: No instructions or manual whatsoever. Took about 3 hours to assemble, mostly because trial and error. Trying to layout how things fit together and watching YouTube videos and comparing against photos. If there were instructions, it could easily be done in less than 1 hour. A lot of it was deducing what parts fit together correctly, and then sometimes having to disassemble to be able to fasten another part. In the end, I'm pretty confident I have it correct.



Close up of the leg supports


Closeup of the y-axis motor and tread




The laser mount






The laser mount motor





That's all for now. Got done a little after midnight, so I didn't have time to fire it up. I'll plug it in tonight and start fiddling.
 

TENdriver

TENdriver
User
“If there were instructions it could be done in less than 1 hour”

Does that mean you read Mandarin? :DChinese instructions I’ve used only extended the assembly time.

I used to a assume there were great jobs in China as an English language technical writer. Then I realized the manufacturers probably really don’t care.


BTW, neat little project. Looking forward to hearing how it works.
 
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beloitdavisja

James
Corporate Member
Some progress last night: Got the software and drivers installed on my laptop and was able once I knew what port it was on to connect. Thanks to the powers of YouTube, the first thing I did was set the language to English. The download I got from the eBayer had a PDF manual in readable english that was helpful for describing the user interface, and there were a couple Youtube tutorials to help explain some other things like flashing the firmware.

The control board has a USB connection and a power connection. The USB will power the board, while the power connection supplies the laser and motors. There's a small push button (not labeled) on the board to turn on the power to the motors and laser once it's plugged in. In the software (Benbox), you can turn on a low intensity laser so you can focus the beam on the work surface. There are buttons in Benbox to move the laser around. Wherever the laser is when you start your burn is the zero-point that is indicated in the software by a red circle. The image editing in Benbox is pretty basic but functional - You can open up graphics and resize or invert the colors. You can also add lines, shapes, and text. Most of the time you'll just want to design something in another graphics program, then import the image into benbox.

I didn't have much time to play, but I did do some test burns. Nothing I want to show off just yet as I'm still dialing in the right settings for what I was burning (1/4" maple plywood scrap). You have to find the right combination so you don't over or under burn. I was also having trouble with the tracking that was distorting the image. I have a few ideas on how to tackle that, but it's probably due to something not being aligned on the motor tread.

I'll get some more time to play tonight and hopefully have some more pictures to share.

Benbox software with laser settings on the right.


Some burn pictures






 

beloitdavisja

James
Corporate Member
“If there were instructions it could be done in less than 1 hour”

Does that mean you read Mandarin? :DChinese instructions I’ve used only extended the assembly time.
Ha! I can see that. I meant english instructions of a quality that you would normally expect from a new product.

But hey, even just pictures would've helped!
 

beloitdavisja

James
Corporate Member
Was able to do a more substantial test last night. It was still a little too dark. I did a 2nd burn that was lighter but didn't take a picture. Did a timelapse of the first burn:

[video=youtube;Y36i1Ge7yVU]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y36i1Ge7yVU[/video]

Result:




Source Image:
 

beloitdavisja

James
Corporate Member
Tried the laser out on some solid wood, which works much better and is much more consistent than the plywood.

The first test was outline mode. The first run, I set the laser way too fast. slowing it down made it really crisp. The noise around the letters was from the first run. Had I moved the piece it would've been cleaner. The middle one was still a little dark. Sanding cleaned it up a big, but it still singed around the endges. Lastly, a minion with a laser gun (of course!). Really liked how that turned out, and my son was super excited about it.



i started to test some acrylics but don't have much to show yet. I think the trick with acrylics is to do lighter burns multiple times.
 

kg5000

New User
Kenny
Excellent progress! Do you have a need for venting fumes? I've heard that laser cutting certain plastics can give of toxic fumes?
 
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