Why am I writing a (glowing) Thunder Laser review when I am on record as loving the Glowforge so much?
Thunder Laser Nova 51 Laser Cutter is a large, powerful machine.
You can have your Nova 51 fitted with a 100 Watt or 130 Watt laser tube, and the cutting area is so large, you will be able to cut, engrave and score a 4′ x 8′ sheet via the pass-through.Fuse Laser / Thunder Laser Canada
Here’s the thing, I DO love our two Glowforge lasers. Both my wife and I love our Glowforge lasers and have done for years now.
There are, however, situations where it is not the correct tool for the job.
I thought my Full Spectrum Muse would fit the gaps left open by the Glowforge but long term, that didn’t work out for the reasons listed below. Fortunately, my friend Jeremie bought it and was happy with that decision.
What the Thunder Laser can do that Glowforge can’t
Even now, with access to this monster of a machine, we are still doing my prototyping on our Glowforge machines. There is a convenience factor, and they are so compact and, with my upgraded inline fans, super quiet.
But when it comes to making more than a dozen of a thing, you need something higher capacity.
Once you start looking at bigger machines, you realize that you could save time with a more powerful laser, as well as the time saved not having to keep swapping materials as much.
Plus, with a more powerful laser you can cut thicker materials …
and a big z-depth means you can engrave on larger items. CNC-carved bowls, trophies … get a rotary and do mugs and …
You get the idea.
High power laser, with fast, fine details
Another area the Thunder Laser excels is fast, powerful cuts. The machine I am using has 130 watts of power. It also has variable air assist, something many industrial lasers don’t even have.
That means you can cut and engrave fast but also deep, and that means you get clean, dark lines without as much charring.
Less cleanup and masking, with less time waiting. Plus, you have the space to put in a huge sheet of material rather than swap out sheets and restart the job multiple times. That also means less waste, because work can be arranged more flexibly.
Other Thunder Laser Advantages
The software that comes with your Thunder Laser is LightBurn. Those who read my K40 laser articles will recall that this is my favourite software for laser cutting and engraving. You have all the features and control right where you need it, and all local to your own network.
Of course I do my actual designs in Adobe Illustrator and OnShape, but having the drawing tools in there is a big help for quick cuts too.
Having the ability to use the red laser dot and to dry run the outline of the workpiece means we can accurately line up projects and save materials. There is the option of using a camera system like on the Glowforge also.
One of the cool things about the Thunder Laser Nova series is the motorized Z has an automated sensor, plus you can focus the laser head or z height manually to give those extra engrave effects, and there is a choice of lenses, for fine detail or greater cut depth. You can also switch out the honeycomb to use the blade style option, or not use a bed at all.
These machines are built like tanks, and are very user-serviceable. The Glowforge is a little more delicate and even needs sending back to the manufacturer for things like tube replacements.
Who is Thunder Laser for?
In my view, the Thunder Laser is for people who need a production-capable machine, or makerspaces/classrooms where you need that robustness and self-maintainability.
While the Thunder Laser range of laser cutters does have entry-level desktop machines, but even those are less beginner-friendly than the Glowforge in my view due to Glowforge being designed for beginners from the ground up, including QR codes for pre-set material power and speed settings, and infamously calling it a “laser printer”.
Really the Thunder Laser is in the space occupied by Full Spectrum, Boss, Epilog and Trotec, but with a much more competitive price to features ratio.
The Thunder Laser 51 is not cheap by any means but you will be hard pressed to find a comparable machine for less, especially when you consider a lot of the competition won’t even deliver to us in Canada, at least not unless you have access to a truck and forklift.
This laser cutter produces beautiful results, quickly, and reliably. You couldn’t ask for a better value production machine that is bound to pay itself back multiple times for your laser business.
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