Indicated power is 5500 mw (5.5 watt), the real power is about 4 watt (4000 mw) only!
Lasers & I :
My experience with lasers started with my fascination with their shiny red dots. You know the ones seen coming out of the first pencil-styled laser pointers. lasers had been around and used for years before I got to play with them. They started being mass-produced and sold throughout the rave scene in the late 80’s early 90’s. Any decent nightclub had some kind of laser technology randomly shining its essence about the place. Health and safety weren’t as enforced as it is now a day.
Truth is In fact this the first laser was introduced to the world circa may 1960 when Hughes Research Laboratory in California made a laser by shinning a high-power flash lamp on a ruby rod with silver-coated surfaces. I mean who even thinks of this wizardry. Harry Potter would have been proud.
I myself wasn’t around in the 60’s, so my fondness for lasers started when they became mainstream to the public sector, they were made into small laser keyrings and pens, sold in most holiday destinations. The ones back then used to eat batteries within a few hours of use but were fun.
Sure there were lasers that were used in computer mice, optical mice that had a vcsel, vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser diode. After that lasers started to appear everywhere even in the likes of power tools. These aren’t the laser we will talk about today but it’s worth mention none less.
Remember folks the world of lasers is both dangerous yet rewarding so treat all your equipment with respect. Keep your eyeballs safely behind some sexy laser goggles.
Let’s begin with the basics:
The quality of the laser is beset on all sides by the equity of the power delivery train and the optical shiny lens output. Not all lasers are created equally, build quality & optics
Couple that with the wiring, the AWG rating of the wires which states how much current it can handle, the cooling systems. Let’s not forget the basics, the focusing method, and the reasoning for focus in the first place. Focus is that special ever so important distance from the workpiece that gives optimal beam size. The idea is to make the laser dot as small as possible to enable it to cut or engrave anodized aluminum with furious awesomeness. It gives its maximum efficiency when focused correctly to the workpiece and the correct height.
You can have the most powerful laser in the world available to you, yet without a proper setup, you won’t get the best results. You may even get results so far from what you’re expecting that you get really frustrated, perhaps give up. You may even consider getting a better setup, spending more money needlessly. By playing with and understanding your setup you will learn so much.
There is no point in using a chainsaw to trim the flowers in your garden, the same applies to the materials you want to cut. You don’t necessarily need a Co2 laser if your goal is to cut cardboard, paper, thin clothe, it is simply not necessary
On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to be cut down cut 10mm plywood with a 3-watt laser diode, it’s wasteful, you’d have the laser working 100% duty cycle and it would burn the wood edges long before it cut 1/4 way through.
With that said, a great diode laser with a cheap lens will not do you any favors either. So having a cleans lens is a good starting point, greasy fingerprints and dirty are a big no-no. Keep your options.
People sometimes use an air assist for this. If setup correctly an air assist can make a massive difference. Air assist will make your cuts cleaner, cut down on the smoke making you able to also cut faster which is an awesome upgrade.
What do buy?
More power doesn’t make a better laser and it’s too easy to get caught up with fancy numbers and specifications. Just remember one thing, paper never refuses ink and a lot of the time certain manufacturer’s quoted wattage ratings are somewhat or completely exaggerated. Example of a stated 40/50 watt laser diodes which in reality when measured was just a mere 4-5 watt many are overdriven and have a really short life span.
So who sells products like this? China, it is after all a massive hotspot for cheap electronics and knock-offs. The Chinese get a branded laser modules, they copy it to look the same and they even have the same if not way over exaggerated specification just at a much better price.
The only problem is they use inferior components, cheaper components, cheaper metal in their heat sinks, noisy and sometimes useless fans. Some fans are just for show and don’t dissipate heat correctly due to positioning. The knock-on effect is no proper cooling for the elections causing the driver to overheat and malfunction.
Disadvantages of Chinese lasers to remember:
- They are cheaper for a reason
- The build quality of the optics is generally not great
- The electronics use inferior capacitors and resistors shortening the life of the lasers.
- The heatsinks are thinner many won’t have thermal paste from the factory.
- The fans can be noisy and in some cases designed in such way that they are useless.
- They may not have a removable or focusable lens which is needed to get best results
- They won’t have a long life as the controllers are often overdriven
- They are normally quoted as electrical power output instead of optical power output.
Why do people import from China:
What it is so attractive buying from China sites like Banggood, Aliexpress and Made-In-China to just name a few. It’s easy! The prices are so attractive. Well, you guys you have to understand a couple of things, you get what you pay for and all the glitters aren’t gold. On a video I watched a few days ago results from testing these imported lasers were far form optimal. It showed a 30 watts laser giving out 7 watts of power and even a 5-watt laser they showed only gave out a maximum of 1 Watt. This can be due to inefficiencies in the driver and the conversion losses in power conversion. You need to know the optical power and not just electrical power. Be wary of companies that don’t state optical power.
Important safety tips when using lasers.:
- *****ALWAYS USE****** Laser protective eyewear (LPE)
- Have adequate ventilation at all times, plastics give off toxic fumes
- Know your equipment, know what to do in case of emergency.
- Have you work area clean & free from old projects and cuttings
- Keep Beam paths below or above standing or sitting eye level
- Have power supply earthed and safely away from being touched / knocked
- READ NUMBER 1 & 3 AGAIN and then enjoy your new laser
What to pay attention to when choosing
Buy from a company that specializes in Lasers. Do your research or go with a company like Endurance Lasers, a reputable company not only can they deliver high-quality lasers but they stand over their equipment.
You can contact them any time. From what I’ve seen so far they are constantly striving to make newer and more efficient laser and the accessories to go with them.
They make some cool-looking products, industrial design for reliability, the cost is not the limiting factor, they want longevity from their equipment and for their customers, they would rather you have something reliable and productive this cuts down on returns. A happy customer is far better for business and they know this is true.
It’s great to be able to reach out to the people that make and design the products and get the answers back in a timely fashion. This alone is worth differences in prices, especially if you are only starting out and need help. They have wonderful educational and interesting videos on their own site so keep them on the radar.
What else to pay attention to:
- As before do your own research, not all reviews are created equally and eBay is full of biased reviews on many products including but not limited to lasers.
- Take your time, only buy once you’re happy that what you will be getting will do what you need it to do.
- Before you buy anything before you upgrade anything, ask yourself what is it you need or want to do that you can’t do now.
- Due diligence on products that the company that supplies or makes them if they happen to be Chinese what’s the recourse if something goes wrong. Ask if you want to know how to make it work with your own setup. Can you contact them by phone? Email?
- Remember buying abroad you may get a cheaper price but you will normally have delivery and taxes and maybe even import duties. In Ireland, this is now on anything imported. Used to be under 20 euro was exempt.
- See what accessories can you use with them, do they sell different optics?
- Do they sell air assist kits or have options to mount them on their laser or can offer advice on what works well with their equipment?
- What software does it come with
- How easy is it to setup and use
- What technical support is available
User-friendliness and Community:
lasers are a wonderful hobby to get into, arts and crafts, maker houses should have one or two for you to get some hands-on experience to see if you like it or not. There is a huge online community filled with awesome creative ideas and projects to help you get started.
The hobbyist will generally encounter problems at some point so joining a makers group on discord or other forums will really help you along the way.
Now you have a basic understanding of our Chinese friends and what they can offer you. At least now you are informed of why they can be problematic. But like leading a horse to water only you can decide to drink or not. I’d like to encourage you on your journey in the wonderfully bright and shiny world of LASERS! Go forth and make great decisions to create wonderful projects, help others too if you can.
Makers & Manufacturers