Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?


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    Default Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    I'm looking into Thunder Laser's Nova 24 laser cutter and have started to wonder about the components that make up Chinese lasers and which ones are good or not so good.

    To start with, I'm wondering if there is a consensus on good, better, or best brands for the following:

    1) Glass laser tube in the 60-80 watt range
    2) The type of rail system used and component brand names for that
    3) Laser power supply
    4) Laser controller and firmware
    5) Axis motors and drives (steppers or servos)
    6) Laser control software
    7) Autofocus hardware
    8) Optics

    Thanks for any input.

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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    To give you a heads up sir this is our 9 year old laser looks like

    Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?-20170403_123447-jpg

    Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?-20170403_123507-jpg

    Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?-20170403_123513-jpg

    Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?-10-jpg

    The usual problems on this unit is the air hoses, it needs replacing every 1-2 years, replaced the control board once, nova 24 is a first class chinese laser product, im not saying they can surpass the quality of the the european brand laser pro, but the price points of laser pro and these second class lasers is almost times 4, if I were to compare in terms of laser machine break down honestly the more delicate unit is the laserpro, unlike this tough looking chinese machine that we never replaced the belts, lenses, mirrors, rails, motors, until now, as you can see in the picture they are quite old and dusty because we used it everyday, one thing for sure if you can buy a laser with a parallel port that will be a very good choice, because USB driven control boards sucks sir, I mean from CNC plasma, CNC router, CNC laser, they have one thing in common, they will die in some point of time, the technology has`nt been perfected yet I guess, unlike the parallel port versions that the driver PC will be dead 3-4 times but still the control board is still alive and kicking im the technical support of the nine CNC machines we have sir, I dont rely on any company`s tech support because I know what to do with them.



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Wow, that does look dusty. Did that dirt come from the laser itself or is the surrounding air really dirty?



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelHenry View Post
    Wow, that does look dusty. Did that dirt come from the laser itself or is the surrounding air really dirty?
    I guess both sir though the room is fully air conditioned but a lot of people walking in and out in the office where the lasers are located, just to give you the idea how rigid china lasers can be this is not the nova sir, I guess the nova had a higher quality product line than this, parts wise, it`s cheaper to maintain these kinds of lasers than the laser pro, on the tubes we replaced it every 6-8 months depending on the work hours of the laser, we use it everyday 8 hours a day sometimes 16 hours a day depending on the orders of the customers, it`s being used commercially mass producing anything to it`s limits, of course it does`nt cut metals, only wood and plastic, sometimes shells, that`s why we have a CNC plasma for metals, CNC routers if the orders on metals are in 3D.



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelHenry View Post
    I'm looking into Thunder Laser's Nova 24 laser cutter and have started to wonder about the components that make up Chinese lasers and which ones are good or not so good.

    To start with, I'm wondering if there is a consensus on good, better, or best brands for the following:

    1) Glass laser tube in the 60-80 watt range
    2) The type of rail system used and component brand names for that
    3) Laser power supply
    4) Laser controller and firmware
    5) Axis motors and drives (steppers or servos)
    6) Laser control software
    7) Autofocus hardware
    8) Optics

    Thanks for any input.
    I can go over all the points but it may become a very long article so I’ll start with the first one - the laser sources. I would also like to make the agreement that I am not an expert in this field.

    There are 3 types of CO2 laser sources used in the flat-bed cutting/engraving machines - DC, RF Metal, RF Ceramic.

    1. Direct Current Glass tubes
    This technology is inferior in all aspects to the other two, but it is considered good enough for some applications.

    Life Cycle - The glass tubes have short life cycle and require frequent replacement. The cost of ownership in long term could be high however the low initial investment makes the direct current sources very popular among owners who doesn’t run the machine full time or for production that would not suffer from the down sides of this technology (discussed below).

    Stability - Another major disadvantage of this technology is the “instability”. I have found that even trained salesmen have hard time explaining what that means. There are two factors that would play a role:
    a/ Ignition Deviation - During a normal cutting or engraving job the controller will fire the tube few hundred times. Every time the tube is ignited it would start with 20-30% higher power which will than drop to the normal operational values set by the user. This large deviation causes major issues when engraving in “scan mode” (the laser head moving left and right). It would result to uneven “striped” engraving. The more advanced motion controllers and software can mitigate the problem to some extend but since the ignition values are unpredictable it is impossible to solve the problem in full. The ignition deviation of the direct current tubes is a major problem when cutting thin materials such film or paper. The cut lines will be wider and darker (in case of organic materials that produce carbon) at the points of ignition. Unfortunately that is very obvious and unpleasant looking.
    b/ Operational Stability - In normal mode the power output will still vary quite a bit and of course this would affect the quality of the engraving and cutting delicate materials.

