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Anybody added a laser engraver?

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Forum topic by Mark Smith posted 656 days ago 3441 views 0 times favorited 45 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Mark Smith

491 posts in 666 days


656 days ago

I’m in the process of starting up a woodworking business and right now the center piece of my shop is a Legacy CNC machine. It’s a great machine for making all kinds of things, but I’m finding people really like personalized items and engraving. The CNC machine does engraving, but it only really works well on larger lettering. For example if you wanted to make a large sign with raised letters the CNC machine works great. If you want to V-Carve letters it works great down to about 1/2” tall letters. But if you wanted to engrave a plaque with lots of lettering it doesn’t work so great.

So I’m thinking about adding a laser engraver. Anybody else done this? I’m thinking right now most of what I want to do with it is engrave lettering, but I don’t want to limit myself to only that. Laser prices range from really cheap to really expensive. The bigger ones will actually cut through pretty thick wood as well as plastics and other things, but I don’t want to spend $10k for one of those.

Most shops that do laser engraving (at least that I’ve seen) are not woodworking shops. They are your trophy shops who buy pre-cut plaques and other items and then engrave on those. What I would like to be able to do is make my own plaques in whatever shape the customer wants and then laser engrave on those. Anybody else doing this?

-- Mark Smith, Tracy, CA., http://www.markscustomwoodcrafts.com


45 replies so far

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

15582 posts in 1493 days


#1 posted 656 days ago

Do to an unfortunate thing that has happened I have been forced to retire at 62. However, I will still need to supplement my retirement income and hopefully do it with my woodworking. I’m fairly certain that I’m going to get both a laser engraver and a 3×4 ft CNC router.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

491 posts in 666 days


#2 posted 656 days ago

You sound like me Charles. I think if you really want to sell customized items like plaques and signs and things of that nature I think you really need to have both. Just for info, I don’t know how difficult the smaller CNC’s are to use, but my legacy has a pretty steep learning curve, mostly in the computer department. I have lots of computer experience dating back to the original personal computers that became available for pubic use, but I have struggled with the computer programs involved. The salesman will tell you it’s all easy and you don’t need any computer skills and they can teach you everything, but I wouldn’t agree. There are just so many little quirks and things you have to know.

-- Mark Smith, Tracy, CA., http://www.markscustomwoodcrafts.com

View Mike42's profile

Mike42

3 posts in 656 days


#3 posted 656 days ago

I’ve had a ULS 25 Watt (Universal Laser Systems) laser engraver for 8 years or so and it’s the best thing I ever bought. Granted, it’ll only cut material up to about one quarter inch, but it works like a champ. Hooking it up to the computer is exactly like installing a printer. Controlling the depth of cut and/or engraving couldn’t be simpler. I did find, however, that without a lot of marketing and self promotion, there wasn’t much call for the machine. Everybody wants what it produces but nobody wants to pay anything for it. Typical, huh? After you invest $15,000 to $20,000 you end up with a great toy but not a money-maker. With Universal Laser Systems (the only one I’ve had experience with admittedly) the customer service and “training” was outstanding. Have a problem? Call ‘em up and they’ll fix it over the phone, toll free and no charge. What could be simpler? Just think twice before investing all that money in something that may not pay off in the end. Twenty grand IS a lotta money!

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

491 posts in 666 days


#4 posted 656 days ago

Mike, the one I was looking at is about four grand, I wasn’t even considering the twenty grand machines. I want the focus of my business to be the woodworking and just have the ability to do the laser work too. You can go on Amazon and find some off brand machine for $1500. Everything I’ve read about that machine is it basically doesn’t work like most people want it to.

-- Mark Smith, Tracy, CA., http://www.markscustomwoodcrafts.com

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Puzzleman

328 posts in 1570 days


#5 posted 656 days ago

I have both a CNC and a laser. I have created products by cutting them out with the CNC and adding embellishments and personalization with the laser. It has helped me with the field of woodworking that I am in by being able to offer more products for my customers which has resulted in more sales.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler, http://www.hollowwoodworks.com

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

491 posts in 666 days


#6 posted 644 days ago

I went and looked at both the Epilog and the Hurricane lasers. There is an Epilog dealer close to me and I just had to go to Vegas to see the Hurricane. Yeah, it was a rough weekend in Vegas, but somebody had to do it. I wonder if I can write off my gambling losses as a business expense since I was there to look at business equipment? :)

Anyway, the Epilog appears to be the Cadillac of the smaller laser market. The problem being their prices are about three times higher than then the Hurricane lasers. The Epilog is made in Utah while the Hurricane is made in China. I’d love to buy American, but it’s $15,000 versus $5,000 for similar machines. If I was going into the Laser engraving only business I’d probably shell out the extra money and go with the Epilog. But since this is just an add on to my woodworking business I’m thinking I need to go with the Hurricane.

The problem with China made lasers appears to be with service and support. The Hurricane company in Vegas is importing the lasers to their Vegas location, making some modifications to them and then shipping them out. Other companies selling China made lasers are simply having them shipped directly from China to the end user and are never even seeing the machines. Hurricane appears to be getting good ratings for their customer support. You can actually import the same laser from China yourself and save a little money, but then you have no customer support at all. If your laser shows up damaged in shipping then you’re stuck trying to work with somebody in China to send it back and get a replacement. The people at Hurricane have actually gone to China and they work directly with people at the manufacturer. I can’t even imagine me trying to deal with somebody in China to get some problem worked out. I’m willing to pay Hurricane some extra money to provide that service.

