Though laser etching systems have decreased in cost, the price tag can still be a bit daunting. On average, a laser etching system can cost anywhere between $3,000 – $15,000. And once you add customized components, you could be looking at as much as $65,000. That inexpensive laser on Amazon is looking pretty good, right?
Wrong. Here’s why.
Though (seemingly) cheaper, most laser marking machines from Amazon are low quality. Often, they’re imported from foreign factories where exploited laborers build them from cheap plastic materials. To save on costs, they use weaker lasers, with fiber coupling that degrade over time, causing power loss and premature failure in the fiber core. This, combined with “knock-off” design software means you’ll likely have a difficult time getting your designs to work.
People who have purchased these lasers complain they don’t perform as advertised. Though the company may say their product can cut/engrave to a depth of over .040” on any metal, this doesn’t apply to EVERY material and may take exceedingly long to accomplish depths of even .07”. Inferior lasers will struggle marking harder surfaces than softer surfaces of the same thickness, and have particular difficulty producing the desired smoothness or texture.
Laser power matters for high-quality marks. Companies usually advertise the wattage of their lasers with figures ranging between 20W-100W. However, some sneaky companies might advertise “1800mW” – a detail that’s easy to miss.
As previously mentioned, these laser systems come equipped with knockoff software. But that’s like designing with a pen and paper when you really need CAD. Or photo retouching in
Microsoft Paint instead of Photoshop. You’ll be hard-pressed to import any existing designs into that software. And if there’s something you can’t figure out, there’s no one to call and speak to.
But overall, these systems come without any support. Because they are made with cheaply-sourced parts, they break constantly. And, unless you’re a skilled technician, you will never figure out what broke or how to fix it. You’ll be paying for repairs again and again. Additionally, manufacturers typically offer very limited warranties – you’ll be lucky if you can get in touch with anyone to order replacement parts.
Deciding whether you should buy a cheap laser marking machine is the decision between cost and quality. Quality is always a cost-saving measure, even if the ROI takes a bit longer.
Remember, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” (Benjamin Franklin).
At Laser Marking Technologies, we build quality laser marking systems for part manufacturers and businesses in the USA. We offer 24/7 maintenance support to our clients, so if something malfunctions, we’re there. If you would like to learn more about how lasers can work for you, please give us call. We’re happy to help in any way we can.