HOME LASER ENGRAVING BUSINESS
NOTE: This blog is about using your laser for your home laser engraving business and staying operational. If you want a hobby machine and don’t care about business buy an xTool D1 Pro kit. Period. End of story. You’ll thank me. If you want to be in business to make money and satisfy customers………….read on! Actually I still recommend the xTool offerings for business too. But I do discuss other options.
If you read this blog at all you know that one of the things that I have witnessed over and over again in my time with laser machines is what happens when they break. It does not matter:
- Who the manufacturer of the laser machine is.
- What type of laser (CO2, Diode) it is.
- What happened to break the laser.
You will see a frantic call for help that goes something like this: “My laser just broke and I have orders to fulfill and I am screwed.”
Then there will be a tirade about the company and their quality. Forget the fact that they ran an open flame for 10 minutes under a 1mm thick piece of optical glass with the alarms silenced (or something like that).
The REAL PROBLEM is not that your machine is broken, the REAL PROBLEM is that you were operating a business with no plan to prevent downtime. This blog will try to take a look at some of the real costs involved in staying operational.
While there are a handful of choices regarding laser manufacturers, in my mind only 4 companies exist. If you operate outside of these 4 companies you are living dangerously IN MY OPINION. Those 3 are:
I’m not discussing fiber laser in this blog but I’d go with OMTech or MonportLaser for fiber as well. Anyway, you now need to decide whether you want a Diode laser or a CO2 laser.
DIODE LASER ADVANTAGES
- Portable – can be operated on a tailgate or table at a flea market.
- Typically more precise engraving can be made.
- Almost unlimited Z height, and that is dependent on you raising the machine somehow or another.
- Less expensive.
CO2 LASER ADVANTAGES
- Much more powerful than a diode laser.
- Faster and cleaner cutting of THICKER MATERIALS.
- Much more stable platform due to size and weight.
- Enclosed in a box with an exhaust fan with many more safety features.
- Ability to inexpensively change the lens.
In my mind the burgeoning home business laser operator is going to start with the diode laser. A reasonable sized CO2 laser is pretty huge and sometimes requires special power hookups and knocking exhaust vents in the side of your house or garage. They also are much more prone to be affected by temperature extremes. If the CO2 tube gets too hot, you’ll wear it out quickly and tubes are expensive and FRAGILE. If it gets too cold and freezes it will of course crack.
So for this blog I’m going to analyze the cost of a diode laser home business although most points can be applied to the CO2 operator as well.
REAL COSTS OF HOME LASER ENGRAVING BUSINESS?
The Ortur flagship laser, the Laser Master 3 costs about $600 (currently on sale). There is no kit and that cost only gets you a machine. Accessories like a rotary are extra (and the rotary is not nearly as good as the xTool rotary). They make a Special Edition laser that costs more, but it is just a different color, not a different machine.
The xTool flagship laser, the D1 Pro, 20 watt costs $1200. Kits are available at extra cost and they even include a laser head spare parts / cleaning kit. Other kits that include a rotary are also available at extra cost. xTool’s 10 watt laser is on par price wise with the Ortur flagship offering.
The price difference seems large between the two, however the Ortur is a 10 watt laser and is essentially a generation in development behind. I imagine the price increase will be proportional when the next generation laser head hits the market for Ortur.
NEITHER KIT, however has a spare laser head or motherboard. If your laser takes a dive it more than likely is going to one of those two items. NEITHER MANUFACTURER seems to sell a motherboard to the public for their flagship lasers at this time. In their defense the products are new and all lasers would be under warranty at this time. But that doesn’t help you if your motherboard is BROKEN. So if your motherboard dies, expect to be down for a week or so. Also, at some point after the warranty periods expire, I imagine they will offer the motherboards for sale. I hope.
If a limit switch dies on the xTool machine you can disable the limit switches in xTool Creative Software settings and keep operating until you get a new one.
The Ortur doesn’t have limit switches but the travel is calculated by the stepper driver chip which means if it dies………….it’s the motherboard that has failed.
Here’s my blanket statement regarding cost of getting started. Whatever the machine costs, expect to nearly double, or to double the cost of JUST the machine to stay operational nearly 100% of the time during a parts failure.
xTOOL SPARE LASER HEAD
Both manufactures do sell replacement laser heads and you can hold a spare on hand. BUT CONSIDER THIS………the cost of a replacement xTool 20 watt laser head is $700. You can buy an entire D1 Pro, 10 watt laser machine for $700. In my mind the smart play here is to buy the entire 10 watt machine which you can operate while getting your 20 watt laser head repaired/replaced.
