What's the best brand/type of laser cutter for educational purposes?

I've been asked to source some equipment for my new department and I'm looking for a reliable product thats not overly expensive. It would be mainly be used by visual art students and design students. Ideally we would use it to cut board, cardboard, acrylic etc. I can see there are many exciting and interesting objects and artifacts which can be made (as demonstrated in so many instructables!) with this tool. I would be grateful for any advice available.
Thanks in anticipation,

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the laser machine power is according to the materials thickness.

and can you please tell me the maximum area of your materials.

then the machine can be decided.

I went down the cheap laser cuter road, about 4 years ago, and got a rabbit 3040, which is about a3 size. It came from hongkong of ebay. It was a steep learning curve to get it set up, as the software newleydraw is in "chinglish". It gets used every day and hasn't missed a beat. I was so pleased with it I recommend it to another school and they also got one. Again a bit of a pain to set up but it working great. At my school you have to beg borrow and steal to get funding for anything, so it was much easier to get $3000 than the $25000 I was quoted.
And 3K you can get for 6 times, and STILL be cheaper than 25K straight out of the pocket. I'm a fan of the Chinese machines too.
rickharris4 years ago
You really need to go out and view some of the offerings. If your UK based then Boxford, Techsoft and Epilogue are the first runners,

We had an Epilogue cutter that worked fine for us in a secondary school environment.

Look at the bed size, A2 is useful and allows the cutting of many parts at once in a class project environment, A small machine would be slightly cheaper but will restrict the dimensions you can cut in a single run.

Your going to need at least 35 watts and 40+ will be better, You can cut 3 mm MDF and ply easily, I have cut up to 5 mm acrylic - slowly, Card no problem.

Ours got a lot of use engraving glass as well, we used this as a money maker to offset running costs making gifts and engraving champagne bottles for wedding gifts, You have to be creative.

Cost for the A2 5 years ago was around £14,000 this was with fume extractuion/filter.
We use one of Boxford's "Universal" Laser Cutters, 600x300mm cutting bed, sits on a self-contained fume filter, so we can wheel it between workshops as desired.

The cutter is fine, but the supplied software "LaserCAM 2D" is a PITA. Inkscap will drive it for rastering, but a CorelDraw is far easier to use if you can persuade your school to pay the extra.

I've used a couple of Epilogs, they're nice and easy to use.

Yep we used to use coral - or Tech soft 2 D design which I find very easy to use and to some degree unlike Coral is a real CAD package.

We had Boxford CNC router, lath/mill combination and their software isn't at all intuitive - although it's a lot better than it used to be.
We have one of those - nobody's switched it on, yet...
If its as bendy as one of the machines I've seen from Boxford, be careful when you try and turn something harder than plastic.
The routers are pretty solid for wood and acrylic. Ours got use lot.

The A2 size was a bit limiting though.

The mill/laths was what you may expect - relatively a teaching toy. Unless what your making is very small - Produced a lot of aluminium chess men though.
Might not be the same model then - what I've got looks like , and is the same build quality, as Dusty Bin.
They were fairly recent models - purchased in the last 8 years or so.

In comparison with the competition they stood up fairly well - I looked at most of the educational offerings that were available then.

At our hackerspace we have a real cheapie made in china no-name that is about CAD$2000 for a 90cm/150cm table 80 watt CO2, no fume filter (had to build our own and utilize a costly hvac system to ensure the somewhat filtered fumes went outside)...Shipping was another ~1000 from China.

The hardware, not too shabby - capable of anything the more expensive ones is capable of, but the software the comes with it 'LaserCut 5.1' is the worst thing to ever happen to a computer. It's not user friendly, and crashes a LOT - with NO customer support. That alone is worth the other THOUSANDS of xyz currency just for the better software. Always opt for better software, period.
That's why I'd recommend buying one without the controller and putting the new LAOS board into it instead.
Where are you in the world ?
How big do you need to cut ?
How THICK do you need to cut ?
What budget ?