Most hackspaces have a laser cutter and they are considered invaluable by most members. Lots of people join a hackspace for access to a laser cutter and then stay when they realise what else is on offer. So we need one partly to attract new members but also because we really ant to play with one.
What to buy
There are lots of options when it comes to makes & models of cutter. As you would expect if you go high end you have to pay a lot of money. For example a Epilog Zing 16 30 Watt Laser is £9600 to purchase and the replacement laser tubes come close to a grand each. You do get amazing software, build quality and support but this is just too expensive for our pockets.
Bottom of the list are the Chinese laser cutters you find on ebay. These can be as cheap as £300 delivered which is insanely cheap. However they often come with problems that need addressing to run reliably. This can include making your own cooling systems and extraction.
Just Add Sharks!
The middle ground between these options is JAS. This is a company started by the founders of Nottingham hackspace. They spent a long time with the budget Chinese laser cutters fixing all of the problems and communicating directly with suppliers in Shenzeng to get the best bang for buck. The result is a much more reliable cutter at a cheaper price than the top end suppliers. They understand the abuse and usage it will get in a Hackspace environment and provide the support and training required to setup and maintain the cutter.
Thier entry level model is comparable to the Epilog Zing 16 but costs £2,400. We applied to the Town close trust for a grant to purchase a laser cutter and was awarded £6000 for which we are extremely thankful. With this money we could have got JAS flagship A0 Silvertail which both London and Nottingham hackspaces have invested in. We thought this was a bit overkill for our first cutter and went for the 60W AW Grey fin
This has a maximum cutting area of 600 x 400mm and a capable 60 watt tube.
Our cutter has been delivered to JAS and is just waiting on a home to install it into. Can't wait!