My name is Alisha and I live and work in Friendswood, Texas, creating high-quality handcrafted, personalized woodworking and etching and leather crafting and tooling. Comparing Thunder Laser and Aeon laser cutting machines is something I’ve been asked to do by a million different people. The differences are subtle, as both have three mirrors and one laser when stripped down to basics. However, when it comes to creating high-quality designs at speed, only one can come out on top.
Today I’m going to talk you through the pros and cons of my two laser engraving systems, the Thunder Laser Nova 63 and the Aeon Mira 9.
Desktop Laser vs Full-Size Nova Laser System
The Mira 9 laser engraver was the first laser I got because I was attracted to its all-in-one design. Its chiller, exhaust fan and air compressor are all contained within this conveniently sized machine. One problem with the Mira is that you need to either purchase a cart for it to sit on or build one yourself. With the Nova, it’s a big piece of equipment, but its size means it can stand on its own.
Desktop doesn’t technically refer to size, however. It’s actually a descriptor for the fact everything is built into the unit. Aside from the obvious difference of taking up more space, there aren’t many more benefits. In fact, being able to remove external equipment has a major benefit, which I’ll discuss in more detail later in this review.
Thunder Laser Nova vs Aeon Mira: General Construction
Straight off the bat, the Mira 9 has frosted glass, which serves no purpose other than to obstruct your view of the work inside. It also features a small handle that makes working fast and efficient a little more challenging. Other than that, it’s well-made, with Wi-Fi capability and a great size bed, at 35″ by 22″. The reason I swapped from my previous Glowforge Pro was the capacity for the Mira 9 to do bigger jobs.
The Thunder Laser Nova 63 is a Chinese laser with clear, tempered glass on the top, which makes it easier to see what’s going on inside. It has a nice big handle, which makes moving quickly around the workspace more intuitive. Just like fancy car doors, the built-in mechanism means you only open it up 45 degrees and it automatically opens fully and stays in place. It’s a small touch, but every second makes a difference when it comes to output — and anything that makes life a little easier is welcome here!
The Nova 63 is much larger than the Mira 9, although Thunder Laser manufactures the Nova 35, which is the same size as the Aeon model.
Laser Head, Lens, Autofocus and Gantry
On the Aeon, there’s a key that allows you to open up the front of the machine to clean the honeycomb tray. This tray is one of the areas where the Mira has room for improvement. It slides around all over the top of the blades, which makes perfect squaring up impossible unless you use two pieces of wood in the corner of the unit to form a right angle.
The Mira 9 AF uses a single bed up-and-down motion to determine where it needs to sit, then goes down to the perfect height for a two-inch lens. Its gantry is easy to operate, using a digital side panel on the side of the machine. You can move it left to right from here and control the bed by moving it up and down.
Autofocus isn’t a strong point for the Aeon Mira 9 laser engraving machine. The AF pin gets caught easily and is too fragile to handle getting stuck in blocks of wood or pieces of acrylic. I don’t actually use this machine to autofocus and do it manually instead. In theory, programming the machine to do it is easy, but the pin just isn’t built for high-speed work.
The Nova 63’s laser head is designed differently, and I prefer the way it works compared to the Mira 9. It’s easy to switch between a two-inch lens and four-inch lens, which makes the process of engraving non-flat items more time-efficient and fluid. You simply loosen a screw and twist the lenses out, then twist the other ones in and tighten it back up.
There’s no pin on the Nova laser head for autofocus. Instead, the bed rises to the correct height for the beam that goes across the length of the machine to reach. You can also loosen the head if you need additional precision, which means you don’t need to raise or lower the bed again at all. The Thunder Laser laser cut machine uses a digital control panel that’s similar to the Mira 9, except it’s easier to move the bed up and down without looking at the screen.
The Thunder Nova 63 is brighter than the Aeon, which makes seeing what’s happening inside easier and makes picky work and cleaning less challenging. The fact it has white paint is another bonus for visibility. As neat as the Mira 9 looks, it’s just not as practical as the Nova.
Cleaning and Maintenance
The Aeon has a screen at the back of the tray that prevents smoke or debris from collecting on the mechanisms and hides them from view. It also lets you remove its blades entirely, which is handy for keeping it clean. Cleaning the lens on the Aeon isn’t a simple process. First, you need to remove the autofocus component by taking out the three screws that hold it in, clean the lens and then replace the AF bit. To clean the mirror, you just need to remove two light screws.
While removing anything from the Mira 9 involves lots of tiny screws and Allen wrenches, Thunder Laser has made changing and cleaning small items like the lenses much less risky. There’s even a key to let you switch between the optics and the mirrors without the worry of dropping screws or tightening it up unevenly.
The side panels on both machines come off, making cleaning and performing fixes convenient. Both come with keys to open them up, but a major benefit of the Nova 63 is that it lets you open the front and have materials sticking out, in case you need to work on larger projects. It also has two large removable trays that catch any small items you may drop through the honeycomb tray. The whole unit is incredibly easy to work with because the designers seem to have gone out of their way to make it as user-friendly as possible.
It’s possible to switch the power on without the laser, air assist and chiller. This lets you get into the bed for cleaning, maintenance and alignment, which simply isn’t possible with the Mira 9.
Laser Engrave vs Laser Cut
Both machines work well with engraving and cutting, but the Thunder Laser probably has the edge because it’s more efficient and there’s less risk of losing small parts. Plus, the Nova’s manual controls that let you adjust air assist mean you can get just the right PSI for cutting and engraving jobs.
Laser Tube and CO2 Laser Power, Chiller and Exhaust
The Mira’s exhaust system includes an integrated fan and vent, but some people in Facebook groups have noted that they need extra in-line fans to prevent overheating. Its built-in air compression system feeds air through a glass tube, but this laser engraving machine’s isn’t up to scratch and requires an air assist add-on after purchase. The Mira 9 chiller is integrated and runs well. It has an emergency stop button, which is also the on button, and it’s conveniently child-friendly in case you have little ones running around near your home office.
The Thunder Nova 63 has its exhaust located underneath the bed instead of at the back where the Mira’s sits. One major benefit of this placement is that the smoke and dirt get sucked downwards through the already dirty honeycomb tray, instead of letting it accumulate on the work area.
Air assist works using Lightburn software, which can detect and manipulate cutting and engraving jobs. A control on the machine lets you manually adjust the PSI if it’s too high or low. The Nova 63 has a small chiller that’s not integrated into the machine, but it doesn’t take up too much space and has the added bonus of being upgradable.
Customer service from both companies has been impressive, with fast responses to queries and overall good experiences. I’d say Thunder Laser is more accessible, with a 24/7 support group on WeChat and prompt email responses, even outside normal office hours.
The Verdict: Thunder Laser vs Aeon Laser Cutter
So, who comes out on top in my head-to-head comparison of Thunder Laser vs Aeon Laser Cutting Machines? It has to go to Thunder Laser. While the two machines are a little different because the Mira 9 is a full spectrum unit, the Nova 63 offers extra convenience and ease of use. If you’ve got space in your workshop for this piece of equipment, I’d highly recommend investing in it. It’s affordable, built to last and simple to use.