Why not to buy your laser cutter online - a customer review

No real category for this and never done a review, so must be right anyway ;)
Have no longer free access to a laser cutter so I decided to bite the bullet and go on a budget - what a mistake...

I will not bother you with seller details or something like that as I doubt it would make difference.
So let's start with the first day of having the new machine...
First big hit in the guts was to see how it was delivered:
If you order something make sure not to use Toll Ipec for the delivery LOL
Nothing in the van was secured, all prcels just flying around everywhere.
But worst bit at this stage was to notice only one half of the delivery is there, the missing rest was picked up but never made it out of the first depot.
As nothing was secured and there were already obvious signs of damage to the packing I wanted to refuse the delivery so it goes back to the seller to check.
Was told if I refuse it all that happens is that it goes back to the depot for me to pick up as another delivery would cost money.

Anyway, took the stuff in to at least check how much survived the transport.
Also contacted the seller in regards to transport damage and the missing items.
The odd thing was that the entire box was wrapped in sticky tape but the consignment not placed on the bottom, so I opened it up upside down :(
The seller replied he did not use the brown tape just clear packing tape....
Further checks of the box showed there was another (original) consignment on the right side of the box, now hidden under brown tape...
Seems Toll Ipec decided on repacking as well...
So much for the transport side of things for now, now to the insides....

Inside the box I noticed the plastic wrap around the machine was alread cut open around the top lid - of course with damage to the paint work by using a sharp knife.
As expected an exhaust fan and water pump was include, also a hose for the fan.
But there is nothing to fit the perfect square of the fan onto the rectangle outlet on the machine!
And although ordered in Australia from an Australian seller, the seller did not bother to make sure the stuff can be used as I only have US plugs on everything.
The thing that really §$#*% me about this is the fact that the original plugs have been cut off and replaced with Hong Kong ones!
According to AU consumer laws and electrical safety regulations it is illegal to sell new devices with such plugs - only genuine cable are allowed nothing that has been cut and screwed on.
So no testing possible at this stage here....

The manual, if you can call it that, is completely in chinese, not a single word in english found anywhere.
So what do you do? You revert to the supplied CD only to find out everything on there is chinese as well...
Don't get me wrong, I am quite confident to get it going and calibrated without but after installing the included software I gave up as it is chinese only as well.
Means nothing of use here too...

Waiting for the seller to reply but conviently I got an automated response back stating the seller is on holidays till the end of February...
So much for ordering local while on a budget....
Of course I could have got the same machine from another shop for 250$ more but who would have though I need to move to china and learn chinese to use this toy?

Will keep this updated over the next few days to keep you posted.
If all goes well one day and I get the right plugs, manual and software I might actually make a short ible on the setup and calibration for future reference.

Ok, seems all the replies I made earlier got lost in the system so I have to start over....
Update:
After inspecting everything closer to kill the time until the missing items arrive I found more issues than I like.
One of the mirrors is scratched right in the center, the other has a very dull looking surface.
The x-axis is at an angle and can't be aligned over the stepper motor as the ends of the carrier are not machined straight.
Means you never get proper cuts or engravings.
I found metal shavings in basically every area of the machine, including the clear cover for the laser tube - not what I call electrically safe.
The exhaust mount is bend and the entire thing won't really fit in the frame of the machine.
The lid does open and close, even stays open but get's stuck in the frame when lowering it.
I assume by the dints that this due to the transport.
Almost all parts seem to be mounted by force, if it is no good fit we just bend it and force it in must have been the advise used to make it.

Image uploads here still won't work in any userfriendly way, so forgive me for the bad layout.


As for the actual issues with the seller and shipping company so far:
Toll Ipec claims that all loads are secured during transport at all times despite my evidence but said they will check on the driver to make sure.
Sadly I was also told that I am unable to make a claim for the transport damages, only the account holder, the seller can do it.
Here starts the real dilemma.
Although the seller is based in AU I now found through the Ebay support that he actually operates directly from China and only has someone at a local warehouse dealing with the stuff for AU.
The seller has no replacement machine and no spares at all.
The seller does not acknowledge the claim for the damages and states the machine was in perfect order when he sent it.
Did I mention it does not help that the seller obviously uses a translator for his english replies?...
Next problem is that he, so far, refuses to make a claim with Toll Ipec for the damages - he really does not understand that I can not do a thing in this case and that only he can.
Ebay is keeping it quite as well, stating I should first try to sort the matter with the seller and if that is of no good I can start a claim next week.


