Printwear

Start Here October '18

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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77 S T A R T H E R E 2 0 1 8 time to look at the business side of laser engraving. Start by creating your own business plan. Creating a busi- ness plan is critical regardless of whether you are expanding your business services to include laser processing or starting a new business. It's actually a lot easier than you think, but check out our story on how to create one on Page 6. Having developed a few business plans, I will say the process can be an arduous task and you will be asked the hard questions you did not know to ask, questions such as what markets are you going to serve? Will you be a retail or web-based business? What is your equipment budget? How will you price your products? What is your monthly overhead? All of these questions will affect your equipment purchases and all aspects of how you set up and run your laser engraving business. Need help developing your business plan? Resources abound and many are in your local community. Start with your accountant or contact your local Small Business Administration office. The internet is also a great resource for researching and completing this important document that is the cornerstone of your business. Shop Design Your shop design is another large consideration as you develop your laser engraving business. The basics to any laser engraving shop design include a laser engraving system, laser exhaust system or air filter, computer with layout software, work bench for assembly, a stock of laser-friendly materials along with material storage racks, and a display area for completed projects and samples. The workspace should be well lit and have high-speed internet service in addition to other amenities to make it a happy and creative area. Allow at least 800 to 1,000 square feet for your laser engraving shop to be safe and productive. Laser Systems And How To Choose One The key tool in your shop is the laser system. What type should you go with? Refer back to your business plan to confirm which markets you want to go after to narrow down the choice for your laser system and what your budget FACT BOX: Estimated Cost of Entry: $15,000 to $20,000 Basic Equipment Needs: Laser engraving system (CO 2 , fiber, hybrid, etc.); air exhaust/filtration system; computer with graphic software Shop Space Required: 800 to 1,000 square feet Time Needed to Become Proficient: Approx. 4 to 6 months (building customer base, volume of jobs, becoming proficient with the software) A fiber laser has an output that can create high-contrast engraving on bare metal and certain plastic types. (Image courtesy Trotec Laser) is. Laser systems come in many sizes and types as well as several laser source types. First start with types of materials you will work with to help you find what type of laser source best fits your application. A system with a CO 2 laser source is the most flexible and least expensive. The CO 2 laser system is ideal for working with coated metals and organic materials such as wood, leather, granite, plastic, acrylic, and more. Bare, uncoated metals can be marked using a CO 2 laser system using a laser reactive coating called CerMark. The other common laser source is called a fiber laser. The fiber laser has an output that can create high-contrast engraving on bare metal and certain plastic types. While ideal for metal marking, the fiber laser is not ideal for organic materials. Be sure to check out the hybrid systems that accommodate all laser material types and are a combination of both a fiber and CO 2 lasers in one system. More choices exist when it comes to the beam delivery type for laser systems. Two types of beam delivery systems are available, and each have their strengths and weaknesses. Ideal for high-speed engraving is the galvanometer or galvo system. Typically having a small field size or work area, the galvo systems are known for quick and precise engraving. Key to the galvo system is the process of steering the laser beam using a hyper accurate motor-controlled mirror. Often limited to a work area of 8 by 8 inches or less, the galvo engraving system makes quick work A CO2 laser system is ideal for working with coated metals and organic materials such as wood, leather, granite, plastic, acrylic, and more. (Image courtesy Gravotech) (Image courtesy JDS Industries)

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