I have a few more I’d like to look at, but if I do end up getting one so far the Hurricane is the one I’m going with.

-- Mark Smith, Tracy, CA., http://www.markscustomwoodcrafts.com

View Mike42's profile

Mike42

3 posts in 656 days


#7 posted 644 days ago

Mark, Just read your latest post and you’re right, there’s a REALLY big difference between $5,000 and $15,000, that said, what’s the price difference if the “Hurricane” goes down (and believe me, they all will sooner or later) and there little or no support. I’m sorry, but I just don’t trust the Chinese building/electronic skills when it comes to something that precise. A hammer at Harbor Freight I’ll but any day, but . . . .

Have you tried Universal Laser in Arizona? That’s what I had and every single time it got a little hic-up, I’d call and they’d fix it over the phone. I see now they have a 25Watt “VersaLaser” that I’d buy in a minute if I had an extra $12,000 laying around. Don’t worry, I don’t work for them or even have one of their products currently, but if I were to go back into lasering, I’d call them first.

Also, there’s a company (in Wisconsin I think) that sells used lasers, with warranties and support from Universal that I hear is really trustworthy and fair. Maybe call them or ask Universal about a used one. Could save you a heck of a lotta money and you’d get an American product with plenty of backup. Just say’n . . . . . .

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

491 posts in 666 days


#8 posted 644 days ago

Mike, I do understand what you are saying. And if it was $13,000 versus $15,000 then I’d go with the American product. But it’s a $10,000 price difference! And like I said, Hurricane is actually an American company, they are simply importing the Chinese laser. Just like Chev imports their trucks from Mexico. Hurricane is going to provide the support and deal with China. And if it goes down and can’t be fixed then I’ll throw it in the trash and buy another one and still be $5,000 ahead. And if that goes down I’ll throw it in the trash and buy a third one and be even. Only if that third one gets thrown in the trash, before the American made one would have, will I be in the hole.

-- Mark Smith, Tracy, CA., http://www.markscustomwoodcrafts.com

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

491 posts in 666 days


#9 posted 644 days ago

Mike I just did some price checking on the Universal and for similar systems it’s even more expensive than the Epilog. So if the Epilog is the Cadillac then Universal must be the Rolls Royce.

-- Mark Smith, Tracy, CA., http://www.markscustomwoodcrafts.com

View Mike42's profile

Mike42

3 posts in 656 days


#10 posted 644 days ago

Hi Mark,
Try this address:

access@usedlasers.com.

and talk to them. A friend of mine used them and had nothing but good things to say about the sales, service, etc . . . . Remember, this is the kind of thing you only wanna buy once.

Also, what wattage are you looking for? I had a 25 Watt which did very well for me, although we always wish we could have a 100 Watter!!

View dannelson's profile

dannelson

140 posts in 997 days


#11 posted 644 days ago

How many plaques and engravings do you have to sell to make $5 G? I also own a cnc and thru networking at our local woodworkers guild I have been able to outsource the small stuff to guy who has a epilog and he is thrilled to see it not collecting dust. Also I cannot believe that you can’t get a good cut on anything less than 1/2 inch letters. Ever try a insert bits for engraving NOT typical V bits I think I get pretty good results down to 1/8 inch depending on the font.

-- nelson woodcrafters

View bobasaurus's profile

bobasaurus

1217 posts in 1810 days


#12 posted 644 days ago

With enough time and research, you could probably build one yourself… I’ve considered doing this someday. Or you might just be able to mount a laser head in your CNC if you determined the right focal length.

-- Allen, Colorado

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

491 posts in 666 days


#13 posted 644 days ago

Dannelson, no I haven’t tried a insert bit. Actually never heard of it. Where do you get them?

Bob, I don’t think you can attach a Laser to a CNC. Well actually I think you can attach it, but I don’t think it would work. I’ve seen a laser engraver in action and the speed the laser needs to move is way faster than what the CNC is capable of. The entire head of the CNC machine, that probably weighs 100 pounds, moves along the axis of the machine.

-- Mark Smith, Tracy, CA., http://www.markscustomwoodcrafts.com

View dannelson's profile

dannelson

140 posts in 997 days


#14 posted 643 days ago

Mark look at Amana they have a set of inserts that work well with my set up you’ll like them you just can’t cut real aggressive with them

-- nelson woodcrafters

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

491 posts in 666 days


#15 posted 643 days ago

Okay I’m looking at those. Specifically what type of bit are you ralking about? I have both a 60 degree and 45 degree V-cut bit. The 45 works great on larger letters and I switch to 60 degree for smaller letters. I’m happy with the larger letters, but the smaller letters just don’t seem to come out as nice as I’d like. They are no where near as sharp as what a laser can do.

What I’m trying to do is be able to make a variety of things. I just retired from a long law enforcement career and I have lots of contacts in the law enforcement world. Cops just love various things with law enforcement related logos and badges and those types of things. I just can’t make those kinds of things with only a CNC. In looking around I don’t see too many businesses out there using both a CNC and a Laser together. If all you have is a laser then you are generally limited to making signs and plaques and things on pre-built items you buy from a supplier. So all the plaques or signs you make are generally going to be square or round or some other standard shape. With a CNC you can make whatever shape you want, but then you’re limited as to the detail, especially fine detail that makes things really stand out. But combine the two and you make any shape of a sign or a plaque you want with the CNC and then use the laser to carve all the fine detail you want. That’s why I’m looking at both.

-- Mark Smith, Tracy, CA., http://www.markscustomwoodcrafts.com

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