Ever since moving out of New York City and away from NYC Resistor I have dreamed of once again having access to a laser cutter. A decade later it’s finally a reality! I got a Trotec Speedy 300, 80w. It’s a huge beast compared to the Epilog Mini 35W we bought in 2008.
I spent a long time looking at various brands of lasers. I ruled out Glowforge early because their cloud based software was a dealbreaker and I also wanted something at least 12×24. After doing a bunch of research I decided I didn’t have the time or patience for the various Chinese lasers (though there are some really nice looking options there now). I wanted something that I could call someone to fix if it broke. After talking to Epilog, Universal Laser, and Trotec I decided that the camera registration system on the Trotec set it apart enough to justify the increased cost over Epilog and Universal. It’s worth mentioning that Trotec also has a budget line called Rayjet, though I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at those.
I placed a deposit on my machine in mid January and was told to expect a delivery date of 4-6 weeks. 10 days later it was sitting in a crate on the elevator, where it remained for a couple weeks while I got the studio space ready for it.
Note: if I was doing this again I’d get the Speedy 360. Why? The Speedy 360 is slightly shallower than the 300. The 300 does not fit through a standard 36″ wide doorway, and turning it on its side to move it was a stressful pain in the ass. I ended up hiring some movers to pick it up and carry it through the doorway.
I hired an HVAC company to run an exhaust vent through the roof and connected a Penn State Industries 1.5HP motor blower to it. I then build an MDF box to put it in, both to make it easier to deal with and to muffle some of the sound. There’s also a DIY prefilter (not shown, made from a 5 gallon bucket) to catch the larger particles from engraving.
In the first picture up above you can see a fire extinguisher on the floor next to the laser. This is a CO2 fire extinguisher rather than the foam spray kind you can get at your local hardware store. It’s considerably more expensive ($200ish) and kind of a pain to get (I had to drive to Grainger to get mine) but absolutely worth it in the event of a fire in the laser. CO2 fire extinguishers work by starving the fire of oxygen and work well in situations like this. The benefit is that you don’t have to clean goo out of your laser after putting out a fire.
After the exhaust was set up my sales rep Josh came out to show me how to use the machine and software. I have a ton of experience using the old Epilog but the software for the Trotec is very different. Instead of a printer driver that integrates with Corel / Illustrator they have locally hosted network based software. The benefit is that you can set up jobs from any computer on the network, and don’t need to have Corel / Illustrator installed on the computer that’s connected to the laser. The drawback is that the software, called Ruby, is very new and definitely feels like a beta product. It works very well for the things it does, but feels a bit limited in functionality. The other downside is that all their help documentation still references the old software (JobControl), so I was kinda on my own when figuring out things like how to make delrin embossing seals.
I got the Trotec Vision camera, which I got a good price on because it was being phased out in favor of a new, cooler camera that mounts in the lid. It cuts extremely accurately, so I don’t have to add bleed to my images. This saves on ink (which I think is still the most expensive liquid on earth).
I also made a wooden puzzle from some of my generative art postcards. I first cut the puzzle out of Unisub, then printed it on my sublimation printer. I think next time I’ll reverse the order and print it first.
Then of course there’s the boring stuff, like signage for the office building in Manayunk where I have my studio.
I’m taking commission work on a case by case basis right now, if you’re in Philly and looking for some laser cutting please reach out! If I’ve got the time I’m happy to do it.