Plans so far on how to proceed:
The shipping back to the seller is over 50$ (thank god it is not china!) and I would have to use additional packing to make sure it goes back in one piece with no further damages.
So I thought, assuming the rest of the machine is fine, to fix it and to recover the cost through Toll Ipec - after all they are the ones that did the real damages during transport.
For the mirrors I will substitude the disc from and old harddrive although not looking forware to cut it into a small round thing.
The a-axis will be shimmed so I can at least do some initial test of everything, after that I will have to find a way to correct this issues more permantly.
An Arduino and Ramps board is already waiting to make it into the machine to try some open source stuff instead of the dreaded Moshi software.
Also trying to get my hands onto an old plotter to substitute the electronics and maybe parts of the hardware.
This would allow much easier work as everything can be done through HPGL and and normal graphics program.
Simply design it, set the laser power and hit the print button in the software.
But turns out these old plotters are become rare collectors items now :(
For the final stage I plan to have it all electrically save with a proper controller board and Wifi support.
Not sure how long it will take but I will get there LOL
Will reply with an update once I go some news.

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Downunder35m (author)  Downunder35m1 year ago

Hmm, just noticed that above 300m/s the stepper for the X-axis is totally lost.
Might make the 350 if I push it but that's about it.
Not sure if that is too slow for these china bombs but I guess you can't get everything for these prices LOL
Does anyone here use one these lasers with a moshi board to tell me how fast they can go?

Downunder35m (author)  Downunder35m1 year ago

Here is a video showing the first real engraving run.
And this is how the finnished thing looked:

First engraving.jpg
Downunder35m (author)  Downunder35m1 year ago

Well, the more you do with it the more you notice that needs fixing ROFL
The table is a bit too high, the right focal point of the laser is just below the surface of the table - thank god that I wanted to build an adjustable table anyway.
There is also a rattling noise at higher speeds that I am still unable to pinpoint.
But the worst part of the entire machine really is the software.
Sure you do very nice engravings, also cutting them out in one go - but only if you create the cuts in the software and add it as a task.
All my attempts to get fine and clean cuts are ruined as you can only import raster images into the crappy software.
Contacted the seller for update options just to have a laugh.
He confirmed that if I wanted to use the newer software with much better options (I guess it really works as it should) I also need a new board and dongle - go figure...
Now the funny part: The complete pack with software, mainboard and print drivers is just under 500$ US ROFL

If the AU $ wouldn' be as low as water levels in a dry creek I would order a nice controller like AWC708C and two dedicated stepper drivers (for future upgrades to a bigger machine).
But the 300 something $ for the part comes to almost 600$ AU with shipping and taxes :(
Now looking into using one of my Spare Arduinos with Ramps and a modified 3D printer firmware.
This way it is only a fraction of the costs and through the Inkscape pluging I can do raster and vector cuts.
Only downside is the lack of a dedicated printer driver to use this directly from within Autocad, Corel or Photopaint, but if it works I can accept these limits.

The hardware side of this cheap machine is actually not that bad at all, apart from the obvious transport damages and lack of workmanship - over there is seems they never heard of lock washers or lock nuts, not even normal flat washers for that matter LOL
If you consider the prices for some Nema17 steppers, one linear bearing and the laser tube plus optics you can really use them as a base for something proper.
Question is how long until power supply or tube will fail...

Downunder35m (author)  Downunder35m1 year ago

Did some tests today with fixed focus and damn what a difference in power levels and quality!
Used the cardboard off a cerial box for the test and before I needed 20% power @ 20mm/s to get a single cut.
Now I can do it with 16% and on top get a much nicer looking cut.

But back to why not to buy online (or these chinese models at all):
Tried to fix the exhaust problem.
First by cutting it to the right lenght so I can use the full size of the printer without loosing the top 5cm.
Then I just wanted to mount the exhaust from the inside instead of pushing it in from the back - impossible without removing table and tube :(
When I pushed it back in I also noticed why the fan would not fit in the first place and still refuses to go in.
Instead of aligning all the optics properly the chines guys opted for additional (oversized) nuts and mounts mounts bent into the right height :(
So the table is about 5mm too high for the exhaust to be placed in correctly.
Right now the bottom part sits on top on the table causing the entire exhaust to be at an angle upwards.
In china they tried to correct this unsuccessful by just forcing the mounting bolts as tight as possible - fun getting them off to start with.
To fix the collected issues properly I would need to lower the table mounts by at least 5mm - or remove the nuts between mounts and table...
Of course that means the focus is 5mm to low as well.
As the lens can't be adjusted I would also need to get all optics 5mm lower - which is impossible for the x-axis anyway.
Guess I will go for the quick and dirty fix and simply cut out the exhaust part from the build table....

Downunder35m (author)  Downunder35m1 year ago

I was able to engrave and cut the parts for a coffin my little niece wanted for her Monster High dolls.
Guess that means this might be the last update on this "review" as the rest to get this thing working properly will go into a nice Instructable.

