Update Aug 2016:
It has been requested that I clarify my current situation. After this post was written I continued to have problems with HPC that I decided not to blog about for fear of inflaming the situation. The problems with my laser were never resolved and I started to look for an alternate supplier to buy my next laser cutter. 6 months down the line Dominic and I decided that we could import our own laser cutters direct from China and offer a better service to the hobbyist market. We formed the company Just Add Sharks and my personal laser cutting adventure continued with the help of an A1 Whitetooth laser as documented here in this blog.
This blog post shall remain for historical reasons, the date the post was written should be taken in to consideration when looking at any company review.
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.