Trying to decide which laser machine to purchase? "How does your machine compare to Epilog?" is one of the most common questions I get. Researching lasers can be a daunting task, since it's hard to get a good feel for what they will actually be like once you purchase. I was once there. I remember reading through all the Facebook groups, forums, websites... It was EXHAUSTING!! Hopefully, this article will help clear up some commonly asked questions. I've been a laser engraver since 2013, so I've been around the block a few times. The first laser I purchased was a Universal laser... But as my business grew and I needed larger and more powerful machines, I started purchasing Thunder Lasers. So I was a customer long before I ever became a distributor.
I like to classify laser machines into three groups:
- Ultra High End Machines: Epilog, Trotec, Universal - These machines come with RF / metal tubes. The first laser I purchased was a Universal. It was (and still is) a great machine. But it cost me $27k! Yes, these lasers have a high quality tube in them that produces a very high quality beam. The question then becomes, do you need that high quality of a beam? Many users do not. Especially users that are doing basic engravings, monograms, and cutting.
- Branded Chinese Lasers: Thunder Laser, Boss Laser, FS Laser - These machines combine the affordability of a Chinese laser with US-based support and parts. They are also much more reliable than option 3. Most of them are using the same Ruida controller and a lot of the same parts. Thunder Laser uses a higher end motor than the others, a hybrid-servo that is much faster than the standard stepper motors. When I run jobs heads up against my Universal, my Thunder machine can be substantially faster (depending on what the job is). You get a lot of the same features as the high-end machines, like auto-focus, motorized table, pass-through doors, etc.
- Generic Chinese Lasers: k40, eBay Machines - Many of the Chinese laser engravers on the market do not come with any sort of warranty and it's more of a "project" laser. You're gonna have to replace the tube. You're gonna have to upgrade the controller, etc. If you are a tinkerer, this will be a good option for you. But just know going in, you're going to have to put in some research and work to get the thing running and keep it running.
So, what separates Thunder from the others in it's class? Well, a few things.
First and foremost, I would point to our Quality Control processes. The factory is very diligent about testing everything that goes into the machine. Each technician has to sign off on every aspect of the machine to ensure it is working properly. You can read about the quality control process here. Also, any blue parts that you see on our machines, are fabricated by Thunder Laser for the very specific reason of Quality Control. Something you can't really put in a spec sheet, but if your linear rail arrives and it has a blemish on it, what do you think that is going to do to the quality of your output? Won't be good, I can tell you that.
Next, I would point to the quality of parts. As mentioned earlier, the motors we use are generally a higher caliber than our competitors, which means faster job run times for you.
Third, there are a few small features that many machines do not have. That is the Alarm Lamp and the Smart Board. The Alarm Lamp is the red / green light on top of the machine that allows you to see when the job is done from a distance. Now, that may not sound like much, but I actually mounted a security camera over my Universal so that I could keep an eye on it and when jobs were done. The Smart Board is a relay switch inside the machine that hooks up to the exhaust fan and the air assist. This turns these on and off with each job. With my Universal, the exhaust fan blows constantly and never shuts off. This isn't energy efficient but, also (and most problematically), it is NOISY!!
Finally, we are also proud of our support. If you like, we will personally help you set up your machine and run your first few jobs to be sure you are comfortable. Our goal is for you to have a great laser-purchasing experience and get to working with your machine as soon as possible.