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Buy laser cutter from China or Local?

Time:May 27, 2016Author:

    As a new comer to the market, one always facesthis question. How to choose the laser cutter that is the most affordable aswell as of the highest quality needed for one’s business requirements. 

  So I researched the advantages and drawbacksof laser cutters between Chinese makers and local ones. The main factorsinclude features, quality, after sales service, transport, and price. Because most manufacturers are either located in USA or China, and the Americans are known for higher technical specifications and features, your choice can varydepending on your requirements. Some people pay more attention to quality, somepeople are more concerned with the manufacturers’ service, and some with price,but also worried about the warranty. I will analytically compare the lasercutters from America, from Chinese manufacturers and your local ones.


 Product Features

     “[Some options are] US made lasers like an Epilog or UniversalLaser Systems. Then one day I realized that Trotec Laser‘s USA headquarters and showroom is in mybackyard, so I checked them out. Instantly impressed with the build quality andI learned their lasers are made in Austria, as good as German engineered. BothEpilog and Trotec are high-end quality professionally engineered. The softwareis also very easy to use right from CorelDraw or Illustrator, the lasers act asa printer where you can configure the power/speed/cutting/engraving/etc., verystraightforward. The only issue with these was the price. The small Epiloglaser is around $15K, the smallest Trotec Speedy 100 was close to $20K if I recall andthen you’d have to get the air filter, etc., all adding on top. Not really mykind of budget for the tool.”

---   From article《Importing a laser cutter from China》

 If you are comparing Western and Chinese lasercutters, the main thing to consider is the laser source. The Western brands useprimarily RF-Metal tubes, while the Chinese use the significantly cheaper and lower-endGlass tubes. I suppose the main question is do you really need RF-Metal tubes orwould Glass be fine for what you intend to do?

To arrive at the answer, you mustwant to know the difference of RF-Metal laser tube and Glass laser tube. Hereare some important points:

In order oftypical importance to consumers:

1.   Longevity

Glass laser tubes:approximately 3 years to 4 years

Metal laser tubes: approximately 5 years to 7 years

These figures should be considered in conjunction with the next point.

2.   Price (or Operational Cost)

Assuming a 5-year life expectancy for a 50w Metal tube and 3 years for a50w Glass tube, let us compare the cost for a 6-year operational period.

Given below are the figures provided by a laser tube manufacturer for a Metaltube that cost $3,080 at the beginning of operations.

  • 50w minor repair $2,750
  • 50w major repair $5,720
  • 50w return/replacement $7,150

On the other hand, for a 50w Glass tube, which costs originally $500, evenif we assume 2 replacements in 6 years, the overall cost is $500 + 2*$500 =$1500

This makes Glass tubes much more appealing.

3.   Warranty

Typical Metal laser tube warranty for one (1) year.

1.   Some laser machine manufacturers extendthis warranty an additional year to provide a two (2) year warranty on their Metallaser tubes.

Typical Glass laser tube warranty typically for only a short term,mere 90 days

2.   CheckMate Lasers has field proven our Glasstubes to average 3-4 year lifespan, so we stand behind our laser tubes for afull two (2) year warranty!


4.   Operation

ALL Glass laser tubes must be water-cooled

Metal laser tubes up to 120 watts can be air-cooled

Metal laser tubes 150 watts or higher are ALL water-cooled

(None of the major laser machine manufacturers offer water-cooledsystems below 120 watts any longer!)


5.   Quality

 Lightfrom a CO2 laser is light from a CO2 laser, no difference at all!

    These are all from article 《GLASSLASER TUBES vs. METAL LASER TUBES》

    If you want to know more aboutlaser tubes, please check the page out.


   Another factor one considers while comparinglaser cutters is accuracy: American machines have relatively high accuracy,suitable for the very precise requirements of researchers. Chinese machines sometimeshave a difference in accuracy by 1 to 2 mm; such differences do not affect theuse of most handicraft producers, artisans, teachers and laser enthusiasts.Therefore, for doing crafts, for beginners and small business users, forscience museums and DIY users, choosing ‘Made in China’ is more affordable.

