New laser to expand growing small business

My name's Kat, and I go by Clinkorz online. I started off as an illustrator and moved into glass engraving with a small 'hobby' laser. Over the past few years, my skills and the demands of the craft have grown beyond what my little hobby laser can achieve. The original laser I got has a lot of problems, most of which I cannot fix without a brand new machine. Below, I'll list out most of the problems that would be rectified with the new laser, and also explain how this would expand my abilities in the art of laser crafting.
Here are some of my pieces:
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The hobby laser I bought (back in 2014) is from a company that basically just assembles machines. They buy parts, usually proprietary ones that can't be replaced, and then assemble the machine. This has caused many issues, which I'll list out now.
• One is the metal gantries (the things the wheels slide back and forth on) that are coated to work...until the coating comes off. There are no replacements for these rails, so once the coating fails, it is a constant demand to re-grease the rails to avoid friction. As such, I spend a lot of time re-tuning the machine's rails so that the wheels can go back and forth. They got these rails made in a small quantity from a manufacturer, and they are set differently than any other railing system. There is not a way, without welding, to get new parts to fix this.
• Secondly are the wheels themselves, which are only available with one manufacturer, and most of the time they come produced poorly. They need very smooth bearings on the inside of the wheel for a smooth application, but 6 out of 7 wheels come with a rough spot in the bearing. This means that, even if I replace the wheels, I usually come to find out that they are too poor quality to use. This means hours wasted because the problem doesn't become noticeable until the wheels are fully tightened to the gantry and moving. The little rough spot means a huge bump wherever it catches, causing warped lines. While they will replace the wheels, this puts the laser out of commission for days at times.
• Third is the laser tube. The laser tube that is meant for the machine is a 35W CO2 Plasma tube. This is standard, however the original company got their own tubes produced. This is a $300 replacement part, compared to a regular replacement of 35W tube. While I have switched to the cheaper 'off brand', it does not fit the same as the proprietary tube. It's a very difficult choice, because the proprietary tube lasts a quarter of the lifespan of the off brand tube (4 months compared to 8-9 months per tube) but the off brand tube cannot be fully aligned properly.
• Fourth is the squareness of the machine. In lasering, the plasma tube is located on the backside of the machine and then fired through a set of squared mirrors (usually three to four mirrors) until it hits the focal lens and subsequently the material. The parts of my machine were never truly squared, they're all off in varying degrees from 1-3 degrees. While this has been okay in the small run, working longer has made this worse. The whole machine is made of aluminum parts, so the squareness is getting worse with time as those parts move slightly. This means a lot of wasted material due to improper cuts.
•Fifth is the demand of the laser to have water cooling. This water circulates via tubing into the laser tube itself around the core of the diode. Right now I have a chiller installed to the machine, which was an $800 upgrade. However, my office is on the second floor which means it is regularly 80F in the Summer. The chiller cannot cool itself at this temperature, meaning I also have to run an AC unit in my office to keep the chiller itself cool enough. This costs a lot in energy fees from June through August.
•Lastly, again with the aluminum parts. All of the mount heads and mirror mounts are aluminum. With the amount of friction in the machine from it moving around as normal to cut, means that over time the aluminum screw holes vibrate and dethread. Most of the time, I have to take apart the machine, remove the mounts, re-tap the holes and put steel helicoils in for the machine to continue working. However, this again affects the squareness of the machine.

At this point, I spend a lot of time fixing the laser rather than using it. I have to re-grease and check the wheels on every piece of material going in. This adds about an hour every single cutting day. 

The laser I'm looking to get is basically the top of the line for small businesses. Compared to my hobby machine, the Trotec 300 or 360 (whichever one I can achieve) is produced by an R&D (research and development) laser company instead of just a build company. This means that their machines are built to last, well over 3 decades, with all steel chassis and gantries. With regular use, their tubes (which are ceramic instead of glass) last 7-10 years. The use of ceramic for the diode also means less energy loss, and not needing to waterchill the laser. This means I'll be pulling less energy in the Summer months to keep my laser working through my busy season. The company also features in-house training so that I can be up in running after a day. The bed of the laser is also much larger, with better fume extraction, meaning I can make bigger pieces and take on newer projects. The biggest draw is the quickness of the machine. My machine currently uses stepper motors, aka a belt with grooves, to dictate where it goes. The Trotec has Servo Motors, which glide by millimetres at a time instead of by groove distance. 

In the end, the upgraded machine will blast faster and longer, with less energy consumption, and higher quality. This will open up many possibilities in terms of projects and commission abilities moving forward. A time comparison was done between my current laser and the Trotec, and a 34minute piece in my laser takes them exactly 4minutes and 47 seconds. The time is less than an 1/8th of what I have right now. This will mean more time spent designing, and more time producing, instead of waiting for the laser to be done.

The money made from this will go directly to the purchase of the laser and needed equipment (incl rotary and new exhaust fan). It is needed by 25 July as a huge tradeshow is going on where Trotec is known to give large discounts off of their lasers. This would be the best, and most advantageous, time for me to buy the laser and get my in-person training at the same time.

Honestly, anything you can contribute will help. It is not an exaggeration that this will help my business grow ten fold due to the amount of time I will gain. I will be able to offer wholesale discounts and also be able to take more stock to conventions, as well as more pieces online. I greatly appreciate anything you are able to give, and from the bottom of my heart I will not forget you. I plan to create a list after the fundraiser to be able to send holiday cards and things to express my appreciation, as reaching this goal would honestly be the biggest thing that has ever happened in my life.

Thank you for taking the time!
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    • $100 
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    • $50 
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Organizer

Kat Clinkscales 
Organizer
Huntersville, NC
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