Although Toll Ipec confirmed twice to me that they would cover the transport damages the seller claims that would not be the case.
Funny thing is that when I use my ticket munber for the support I am told that the sender still has not contacted them...
Can't find these rails used on the x-axis but new mirrors are around 30$ in proper quality.
Got a refund offer of 50$ from the seller with the statement that it would out of the kindness of his heart as he can not take responsibility for the damages caused by the shipping company.
After endless messages he still fails or refuses to acknowledge that even without the shipping problems all the mechanical issues make it impossible to use the machine.
In fact he states that I am obviously able to cut and engrave in good quality so the machine must be fine ROFL
Never mind the hours I already wasted to get to this point.
If I really get the 50 bucks it brings the cost of the machine down to a laser tube with shipping costs, so like with a 3D printer I will see the frame as a base and work my way up to a more user friendly machine with more safety measures in place.

I hope this thread will be useful for those thinking of getting a laser cutter on the cheap and maybe someone from china will read it and start using lock washers from now on.
Or at least normal washer for that matter ROFL

Ive just replaces the laser tube on 2 "rabbit" 40 watt laser cutters they lasted about 4 years, and they both were used every day.

On your software can you import a DXF file?

If you can do that, you can use any good CAD program to draw your projects.

Have a look at this I use it with my students

https://www.instructables.com/id/Digital-Manufacturing-project-one-Key-tag/

Downunder35m (author) 1 year ago

Just as an advise for everyone reading this topic before buying a Laser cutter:
Do not buy from any online seller you find that looks cheap - I did it as a test being aware of what might happen!

There are dedicated stores, often even with a real street address and real people you can talk to.
Some sell similar or identical looking machines that definately come from the same factory in China.
The price can be up to 100% higher than similar offers on Ebay but there is good reason for it:
1. The seller paid all the imprt duties and taxes already.
2. Being a local seller the machine must comply to local safety rules, both mechanical and electrical.
This means you will get proper cables instead of adapters, safety switches and some more.
3. In most cases the mechanics of the machine will be tested, so you can be sure it works right out of the box.
4. You will get proper english (or the local language) manuals and software.
5. In many cases the bad Moshi board is already replaced with something much better.
6. You should be able to use addons like a rotary attachment without hassles.
7. The table will be already aligned with the laser lens so no wasted hours of calibratig the optics.
8. Good machines also include a red laser to show exactly where the cutting will happen.

There is more but I think you get the point.
You might be able to get a similar looking machine for half the price online but in the long run you will pay even more than your local dealer would charge.
Well, if you are also not the best when it comes to mechanical issues and laser calibration you will have a hard time getting good results.
I would have love the premium Glowforge but with shipping, import and taxes the price goes up by over 50% and that is just totally out of my very limited budget.
Do your own research on the machine(s) you consider, seek user reviews, complaints and websites showing how to work with them.
Often you can find massive issues with these machines and knowing whic ones to avoid will help you to keep your sanity while working with it ;)

Downunder35m (author)  Downunder35m1 year ago

I managed to everything aligned for the basis and a first test engraving worked quite well.
So it was time to get some newer software, or so I thought...
Google translate is a nice thing, not so nice that a lot of chinese websites refuse to work with it.
After a few hours or manual translating what seemed to be of relevance I finally found a little program that downloads the current versions of the Moshi software - and it is even in english (well mostly LOL).
You might understand my surprise after downloading Moshidraw 2015 when I got greeted by the program that no dongle was found.
Hmmm.... Isn't it that weird thing in my USB port that activates the Moshi 2013 software?
Back to Google translate...
More wasted hours later I finally know this:
A) There are different Moshi controller boards out there - I got a really old one...
B) There are even more USB Keys for it - Gold like mine, red, blue, tranparent orange and so on...
Basically the controller only works with the supplied key, even a key of the same color won't work with your board.
The software is locked to the different key colors.
You can not update the software to a higher version.
Mean I have now Mosdraw 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, left, right and an unknown version but only the 2012 and 2013 crap works.
To make things worse you can only get newer versions with a printer or by buying a new controller board and key.
There is an option to just get a new key for your old board and the new software but I refused the offer of 260$ US for it.
The 2015 software would be really nice as it has all the stuff we miss like doing engraving and cutting in one go, better photo engravings and much much more.
Seems these chinese guys know how to make money the easy way...

Ive bought 3 laser cutters online from this seller

http://www.ebay.com.au/sch/signstechltd/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_ipg=&_from=

in Hong Kong and apart from the manual being in Chinglish, I was very happy with the machines and the service, also his English is very good. Ive had more problems with Australian sellers, customer service is crap.

Downunder35m (author)  liquidhandwash1 year ago

Well I was not expecting that a seller based in AU would be unable to speak english LOL
I ordered a few things from Asia before but will never order something that is too costly itself or for the shipping to get it back - if in doubt write it off...
For a Laser printer I am looking at over 150$ to get it from here back to china with tracking and signature.
Did not like to take my chances with that in mind.