Start Here October '20

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21 that determination. THE LASER'S FEATURES Some laser shops work with a lot of metal products. You may use a metal- marking chemical to apply a permanent mark, or you might have customer that wants to mark the metal directly. Two tools, a CO 2 laser and a rotary engraver, may be the best solution. However, you may want to purchase a laser that has both CO 2 and fiber lasers to etch acrylic, wood, and mark metal with the CO 2 while directly lasering metal with the fiber laser. This example brings us to your first task, which is understanding how your laser will be used. What is your pres- ent or anticipated customer base? If you are just opening up a shop, you may not know who your customers will be. Talk to laser shops that are already in your area to find out what their market niches are. Do they work primarily with sports leagues, providing dozens or hundreds of trophies at season's end? They may be a shop that focuses on tool marking. There are gift shops per- sonalizing products or general engrav- ing shops that work on almost anything someone brings through the door. Corporate awards, sign shops, and many more niches are possible. Your niche will guide you in selecting the right laser technologies, power (wattage), table size, accessories, and specific features that will serve you best. If after all this you still have no idea who or what you will focus on, I suggest you buy a used CO 2 laser with a 30- to 50-watt tube. A 12-by-24-inch table size will serve you well until you discover the niches you want to focus on. Should you select a niche requiring a different laser or simply decide you want a new laser, keep the used laser as a backup or second laser to improve productivity during busy times or for large jobs. My laser filtering system is powerful, quiet, and does not require outside exhaust pipes. S T A R T H E R E 2 0 2 0 Custom-made storage for flat stock and cut pieces. It's wise to keep these items located near your laser. (All images courtesy Bob Hagel)

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