Sign & Digital Graphics

Start Here October '19

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62 S T A R T H E R E 2 0 1 9 Laser Engraving tion about lasers," he elaborates. On top of that, he recommends attending trade shows, which feature equipment demos, hands-on learning, and a variety of classes where you can hone your skills. And don't forget about manufacturer open houses, webinars, and other events. Using the Machine Now it's time to talk about the fun part: the actual process of laser engrav- ing. Whether decorating a trophy, embel- lishing apparel, or personalizing signage, the laser is capable of just about anything. "I would start with the basics and simple designs to get the hang of the laser machine, perhaps using an existing design," suggests McGee. "Then move on to more complicated projects. Do a few practice applications using lower- cost or scrap materials." When it comes to specific substrates, Voigt has a few thoughts for those new to the technology. "Engraving into wood, acrylics, and metals is probably one of the easier tasks to learn," he says. But don't limit yourself as you gain experience. For example, using the laser for cutting can also be easy to learn. "The difficult part about learning anything on a laser system is your settings for the material you are using for each specific material," Voigt notes. "Find your percentage of power and your cut speed for a variety of materi- als, write them down, save them, and then you have a reference point for any new materials that come into your business." "The business was founded in March of 2017, and we purchased our 40-watt CO 2 laser in September of 2017. Purchasing a laser was absolutely a no brainer for us—it opened the door for us to expand into many differ- ent markets. In addition, it allowed us to expand our product availability to include new substrates such as wood, metals, acrylics, etc. There are two challenges for us that immediately come to mind. The first is learning the programs needed to efficiently use the laser equipment. We chose to use CorelDRAW. It is a great program, but it can be over- whelming if you don't know what you're doing. The second challenge is… that we, along with many other new laser owners, must understand that owning a laser does nothing for you or your business without hard work. It was easy to understand and use the laser from the day we received it. The bulk of learning came in the design software needed to send infor- mation to the laser. It did, however, take us quite a while to become com- fortable with using it simply because it was our first real machinery pur- chase. We did two things to further our understanding of the unit. First, if we ever had any questions or concerns, we often would call technical support. On the design side of things, we referred to YouTube CorelDRAW mastermind Doug Green's tutorial videos for helpful tips and tricks. The only drawback as a small business owner is the initial cost of the machine. We knew it would be worth the investment for the future of our company and it most definitely has been. The best advice we could offer is to engrave anything you can get your hands on. We found out quickly what worked and what didn't just by experimenting. These experiments in turn allowed us to give our potential customers and clients a more pre- cise idea of what they could expect from our shop. Another huge piece of advice we would offer is to hold yourself to a higher standard than your competitors and to take pride in your work. Our final offer of advice is to always consider that what you like as a business owner is not necessarily what your potential customers and clients will like." 3C Etching; owners Chase and Corissa Casterline RETAILER CASE STUDY Laser machines are capable of embellishing anything from stainless steel to leather products (keep in mind that settings differ for various substrates and coatings such as CerMark are needed with metals). (Image courtesy Epilog Laser) 10 Substrates for Laser Application BY KIRSTIN SCOTT, UNIVERSAL LASER SYSTEMS Acrylic Aluminum Wood Cork Denim Felt Glass Leather/Leatherette Stainless Steel Stone

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