Epilog Mini 24 (Adafruit Laser uses the 35 watt model.)
Available from Epilog Laser
Wattages: 30, 40, 50, and 60 watts. (updated 01/10)
Work area: 24 " x 12" (610 x 305 mm)
Z-stroke: Holds items up to 8" tall (203 mm)
Included features: Red Dot Pointer, Air Assist, Auto Focus, Integrated Vector Grid & Vacuum Table, Radiance High Energy Optics
Options: Mini Floor Stand, Epilog Air Compressor, Rotary Attachment, Vector Pin Table
The laser can cut: Wood, plastic, acrylic, delrin, cloth, leather, matte board, melamine, paper, mylar, pressboard, rubber, wood veneer, fiberglass, cork, corian.
The laser can etch: Glass, coated metals, ceramic, marble, anodized aluminum, stainless steel, painted metals, tiles, wood, plastic, acrylic, delrin, cloth, leather, matte board, melamine, paper, mylar, pressboard, rubber, wood veneer, fiberglass, cork, corian.
These lasers cannot be used to cut or etch PVC or vinyl because chemicals are released that will destroy the optics and void the warranty. Some metals can be etched directly, but harder metals such as steel can only be marked using a spray called Cermark and available from LaserBits.
Depending on many things you can get one of the Epilog Mini systems for as low as $15,000 or as high as $20,000 USD - it really depends on what dealer and where you are.
The Epilog Helix used by Ghost Marking was around $24,000, including the rotary attachment and ventilation system. Ghost Marking is in the San Fancisco area
Our filter system - Electrocorp Model RSU12-CCHR
(Electrocorp, while producing a fairly good laser filter, has terrible customer service and we'd go months without replacement insert filters so if we were to do this again, we'd probably try a different filter supplier.
Carbon cartridge/HEPA reverse flow Space saver air scrubber (data sheet, PDF ).
The fumes and dust from etched and cut material are toxic, you must have a filtration system in place! If you're going to cut or etch plastics or pretty much anything else you'll need a filter system
The cost of a filter system is about $2000 USD after shipping.
It might be possible to do a comparable DIY version, we're looking in to it. A rich source of such designs are from woodworking, who must regularly handle with a large amount of dust and particulate matter generated by saws and other power tools. The woodworking filtration is generally down to the submicron level, at high CFM. But it also means that it is probably over spec'ed for laser use, and tends to be much louder than a dedicated low flow laser filter.
The Seattle, Washington Epilog rep uses a Purex filter, model unknown. The pricing is "about $1750."
Same Seattle Epilog rep reports that with an attached filter the laser can be operated in any location without license or ventilation.
- Note: There are some disputes over whether it's necessary to have activated carbon in the filter path, and whether its use is to suppress odor, or to remove potential toxic fumes. In Purex's literature they didn't actively refer to the health benefits, only secondarily suggests that the Purex filter can potentially eliminate complaints by employee. I think if there is a legitimate health benefit they would have presented this argument much stronger. But make your own judgement.
Duct hose- You'll need this to vent the laser to the filter. We use McMaster-Carr 53145K71 - General Purpose Polypro/Rubber Duct Hose Black, 6" Id, 6-9/32" - 6 ft ($6.50 per foot).
Coupling increaser for duct hose - |McMaster-Carr 2013K57 Galvanized Steel Round Duct Fitting 4" To 6" Diameter Increaser ($8.90 each).
Steel cart - we use a 4633T1 Bolt-Together Steel Cart with Open Shelves 500# Capacity, 32" Top Shelf Height, 36" X 24" Shelf from McMaster-Carr
Extra shelf - 36" L X 24" W Extra Shelf for 500 lb Capacity Light Duty Steel Cart from McMaster-Carr
Extra drawer - 12" W X 18" D X 4" H Optional Drawer for Light Duty Steel Cart
You can buy the $600 stand that Epilog sells, but we don't move the laser much and wanted storage as well. So, we went with this model available from McMaster-Carr. Its actually from Edsel so you can buy it elsewhere too. The extra shelf is installed upside down to hold plastic and other materials. The drawer is installed below that to hold small tools for the laser like the lens cleaning supplies bearing grease. The bottom holds tools, etc. We didn't install the casters, as they are not locking.
Fire extinguishers are an absolute necessity. Not only can the materials being etched catch fire, but the gases released can ignite as they pass through the laser beam. Epilog recommends CO2 fire extinguishers because they do not contain chemicals that would be harmful to the mechanics or optics of the system. Class A extinguishers are for ordinary combustible materials such as paper, wood, cardboard, and most plastics (the stuff you're most likely lasering that could catch fire). CO2 fire extinguishers don't work very well on class A fires because they may not be able to displace enough oxygen to put the fire out, causing it to re-ignite. Remember, Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extinguishers are used for class B and C fires.
Epilog recommends a Halotron fire extinguisher or a multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher. The Halotron extinguishers are more expensive than a dry chemical, but offer certain advantages should you ever need to use an extinguisher. The Halotron extinguisher discharges a clean, easily removable substance that is not harmful to the mechanics or wiring of the laser system. The dry chemical extinguisher discharges a sticky, corrosive powder that is very difficult to clean up.
That said, Halotron fire extinguishers have fallen out of favor for other "clean agent" fire extinguishers that are not "ozone depleting". These alternatives are even more expensive, which is why finding a used (re-certified) Halotron I extinguisher may be your best bet.
While CO2 fire extinguishers have the benefit of being easily refilled, available used and inspected from licensed fire extinguisher service companies, and fun at parties - they are not recommended for protecting your laser.
Halotron I fire extinguishers start at about $120 for 2.5lb; $200 for 5lb. Halotron is considered a hazardous material, and will incur additional shipping charges if purchased online; it'd be best to check with a local distributor to see if they can beat the combined price!