Iím considering adding a laser engraver/cutter to my shop as I approach my later years as a means of generating some less strenuous work. Do any of you folks have one? Whatís a good brand? Any ideas for profitable products?
I had a Universal Laser System 25E years ago. It was strictly for engraving. Only machine I've ever owned that didn't pay for itself. It's an old boat anchor now, they no longer support that vintage machine. The possibility for profit is even worse today than when I started. Hobby guys can pick up a Chinese laser unit on Amazon for less than $500 and start making craft items. The next guy in a garage can get a $3500 Chinese laser and be in business with an 80 watt machine. It's also a wide open market on the internet for big engraving houses with 50 lasers all going at once. The customer merely sends a file and a thousand pieces show up at their door. You certainly don't want to start with the general public with ones and twos. You should see the look on a persons face when you tell them it's $35 for the setup, and $50/hr with a 1 hour minimum to make a useable file from their blurry artwork. Or the look you get when they want a Harley Davidson logo on 6 sets of Chinese made trivets for a wedding in 2 days and you say no. Commercial work is about the only way to make some money. By the way, they provide horrible art work too. A graphic design background will help.
Hey Kip. Yes we are all getting older. I have a job that pays the bills so I do not use my equipment as a business. We bought the Epilog Helix laser at about Christmas time. I am a hobbyist so the cost was a consideration, but not as a business plan, or bank loan. The laser has been a lot of fun, and support has been good with the dealer out of KC. My Daughter is a sophomore in college studying animation. With her background, we may start an internet business if animation studios don't start popping up in Ks. lol. I have made over 1,000 coasters, many wedding gifts, and "leaving work" plaques. Some growlers and bottles. Have done some leather bags and a parade flag carrier for our scout troop. Custom coasters sell for 20 bucks for 4 online. If you put a beer or sports team, you may have copyright issues. I have a Timberking 2000 mill, so I cut maple and ERC into 3.5 inch beams and turn 90 degrees, and cut 5/16th inch strips. These dry quick and then can cut into squares to put photos on for coasters. I got a hospital blanket warmer and can spray spar poly on and put in warmer and re-coat in 30 minutes. For plaques, I cut smaller walnut logs 5/16th inch and leave them live edge.
Have made some much appreciated military gifts. I don't charge per-say but people that ask me to do things can make a donation to my poly fund. The trick would be to find a niche that you have good sources of materials for so you can get off and running. I may upload photos later. The laser was expensive and was told upfront that the resale price plummets. Laser will need recharged at 5 years used or not at 500 dollars. The company is in Denver Co. Dealers all around and ours was happy to drive 3 hours to do an in home demo. My wife loved it, and with the poss need down the road for a company for my Daughter, we bought it. Tons of video online. We are in a town of 40k, and only a few lasers in our area. Epilog can prob. tell you of others in your area. You could start off slow, and gradually transition if it takes off. I am swamped with just word of mouth.
Bryan "doc" Henderson has quickly proven my point. A hobbyist in a garage is your competition.
I bet you won't have to recharge it in 5 years unless you really turn it up for cutting all the time. They don't like running at 100%. American brands last longer. I guarantee it will be more than $500. Even the aftermarket laser services like Evergreen laser charges around $750 right now. An Epilog recharge is around $1250 through their dealers. Over $2,000 for a new tube. Chinese lasers may not even last 1 year if you run at high wattage all the time for cutting, but the replacement is cheap if the glass tube makes it through shipping from China.
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