    Wattage - The most obvious application of higher wattage tubes is cutting thicker materials in one pass but the wattage and the physical size of the tube would also effect the stability of the laser. Larger high-wattage tubes would have higher ignition deviation than low-wattage tubes. Therefore smaller 20-40W tubes are recommended for engraving and processing thin materials. On the positive side larger high-wattage tubes have significantly better operational stability and much longer life cycle. Brands such RECI which produce only high-wattage tubes typically have longer warranties, less returns and overall better reputation. Another important thing to keep in mind when shopping for glass tubes is that not all brands and specifications are equally honest. Many would spec the peak wattages measurements instead of the safe values. Fortunately it is relatively easy to determine the safe max capabilities of the tube by measuring the power with an inexpensive analog micro ammeter. The general rule is to never run the laser at 100% as this will shorten its life or even damage it.

    The lack of stability would disqualify the direct current tubes for some applications, but they would still be considered for production where this would not affect the quality significantly. For example cutting thick materials or engraving wood with rough surface structure. The high-wattage RF tubes are insanely expensive so the glass tube technology continues to be the pragmatic choice for businesses needing extra cutting power.

    Size - The length of the tube would depend of the wattage. The higher the wattage, the longer the tube is. Measuring the tube could be used as a basic method to check the actual wattage and compare it with the information on the label.

    Cooling - Always external liquid cooling. Glowforge developers claimed they could cool a low-power glass tube internally (inside the housing) The effectiveness of their solution remans to be evaluated once they release the mass production units.

    Brands - As far I know all machines with glass tubes in the 1-40K range use lasers developed and produced in China. Below is a list with websites of the Chinese polar brands. Most have spec sheets with stability values, size, life expectancy (warranty), etc. All of them offer their products on alibaba.com. It is easy to obtain additional information if they are contacted that way.

    - RECI - http://www.recilaser.com
    - EFR - CO2 Laser Tube Manufacturer | Laser Consumables | EFR
    - Yongli - http://www.yl-laser.com
    - SDZ - SDZ Laser - Devoted To Laser Field Since 1992!
    - Tongli - http://www.shtlkj.com
    - SPT - http://www.laserwd.com
    - PURI - http://www.purilaser.com

    2. Radio Frequency Metal tubes
    This technology is a “standard” for high quality engraving machines. Top brands like Epilog, ULS and Gravograph use it exclusively in all their models.

    Life Cycle - Very long. Depending on the wattage the life of a metal RF tube could be 15-20 times longer than a glass tube with the same power. Additionally metal tubes can be repaired (refilled) for a fraction of the cost of a new tube. Normally a metal tube would last for the entire life of the laser machine and wouldn’t cause any issues.

    Stability - the power output is precisely controlled and perfectly stable. This technology does not suffer from any of the problems typical for the DC tubes.

    Wattage - The price of the RF tube grows rapidly with the wattage so the most of these machines have low-wattage tubes.

    Size - Very compact compared to the DC tubes. Machines equipped with RF tubes are typically lighter and with smaller footprint.

    Cooling - Always air. Usually basic radiator with few quiet fans.

    Brands - Most Chinese assembly companies (those that do not research and develop their own components and software) such Bodor, G Weike, etc offer RF tubes for their custom configurations. Thunderlaser is one of the very few that doesn't. For their western clients they will use exactly the same US-made RF tubes as those used by the western brands. Therefore they can be repaired/refilled locally. There are 2 major US brands producing these tubes - Coherent and Synrad. As far I know the prices, spec and quality are very similar.

    Coherent - www.coherent.com
    Synrad - www.synrad.com

    There are also some Chinese brands making RF tubes. All of them have bad reputation and even Chinese companies try to avoid them as they would requre frequent repairs. That may be acceptable for Asian customers but it is a nightmare for all others because the repair facilities are available only in China. The only Chinese brand I know of is CRD.

