Laser Cutter2

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This is laser cutter 2 page. It is a copy of the wiki we put together to fund raise for the laser cutter. It may be useful for hackerspaces to buy their own cutter.

The purpose of this page is to discuss the POSSIBLE purchase of a laser cutter for the space. Several other hackerspaces, including Hive13, have done this and it would be a good thing. Edit this page as needed to add more info.

By using the donate button below you will be taken to Paypal to make a donation to the laser cutter fund. When you use this button the donation is earmarked for the laser cutter fund, not the general fund.

      • Donation button removed***

Update 5/10/11

A survey was conducted during the week of May 3/2011. Here is the survey... Survey results are in. Here they are... Media:LaserSurvey.pdf Don't bother filling out the survey anymore, it is over.

As you can see, using donations to purchase the laser cutter won out. I want to start collecting pledged donations starting today (5/10/11) so we can buy the smaller laser cutter (there weren't enough donations to support the larger one). LVL1 will take donations by check or paypal. If you make your donation by check, I will hold the check until the final vote to buy the Laser Cutter, in case it falls through. If you make your donation by PayPal then it will be a donation to LVL1 whether the LaserCutter happens or not.

Once all the donations have come through, I will call a vote per the bylaws to buy the laser. This vote may or may not include supplementing the donations with general fund monies to make up the price of the laser. Hopefully, people will give enough that we don't have to dip into the funds! We are close ($2431), if everyone pays.

Per the bylaws, this is my official email to call for a vote 7 days before the meeting on 5/17/11 to buy the laser cutter. I will call for the vote only if the donations exceed $2000. I do not want to pull more that $500 from the coffers. If the donations do not exceed $2000, then I will wait another week, etc. We will see how the money raising goes. We can do this, Laser Cutters are AWESOME!

Hack on, Brian


We will form a small committee to present options to the space for a general vote. So far, we have Brian Wagner and Jeff Johnson on the committee.


We want to have a laser cutter that would be capable of cutting plywood and acrylic as well as engraving.

Here is a bunch of things you could make on a laser, if we get one


Currently our best options are from Full Spectrum Engineering: 40 Watt Laser, and 60W Laser Both of these lasers are Chinese manufactured with American control systems and electronics. Basically, FSE took inexpensive Chinese lasercutters and reengineered them to work easier with their USB retina engraving software and drivers The 40W can be purchased for ~$2500 and the 60W for $5500.

Here is a link to some samples cut with the 40W engraver... Also, look at the chatlog for samples cut by the Dallas makerspace.

Hive 13 is currently purchasing the 60W laser and the Dallas Makerspace has the 40W one.

Epilog laser and Universal Laser - these lasers are ~$10,000+ new and are out of our price range. I guess we could lease one, but that would require a loan and that does not sound like something worth doing. Read this discussion of why the Full Spectrum Lasers are so much cheaper...


  • Kickstarter or Pledgie
  • Buy time at a discount
  • Ask for donations
  • Use club funds and wait
  • Combination

My (Brian W's) thoughts - Buy the $2500 laser using ~1000 worth of club funds, raise the rest of the money by having people pre-purchase laser time at a discounted rate of $.25/min for members and $.50 for non-members. Normal cost for the laser would be $.50/min for LVL1 Members and $1.00/Min for non-members. Build a RFID/Tweet-a-watt thing to track laser time and billing. All normal costs payments go to the general fund. Replacement laser tubes/laser maintenance costs come from the general fund.

Add your own ideas here!!!

Another method of raising funds would be preselling workshops for $50 each which would include instructions on using the software, a 12"x12" piece of acrylic, and time on the machine to cut out your workshop graphics. Something like this should be required anyway before anyone uses the machine. ~jeff


  • Brian W - $200


Vote sometime in May. In operation by the end of Summer 2011.

Hive 13 laser information

From an email from Paul...

The short answers:

We are purchasing the 60W Full Spectrum Engineering laser from this site: with the $250, 5" lens that allows you to feed 24"x* material into the laser cutter. The cutting area for the 60W is still 20x12 even with this addon, but you can put larger material in the machine. The final total is $5,670 ($4995 for the laser, $250 for the additional lens, $450 for the freight shipping, -$25 for getting a reference (more info below about the reference)) As for what made us choose it... that is a longer story.

We have looked into buying a laser cutter a couple of times. We ended up actually contact Epilog at one point to get information from them directly and they ended up hooking us up with a local man who had purchased a couple epilog laser cutters. We decided at that point that an Epilog was going to be too expensive for us, the 35W model was going to be over $10,000 after all was said and done. We made a deal with the guy Epilog put us in contact with and he was willing to sell us service at $0.75 / minute.

We have a fairly active IRC chat room and have some people from other hackerspaces that hang out in our channel. In January we were talking about etching PCB's in our chat room and Glenn from the Dallas Makerspace (aka Dallas Personal Robotics Group) mentioned that they used their laser cutter to to etch off paint from a blank board, then etched the board w/ acid rather than using toner transfer. One thing led to another and he told us about FSE ( chat log: )

Initially we started looking at the 40W laser which is "only" $2500. Glenn reported that they were very happy with the 40W laser and that he has had no problems with it. I did a fair amount of research (I will share the google docs w/ you) and our group kept talking about it. One of the big questions initially was how to entice people to contribute. If we just said people that contributed can use the laser for free, how do you distinguish between someone that donates $20 and $400? If we did a kickstarter type of fund drive, who was going to organize and manage it? We eventually decided that the best option was that people that contributed to the project would be pre-purchasing time on the laser at a discounted rate. This led us to the next big stumbling block which was, how much are we going to charge to use the laser? The Dallas group only charges $5 / hour, the person that bought their laser cutter only wants to make back enough money to buy a new laser tube when the old one finally runs out. On the flip side NYC Resistor charges $2 / minute ($120 / hour). We decided that a laser cutter would be a large draw for the group, and charging $0.50 / minute would be a reasonable rate. ($30 / hour). This meant that people that helped fund the laser were buying time at $0.25 / minute.

This whole time we were working out funding and usage fees we had been talking about it at our meetings, on our mailing list, and on IRC. One of our members did an Arduino class for nearby UC and had been paid $1200. Several of our members either have their own small businesses or are related to people who have small businesses, they each said they would contribute varying amounts. Also general members said they would contribute varying amounts, especially once the 50% rate for pre-purchase was announced. In the end we had $3700 that was verbally stated as being available once we started raising money.

This put us over the 40W's purchase price without us even really pushing it to the public or the whole group, it was still in theory land. So we decided to try for the 60W. In the end we raised $5510 for the laser cutter, and the group had $320 left over from a previous project (We never paid the people back for the glass block matrix, and they said to roll over the funds in exchange for laser time) which took us to $5830.

Our next goals are to figure out how we are going to fully manage accounting for time on the laser cutter, we have several ideas, the one I am most in favor of is using a Tweet-A-watt and a simple customer interface where we either detect who is logged into the machine and each laser user gets an account on the machine, or for starting we just have a simple textbox that you type your name into. In either case when the laser is idle it draws ~30W of wall power, when it is on it draws close to 276W and the tweet-a-watt updates the computer every 2 seconds which should make it fairly straightforward to detect when the laser is in use.

If you have any further questions, feel free to email me, the Hive13 mailing list, or stop by our chat room on IRC (#hive13 on Also the dallas groups irc room is #dprg on the same network and Glenn is the laser guy there. I am always in both chat rooms, even when I am afk, but I will respond when I get back to my computer if someone else does not answer your question first.

- Paul

Here are Hive 13's google docs

Google doc I used for research:

Google spreadhseet we used for pricing and fee analysis: