My laser cutters are now supplied by Just Add Sharks, I haven't had any significant issues with two years of heavy usage. I do understand more about lasers now which means I'm more able to fix it on my own but honestly it hasn't needed anywhere near as much attention as the last machine.
Kitronik now do a wide range of materials and different kinds of laser ply, they specify exactly what you're going to get and their online shop actually works. Shipping is always prompt unless they don't have the item in stock but at least the stock levels are accurate.
For quite a long time now I've been trying not to say bad things about HPC laser. It's well known amongst the maker community that their customer service is pretty terrible, you just learn to live with it. Their hobbyist laser model is a reasonable price and you can work around most of the bugs in the control software. The more expensive models though come with different software that is crappy in different ways and in particular is lacking in any actual grey scale etching.
Where HPC really excel though, is with their laser ply. It was the main thing that will keep me going back to them. It's knot free, blemish free, almost grain free, smooth and cuts like butter. It's the number one question I get at Maker Faires, everyone wants to know where to buy it from. So I ordered a batch yesterday, enough for the next 2 months of making, a big £200 order. It arrived today, as it should when you pay for next day delivery, I opened the parcel and to my horror the laser ply has changed. The new stuff has a very visible grain and is almost orange instead of white (see photo)
So I phoned up HPC several times, the phone rang out the first 2 times. They boast about having 3 lines but clearly only answer 1 of them. I got a relatively cheerful voice on the phone who frankly couldn't care less about my problems. He knew that the laser ply had changed and he said that I should have been told the day before. They are having trouble with the previous supplier so are now stocking both. When I explained that I had orders to fulfil from people expecting the white wood he couldn't get off the phone fast enough.
So where do I go now, I could send the wood back but I need something to cut. I could email them and ask for a better response but my last 3 emails asking for technical information and flyers to promote their company have been met with single line responses that completely ignore the content of the email. (yes I was actually going to advocate people buy their base model at Maker Faires) Every time you email they ask you to phone and every time you phone they ask you to email. It's a company that can't give a straight answer and just don't seem to a give toss about it's hobbyist customers. The ebay men in China always seem more than happy to answer my questions quickly and promptly.