    CRD - http://en.crdlaser.com

    3. RF Ceramic
    It is essentially an upgraded version of the RF metal technology. The Ceramic tubes have about 20% longer life cycle compared to the RF metal tubes with the same wattage. Therefore they require less frequent refilling . The pricing is higher but very close to this of the metal tubes. That is why a lot of clients would prefer them over the metal. The only company I know of that offers Ceramic tubes in their standard configurations is Trotec (Austria).

    Last edited by Storen; 04-05-2017 at 10:13 AM.


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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Storen View Post
    I can go over all the points but it may become a very long article so I’ll start with the first one - the laser sources. I would also like to make the agreement that I am not an expert in this field.
    ...
    Thanks a great deal for that comprehensive laser tube description, especially the list of laser tube manufacturers and the comparison between glass and RF tubes. RF certainly seems like the best way to go if money is not a problem or you are buying to make money from it.



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nolan Yang View Post
    Thank you Storen sharing this useful information with us.
    But I want to talk about facts in China.
    No matter which brand of your components, all of them have good one and defective one.
    For example, we use RECI, EFR, EF, Yongli laser tube etc before, but why we choose SPT finally?
    Actually, their technology is almost the same, however, we have high requirements for the tube,
    we will return it back if the tubes can't pass our 1 month testing.
    But how do they process these defective laser tubes? I really don't know, maybe sell to other manufacturers at lower price.
    This is why the same brand components have different quality.

    And yes, most manufacturers don't have QC department, you don't know what's wrong with the components before you assemble the laser machine.
    Usually, they don't test the laser finally, or just a short time test and pick it directly. You really don't know what problem you will have when you get the laser.

    Cheap components, no testing, no QC department, low labor fee, no after sales services, they can save much money on it.
    Hi Nolan, I am glad you decided to join the discussion. If I remember correctly 2 years ago you were using primarily EFR for Nova24/35. So you switched to SPT tubes? Interesting. It looks like this brand is becoming very popular. I am guessing you are still using Ruida controllers and software for all of your machines. How about the motors/drivers?
    Nova24/35 use to be equipped with closed-loop Stepper Motors produced by Leadshine (www.leadshine.com). Are you still using the same motors?



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    I saw auto focus was mentioned by the OP. I avoid that as it's in the way and just another thing that can break. It takes a few secs to set the focus manually.

    I have a 80W RECI tube that has been in use on and off since 2013. It's probably got over 2K hours on it and I run it at 90% most of the time.

    I'm on my fourth and fifth laser now - all imported from China. The few things I have had go wrong over the years were easy to troubleshoot and fix. Some parts were replaced under warranty.

    Blown 60W HV PSU
    Faulty controller display
    Broken wire to stepper
    Blown fuse in 24V supply to steppers

    The ROI has been great and the performance adequate for my needs - mosty cutting MDF, Poplar plywood and acrylic, all in 3mm thickness.



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nolan Yang View Post
    Hi Storen,
    Yes, we use the same Ruida controller and motors.
    That's good to know. What brand and type of stepper motors and drives do you use on the Nova 24? Are the steppers closed or open loop?



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nolan Yang View Post
    For example, we use RECI, EFR, EF, Yongli laser tube etc before, but why we choose SPT finally?
    Actually, their technology is almost the same, however, we have high requirements for the tube,
    we will return it back if the tubes can't pass our 1 month testing.
    From the SPT web site it looks like they have a few grades or types of glass CO2 laser tubes - which one do you use in the Nova 24?



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nolan Yang View Post
    There is huge difference between SERVO and STEPPER. I don’t want to go in the details but briefly:

    Stepper motors are inexpensive and inferior to servo. They rapidly loose torque and precision with speed increase and may cause vibration/resonance issues. On the other hand they perform solid when used at low speeds. Their low-speed torque is similar to this of a SERVO motor and if they are used in a quality system within the adequate speed range they would seldom (or never) miss steps and do not require error corrections (closed loop). Actually this is main reason for the use of steppers - they DO NOT require a closed loop.

    The closed loop steppers use a basic method of step count verification. That is useful in low-speed system that have to overcome major changes of loads and friction. They have very limited programing and tuning capabilities and are normally used only in slow rotary CNC machines. At high speeds they are as unreliable as the open loop steppers because that is inherited in the stepper technology itself and cannot be overcame by the simple use of a step counter. Of course the laser machines don’t have the problem with changing loads and friction at low-speed therefore the laser machine manufactures do not use closed loop steppers as they are more expensive and provide only minor advantage. In fact Thunderlaser is the only laser brand I know of that is using closed loop steppers for laser machines.

