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  1. #1
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    NPO looking for Purchasing Advice

    I have received a grant for my youth-serving non-profit organization to create a high-tech, youth-focused makerspace in our community. We've never had any involvement in this type of machinery nor has anyone in our community, so I appologize to you for posting yet another 'help me purchase a machine' post.

    Among other things, I have $4,000 budgeted for a laser cutter which I know is atleast 3-5x less than we'd need for an epilog or other high-quality machine. This price should include everything needed (shipping, water cooler, etc) - the budget might flex upwards $250 if required, but not much more.

    That being said, I'm looking at various options from Redsail and direct from China options to Rabbit and Full spectrum Laser. Examples below



    One possible difficulty is that we don't have specific needs in size or material. Of course, the bigger and more powerful the better (and thus the attractiveness of a Redsail)

    I'm more concerned about ongoing maintenance and tube life - keeping the unit operations so we don't disappoint kids and interfere with programs. Ease of use is also nice.

    Other items in the space will include a Shapeoko 3 XL (16"x30" (XXL? 30"x30") cnc router, 4- 3D printers (Prusa i3 mk2) & a 24"-36" vinyl cutter. Since some of the other items are near that 30" size, that would be nice, but not expected...

    Your advice and recommendations are welcome.

  2. #2
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    Re: NPO looking for Purchasing Advice

    Hi Ben,

    With a budget of 4K (delivered) you can only get a cheap Chinese machine or a really old used machine (reputable brand). In any case the support may be problematic. Rabbit and Full Spectrum are resellers of Chinese machines. Most of the resellers in US don’t keep spare parts and the support you would receive from them would be worse than contacting the Chinese factory directly. Those that do keep parts and offer support, add impressive markup fees. The markup can easy exceed 1-2 times the actual cost of the machine plus shipping. Here in the forum some reported markup fees over 350%… So at the end it may better to buy 2 machines directly (without reseller) and use the second for spare parts. Also in general it is better to establish a relationship with the original manufacturer. All large Chinese companies provide after-sale support in English. Some questions for you:

    - Are you ok with servicing the machine yourself (provided you have parts and basic phone support from China)?

    - Are you ok with importing the machine and parts from China (slow delivery, customs, etc.)?

    - Have you considered all safety requirements - venting, location, protective eye-ware for all the kids? Laser machines (especially the industrial kind) can be very dangerous.

  3. #3
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    Re: NPO looking for Purchasing Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Storen View Post
    - Are you ok for servicing the machine yourself (provided you have parts and basic phone support from China)?
    Yes - we're rather handy here - very limited funds to hire out simple jobs. The lead staff should be able to address most issues (basic wiring, troubleshooting, etc) and we have (and hope to continue building) some expert volunteer help, both for training/maintenance concerns and potentially to lead programs. While this was easier for 3D printing, I still haven't found a laser guru yet. My larger concern mostly falls on the reliability of components (tube, boards, etc that cannot be easily fixed), or if the machine needs tinkered with daily/weekly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Storen View Post
    - Are you ok with importing the machine and parts from China (slow delivery, customs, etc.)?
    We hope to have things fully operational by June - perhaps earliest delivery in late March or April. If there are certain parts that are anticipated to need replacement that could only be provided with a 4-week turn around, then we could stock those in advance to minimize delays - I assume this would be the tube and ...? I assume certain items would be 'common' components and sourced through retail channels (steppers/servos, etc)

    Quote Originally Posted by Storen View Post
    - Have you considered all safety requirements - venting, location, protective eye-ware for all the kids? Laser machines (especially the industrial kind) can be very dangerous.
    I hope so! We have earmarked a location with access to vent exhaust outside via a short < 20' duct of whatever size will be needed. We will have 2 Cleanguard fire extinguishers in the space- one at the door, one at the laser cutter. The Makerspace will be geared for 6-18 year-olds in mind, but this specific equipment will be used by HS students with staff oversight - we intend to have a key-lock for the power source if one is not provided. As we were focused on enclosed machines, eye wear was not something I've thought much about aside from a few pairs to be on hand if needed - primarily for staff troubleshooting/etc when kids are not present.

  4. #4
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    Re: NPO looking for Purchasing Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by BiologyBen View Post
    I hope so! We have earmarked a location with access to vent exhaust outside via a short < 20' duct of whatever size will be needed. We will have 2 Cleanguard fire extinguishers in the space- one at the door, one at the laser cutter. The Makerspace will be geared for 6-18 year-olds in mind, but this specific equipment will be used by HS students with staff oversight - we intend to have a key-lock for the power source if one is not provided. As we were focused on enclosed machines, eye wear was not something I've thought much about aside from a few pairs to be on hand if needed - primarily for staff troubleshooting/etc when kids are not present.
    Umm I may be paranoid but I wouldn't trust the screen on the lid entirely. Especially on cheap machines. Here you can order some good and inexpensive glasses:
    LS-CD2-332 CO2/Excimer Laser Safety Glasses Model 332

    Since you don't mind importing and supporting the machine yourself I think you should get the machine straight from the factory.
    I would suggest to contact several brands trough AliBaba.com and use the secure payment options that the website provides. Before you order ask for samples. Best send them your files. Personally I would start with HSG (hsglaser.com). The samples they sent me and the overall attitude and communication made me good impression. The whole thing should not take more than 3-4 months.

  5. #5
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    Re: NPO looking for Purchasing Advice

    Hi,
    Glad to hear what your doing, sounds like fun.
    I would be asking about warranty on the laser tube. I have known of other people with Chinese machines, going through multiple tubes in a year. Maybe they have gotten better recently but I doubt it. Generally the old style metal co2 tubes have a 5-7 year lifespan. The newer ceramic tubes are touted as lasting up to 25 years give or take and even then it's the electronics that die not the tube itself. I would not even consider a glass tube, however I'm not sure what is sold in the cheap machines at all so can't offer any advise in that regard unfortunately. If you do go with a cheaper machine you would really want a fairly decent warranty unless you have a a healthy ongoing maintenance budget. Good luck!

    Sent from my SM-G900I using Tapatalk

  6. #6
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    Re: NPO looking for Purchasing Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Stepping3D View Post
    Hi,
    Glad to hear what your doing, sounds like fun.
    I would be asking about warranty on the laser tube. I have known of other people with Chinese machines, going through multiple tubes in a year. Maybe they have gotten better recently but I doubt it. Generally the old style metal co2 tubes have a 5-7 year lifespan. The newer ceramic tubes are touted as lasting up to 25 years give or take and even then it's the electronics that die not the tube itself. I would not even consider a glass tube, however I'm not sure what is sold in the cheap machines at all so can't offer any advise in that regard unfortunately. If you do go with a cheaper machine you would really want a fairly decent warranty unless you have a a healthy ongoing maintenance budget. Good luck!

    Sent from my SM-G900I using Tapatalk
    As far I know there is no Chinese company that offers ceramic tubes. Some of them offer metal for their high-end machines, but all of them will be out of his price range. His only option would be cheap glass tube that has to be replaced frequently and of course it's not going to be nearly as stable as the metal and ceramic ones.

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