    Note:There is no big difference between American and Chinese machinesfor Non-Metal materials. They are all used for cutting and engraving acrylic,plastic sheet, paper, double-color board, wood board, fabric, glass, leather,cloth, fur, Plexiglas, resin, rubber, bamboo, etc.But only for Metals, you would be thinkingabout RF-Metal laser tube from American manufacturers.


       Youcan get an idea of the product quality by visiting the manufacturers’ factories,understanding their quality control system, and going through their documentsand third-party certifications. Most importantly, by gaining an operationalexperience yourself.


       Local: Most laser cutters in this caseare imported from countries like China and India. To keep a good profit margin,some accessories may even have cheap parts. If not a professional, it isdifficult to figure out the source or the quality of the accessories. Sometimes,even machines sold with local companies’ labels are actually low-cost machinesfrom China or India, sold with a mark-up. So, if you are eventually buying aChinese machine, it makes sense to import directly from China as it provides amuch wider choice of products, including high-end options that closely matchthe quality and parameters of Western brands.


       Made in China: The quality oflaser cutters made in China is mixed. There are some small workshops . These workshops have only oneor two persons from production to sales, and offer poor quality and low servicelevels.

At the sametime, there are some excellent manufacturers too, who have evolved to highquality and new design. They have their own design teams that continue toimprove and develop their machines, get more advanced features, build a brandand offer superior quality products.

So, choosinga reliable manufacturer is very important.

Note:It is well known that American laser cutters have higher qualityand higher price. But we have to note the flexible design of Chinese lasercutters. Sometimes, the latter can offer you the best solution for yourdifficult problems.


Local advantage:

A: Technicalpersonnel can install and repair for aftermarket; solve problems faster.

B: If problemsoccur, returns would be more convenient.


Drawbacks: In a typical scenario, if your laser cutteris from another city, there is a time cost involved, which would dissuade thelocal tech expert from coming to your location immediately. Plus, your usualeight-hour workdays, holidays and other daily engagements, and your problem arenot going to be resolved quickly.


China advantage:

A: Chinaalso has eight-hour workdays and holidays, but the work culture is gearedtowards service. At any time there will be tech personnel willing to assist youthrough documents, video and online communication to help you solve yourproblems quickly.


Drawbacks: You cannot get on-site guidance and technicalpersonnel. The parts can be returned free of charge but you might have to bear freightcharges.

 Anotherpoint if you are buying a Chinese machine locally – you might not get goodafter sales service through the local supplier. In many cases, it might be quitethe opposite.

  Note:Contrary to impression, barring few examples, most Chinese bosseslet employees do overtime only in very special cases. So, the quality ofservice is never below par.




   Local: Local transport is themost advantageous; you can get laser cutters and engravers in a short period oftime. And short-distance transport limits any damage to laser engravingmachine.


   China: There is some advantage on this front too –many Chinese brands of laser cutters have their own overseas warehouses,allowing quick machine delivery.

The actualfactor that matters is how developed local logistics systems are. If you buyfrom China, you do not need to worry about door-to-door service, but at thecost of higher shipping charges.

  Note: If you are particularly anxious to usethe machine and the target is adequate, a laser cutter from a local provider isnot a bad choice. 



 Local: High prices, low shipping costs. There aretwo cases – one is already high local costs; the other is involving amiddleman, who imports Chinese machinery and sells at twice or higher theoriginal price.

 China: Chinese laser cutters’ general price is verylow. But, this price advantage might be lost if the shipping cost to yourlocation is very high. Of course, it is possible that even after adding theshipping cost to the price, the Chinese machine might be cheaper than the localoption – if this applies to you, congratulations, you can save a lot of money!

Note:American laser cutters are always priced high because of highquality as well as the brand value. The prices of laser cutters from China varyacross a wide range, so choosing one from China is a topic worth devoting timeto.

   So, it boils down to the price and yourrequirements. You can buy three Chinese laser cutters for the price of oneWestern machine for the same purpose. Even if one fails, the production willnot stop.

These are all my personal opinions of course.Should you buy a laser cutter from China or a local one? Based on your target,choose the one that will get the job done!



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