    The SERVO systems provide perfect control over any motion aspect in pretty much any condition. Their advanced encoders can be programed to dynamically change the operation to control velocity, vibration, torque, compensate load and friction at any practical speed for perfectly smooth and precise motion, without errors. They are the ultimate choice when it comes to laser machines. All high-quality brands use them excessively for their mid. and high-end lines. The only disadvantage the Servo technology is the cost which is drastically higher than that of a stepper.

    The Leadshine’s “EASY SERVO” is not a technical term. It is invented by their marketing team in reference to their closed loop steppers. Leadshine is the only brand that uses this term and probably many engineers would be annoyed by it. It is a “half lie”. I am saying “half” because on their website Leadshine clearly distinguishes their (real) servo calling it simply “SERVO” from the CL steppers calling them “EASY” servo. Of course if you take the “EASY” part the half-lie becomes a full-lie… I am sure a lot of Chinese manufacturers are tempted to lie in their specifications in order to increase their sales but Thunderlaser is the only brand bold enough to actually do it. Now and then I hear in this forum how people chose Thunderlaser over other brands because of their SERVO… I feel bad for them because with the money they paid to Thunderlaser they could have purchased a machine with a real SERVO from an honest brand. If Thunderlaser was a USA company probably there would have been a dozen a lawsuits filed against them by now for false specifications.

    Nolan, please don’t take it personally. I know you are not the person behind this. I strongly suggest you speak with the right manager in your company to correct it. It may seem as a “good business” to deceive clients but in long term it may harm the reputation of the brand as nothing else. All your hard work for promoting the brand here in the forum with samples and videos would not be enough to compensate the perception of dishonesty.

    Last edited by Storen; 04-10-2017 at 08:10 AM.


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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    In Nolan's defense, the Leadshine web site does refer to them as "Easy Servo Drives". Doesn't make it right but Leadshine should be called to task as well.

    At what speed will the "closed loop steppers" have problems in accurately generating the requested speed or movement. That's probably impossible to answer without a lot more data, but could anyone estimate a value for something like a laser cutter?

    My CNC mill and lathe both use Leadshine 3-phase steppers with no encoders and so far as I know they have never lost a step. They need to push around a lot more mass than a laser head or gantry, but their speed is limited by the machine manufacturer to something like 120 ipm or 50 mm/sec, while Thunder Laser specs their machines at 1,000 mm/sec.



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Nolan - thanks for continuing to answer these questions. Here are some more, if you don't mind:

    1) What sort of rails do you use in your products, specifically the Nova 24?
    2) Can you share any info on the Nova 24 blower? A manufacturer and part number would be great, but I'm especially interested in the volumetric flow rate (CFM or m3/hr) and the noise level at the blower and the outlet of the vent line.

    I don't know anything about the sorts of rails that are used in lasers. Do most manufacturers in this class use the same parts or does it vary by manufacturer?



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    @MichaelHenry

    “In Nolan’s defense, …”
    As I mentioned earlier, I doubt Nolan is responsible for this. He is probably afraid to talk openly about that here in the forum.

    “Leadshine should be called to task as well”
    There are other brand calling the CL Steppers - Hybrid-Servo, Stepper-Servo etc indicating that these are not regular or actual servos. The word “Easy” is probably the most deceiving of all, but at least in the description they are very honest about the use of steppers.

    I can’t say the same for Thunderlaser. The fact their machines are equipped with CL Steppers is not mentioned anywere on their website or docimentation. Not a single word… I seriously doubt their sales people would mention this either when they are offering their “Servo” machines. The deception is complete and intentional.

    “At what speed will the “closed loop steppers" have problems in accurately generating the requested speed or movement."
    The Max. Stable Speed would depend on many factors, components and also on the mode (cut or scan). In the past I asked Nolan to run a sample (cut) at 100mm/s. The sample came with a lot of errors. He suggested that if I need accuracy I should use lower speeds. So I know it is lower than 100, but how much lower, I don't know. Nolan and the owners of Thunderlaser machines should be able to advise on that.