ORTUR SPARE LASER HEAD
The cost of a replacement laser head for the Ortur Laser Master 3 is $290. On the surface that sounds much better than the xTool however their laser head is 20 watt and the Ortur is a 10 watt. Remember, we are talking FLAGSHIP LASERS here. In my mind it would be highly recommended to buy an additional laser head when buying a machine. Currently there doesn’t seem to be a 10 watt D1 Pro replacement module, but you can upgrade to the 20 watt.
Again, no motherboard is available for sale for the Ortur Laser Master 3 (unless maybe you contact them directly). I don’t see one anywhere but you can buy motherboards for the Laser Master 2 and Laser Master 2 Pro at Aliexpress.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE MOTHERBOARDS?
You are down if the motherboard goes down. Forget it. You are at the mercy of either manufacturer to send you a new part. So what can you do?
Your best recourse here is to HAVE A BACKUP MACHINE. My recommendations are roughly this:
- As mentioned above, Buy an xTool D1 Pro, 20 watt machine and for the cost of a new laser head buy a SECOND machine, the D1 Pro, 10 watt for a grand total of 2 operational machines.
- For the Ortur (or the xTool) buy another machine such as an Ortur Laser Master 2 or an Atomstack. Both can probably be had for about $300 to $400. Heck I just sold a Laser Master 2 to someone for $150 just to get it out of my way since I have so many lasers. While I’m not sure about the Atomstack, I know for a fact you can buy spares for the Ortur Laser Master 2. I own a spare laser head and a spare motherboard for my remaining machine.
Your last recourse, and most economical one is to know someone else with a laser who will help you out during hard times. Not too long ago a guy realized from this blog that I lived in the same town as him and he did some detective work and found my phone number and contacted me. He wanted some laser help, which I was more than happy to provide. He in turn taught me the basics of buying and operating a CNC machine. He has come over here once or twice and used my stuff and I guarantee he’d let me use his stuff in a pinch. He also has an Ortur Laser Master 2 and an xTool D1 Pro, 20 watt machine. I’d help him. He’d help me. No question about it. We’re not in competition, just two guys with the same hobbies.
MY FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS
- You are best off from a business standpoint to buy a machine that has spare parts available. That of course means heading backwards one generation currently. In my opinion going back a generation means you take a hit in the quality of your finished product.
- If you want the latest and greatest machine………..you need two of them to stay operational 100% of the time.
- Or buy the latest and greatest of one machine and a buy an inexpensive secondary machine or buy a used machine.
Given the two choices of diode laser manufactures I would have to strongly recommend xTool. Their bleeding edge is a lot more bleeding edge. As a company they seem more helpful and hungrier. They also have their own free software, xTool Creative Space. They also cater to the home business start up and allow you to buy startup kits with Affirm payments. Ortur seems to just sell machines, at least it seems that way to me.
Yes, the initial buy in is going to cost you more but let’s consider you go all in and buy two machines (one 20w and one 10w). You are talking about $2000 maybe. You are not going to have affected downtime with 2 functional machines. I don’t even try to make money. I swear that I don’t. I’m just a retired guy who loves to mess around in the man shed. I made about $800 last week and I’m not even trying. In one week I made about 40% of that buy in cost.
On the surface doing some quick math in your head it seems like Ortur is the least expensive buy in, however if you think you are going to spend $600 on a machine and use it forever and make tons of money you are just wrong. I don’t know how else to say it. You are wrong.
If you buy an Ortur or 2 Orturs you are at $1200 with no accessories. You are also a generation back in diode laser power. You aren’t as future proof. So let’s buy 2 Orturs and a rotary and an air assist. Now compare that cost to having an xTool D1 Pro 20 watt KIT and an xTool D1 Pro 10 watt backup machine. The difference in cost is not as much as you think. I strongly recommend spending a few extra dollars and going the xTool route.
Here’s the last thing to think about and I bet most people DON’T think about this. One of my lasers is in my spare bedroom (which I converted into a hobby room…….it is awesome by the way) and one laser is in my shed. House burns down, I can still make widgets. Shed burns down, I can still make widgets. Consider if you have two machines having them in two locations if possible.
If you intend to be in business and suffer no downtown then you have got to have spare parts, a spare machine, or a spare pal with a machine. Best of luck in your laser business endeavor and I hope I gave you something to think about.