August '21

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G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M 2 0 2 1 A U G U S T G R A P H I C S P R O 7 3 pability is the best and most cost-effective solution. A good, general rule to consider for any laser feature is the cost versus opportunity for additional wanted business. An addi- tional cost of a few hundred dollars doesn't require frequent use of the feature to pay for itself, especially if the learning curve to use that feature efficiently is not a high learning curve. Adding several thousand dollars is a different story. If a specific table size will allow you to ac- cept 85% to 90% or more of your oppor- tunities, that is likely the right size table for your business today. Adding a second laser in the future with a larger table can add that capability if it's apparent there is more op- portunity for its use. Having a second laser also offers other ben- efits. You can always run jobs on multiple lasers at once, even with one operator. There will also be times your first laser is down for repairs or maintenance. A second laser greatly reduces the stress caused by your laser having a bad day. Another example is a laser business that has many signage opportunities, even if it appears to be internally used signs such a small nameplates, wayfinding signs, and in- structional signage. If you advertise or market signage capabilities, there will be many larger signage opportunities and expectations of your capabilities by signage customers. A table size of 36" X 24" or 48" X 36" is more frequently used for outdoor signs or event signage. Just make sure you consider the additional skills and capabilities needed, including installing large and outdoor sig- nage. As acrylic and wood sheets can be pur- chased in sizes up to 48" X 48", larger lasers are useful. Also consider that you may need other tools such as a saw capable of cutting a 48" X 48" sheet with a straight cut. Do you have the staff or want to have staffing that will be out of your shop to install signs? How frequent will this be? Larger table sizes often come with big- ger table drops that allow you to laser taller products. This is your Z dimension. A deeper Z dimension may be your real need, and you may find that will only come with a larger table size. I had the opportunity to personalize many of the human urns in my region. This re- quired a fairly deep table drop. I also had the opportunity to work directly with the urn manufacturer and had input on the designs. With this capability and finding, I could add about another 2" of depth (height of product) by removing the table platform and using the actual bottom of my laser; I could accommodate all the urns. Check to see if you can remove the actual table from your laser and whether the bottom is usable to accommodate your products. As I had some screw threads facing up that could damage products, I built a simple thin platform from plywood that worked perfect- ly. Don't be afraid to explore some simple solutions before making a large investment. Sometimes they work great. However, I would not have hesitated to make a larger investment into an additional laser given the size of this market opportunity. You may also have other needs that co- incide with a specific laser table size. These might include a fiber laser or the combina- tion of a CO 2 and fiber laser in one machine, or a specific large-powered laser tube such as a 120-watt or even a 150-watt laser. These wattages are often needed when cutting thick materials or cutting large materials quickly. Larger tables may also provide combined fi- ber and CO 2 lasers that will work together on the same job. Cameras and registration features are also a more recent useful addition to laser ma- chines. Smaller laser tables are often paired with a single camera and larger tables with two cameras. Larger tables provide major benefits for orders that require engraving dozens or hundreds of the same product. Cameras with registration capabilities make accurate product placement easier. A large table with camera and registration is critical for the competitive edge needed for these large orders. You just may find that several of the laser features you want only come with a larger table. Most often this pairing makes per- fect business sense. If you are just starting a business and are not sure about your target market or the customer base that is available in your market, start with a 24" X 12" table with a 30- to 50-watt laser tube. A used laser from a reliable source is also a great way to start. Adding a second laser that is more in line with your newly discovered business is a great asset. It's also a great stress reliever! GP BOB HAGEL recently retired after owning Eagle's Mark Awards & Signs for 18 years in Southern California. While owning the business, he offered a full line of per- sonalized products using laser engraving, sandcarving, and full-color UV direct print on products. Today, he consults on starting and expanding personalized busi- nesses, and on improving production efficiency and quality. He can be reached at

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