    “Thunder Laser specs their machines at 1,000 mm/sec.”
    I wouldn’t pay too much attention on their spec They’ve probably just copy-pasted the spec of the motors instead of listing the actual performance of the machine.

    @Nolan

    “We have a hardware factory as well, we produce directly.”
    - What components do you produce directly?

    - Have you considered using real Servo for some of your machines? I think it is a good idea to offer this as an option. Most other Chinese brands like Bodor, Argus, G Weike, etc. offer Japanese (Panasonic or Yaskawa) servos for their custom configurations.



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nolan Yang View Post
    This one is we use.
    Yes, this is a hybrid with a stepper motor. Not a true Servo.

    The question is - Why this is not mentioned on your specifications and promotional materials?

    If you want to be honest with your clients your specifications should say "Hybrid Servo". Or if you want to use a proper technical term (as you should on a spec sheet) it should say "CL Stepper System".



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nolan Yang View Post
    Do you know the address of our distributor Clay? I think you can go there and see the details, it's better to understand it.
    Thanks - I'll follow up with Clay.



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?



    WOW it sure had some quality on it sir but on our lasers we never encountered breakdown on the stepper control boards on the 3 china laser machines we`ved had, it`s always the MPC6525A/ MPC6515 logic module, that`s the one sometimes goes blank for some unknown reason, on your product what logic board did you use sir?



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Nolan, repeating a lie will not make it the truth.

    “Leadshine company just call it "servo motor"..
    No Nolan. They do NOT.
    They call it “EASY servo” to distinguish it from their real DC Servo line. In the description they explain the EASY system is comprised of a STEPPER motor with Closed Loop drive and encoder.

    Link to Leadshine’s products: Leadshine - Products

    “So do you think our company is not honest with our clients?”
    I think it is quite obvious.

    “of course I think it’s a selling point. "
    Only because you are dishonest with your clients.

    “We did change our laser from normal stepper motor to servo motor”
    No, you did NOT. There is NOT A SINGLE servo motor in your machines. All motors you use are STEPPERS. If you don't know the diference, plese educate yourself. There is plenty of information online. It is NOT a matter of opinion or how you call it. There is a HUGE difference in the construction, operating principle, performance and price.

    From my previous post:
    The Leadshine’s “EASY SERVO” is not a technical term. It is invented by their marketing team in reference to their closed loop steppers. Leadshine is the only brand that uses this term and probably many engineers would be annoyed by it. It is a “half lie”. I am saying “half” because on their website Leadshine clearly distinguishes their (real) servo calling it simply “SERVO” from the CL steppers calling them “EASY” servo. Of course if you take the “EASY” part the half-lie becomes a full-lie… I am sure a lot of Chinese manufacturers are tempted to lie in their specifications in order to increase their sales but Thunderlaser is the only brand bold enough to actually do it. Now and then I hear in this forum how people chose Thunderlaser over other brands because of their SERVO… I feel bad for them because with the money they paid to Thunderlaser they could have purchased a machine with a real SERVO from an honest brand. If Thunderlaser was a USA company probably there would have been a dozen a lawsuits filed against them by now for false specifications.

    Last edited by Storen; 04-14-2017 at 09:35 AM.


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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    The keyword here sir nolan is deception on my opinion just give your clients or customers the exact specification of the product without the bling2x marketing strategy terms, US customers are so intelligent enough to find it out, I believe honesty is the very best way in dealing with US customers if your customer did not know the specific technicalities on your machines im very sure that some US/EURO company laser manufacturers will blow your cover on it, but if you will just state the exact specifications on your machine and then it`s up to them to buy your units or not, I mean even mc donalds even got sued over there due to a mother`s child getting fat, see? that`s because mc donalds failed to state it on their meals that it contains 650 calories in each big mac meal, so right now they`re doing it and no one ever sued or complained again. just be honest on it then it`s up to them if they buy it or not



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    Default Re: Components in Chinese lasers- what's good, what's bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nolan Yang View Post
    But I want to talk about facts in China.
    For example, we use RECI, EFR, EF, Yongli laser tube etc before, but why we choose SPT finally?
    Actually, their technology is almost the same, however, we have high requirements for the tube,
    SPT 's lower wattage tubes stability and beam profile is ok. But, their higher watt tubes (100w+) are poor.
    They're much cheaper than Yongli or Reci. Their higher watt tubes are about double the cost of SPT for good reason.



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