View Full Version : Small business trying to pick an engraving machine

Kristy Dyer
10-28-2010, 10:29 AM
Hi, I read the engraving threads with interest. I work for a small photovoltaic company and we order plastic placards from trophy shops that look like this:


We make enough of them that we could pay for a $1600 engraving machine in about 9 months.

We don't need any fancy curved surface abilities or metals.

What is the best kind of engraver for us? Rotary or laser?

What is a very reliable brand?

- Kristy Dyer
Project Manager
Sacred Power

Dan Hintz
10-28-2010, 10:51 AM

A pic of what you're trying to make would help with appropriate suggestions. At the price point you're looking at, there is no such thing as a "reliable" brand... they will all be Chinese machines with the associated service issues should something go wrong. There are a couple of US-based companies that sell Chinese machines and offer support contracts, but for the smaller machines you're not far away in price from a US-made machine (with its 1- to 2-year warranty). I think the Epilog Zings and ULS VLS tabletop models both start in the $5k range.

Rotaries will be significantly cheaper for the same size table (about half the cost for the small size units), but there will be a difference in materials you can use as well as the capabilities.

We can offer better advice once we know what you're trying to do with it...

Michael Hunter
10-28-2010, 11:19 AM
Rowmark LaserLights* and a Laser would do the job nicely. (I do similar warning and info labels for aircraft).

If you have a large range of different non-standard labels, then doing it in house makes sense.

If, however, you only use one or two specials and the rest can be standard off-the-shelf ones, then you should think about going to a specialist label printing company.
A lifetime supply (5000) of your dual-source label should not cost more than around $200.

*LaserLights is a self-adhesive sheet about 0.1mm thick. The range of colours is now rather limited but does include red/white and yellow/black for warnings and hazards.

Richard Rumancik
10-28-2010, 12:33 PM
I agree with Michael. Especially if you want to have a label which will meet safety agency compliance requirements as does the sample. Most of us can make labels that look like this, but I don't know if anybody here can make a label compliant with UL, CSA, CE requirements etc. The safety agencies are quite particular as to materials, (both for the label iteself and what you are attaching to) to ensure permanence of the label. It makes sense, as what good is a warning label that falls off? I doubt if your current label meets safety requirements if it is being made by a trophy shop.

If you go to a label manufacturer, they can make a second-surface printed label (ie screened from the back, so ink is protected from abrasion and chemicals) made from polycarbonate or polyester with a quality pressure sensitive adhesive for a good price. If you aren't stuck on an exact size they might even have a steel rule die from another job that they could use. That would save a few hundred dollars.

Unless you were doing a lot of labels with different text I doubt that buying your own laser will save you money. You would still need to determine how to make a compliant label yourself.

Russell Ludwick
10-28-2010, 9:27 PM
Yeah typically even the lowest model Epilog Zing, ULS 2.30, or Trotec Rayjet typically start around 8k but you might be able to get a special deal or used for 5-7k. Then you also have to buy a 200 dollar exhaust sytem, buy coreldraw etc.

For 1600 your looking at a chinese laser from ebay. Im not sure anyone on this forum would recommend buying any of those.

Joe Pelonio
10-28-2010, 9:48 PM
I haven't even seen Chinese lasers for $1,600, more like double that, and probably $2,500 for an entry level Rotary. Neither laser nor rotary would meet the specs of the ones on that link, the engraving material is available in an outdoor version but does not have the UV protection.

Michael Simpson Virgina
10-28-2010, 10:02 PM
Have you looked a small table top cnc machine? you can get a small one for $2000-$3000 including software that could do the job reliablely.

I have designed and build 4 over the last couple of months and that would be a simple task. for engraving or tooling real small surfaces I use a Fordome with a diamond bit in the spindle. I can engrave all kinds of materials. For wood and plastic I use small carbide bits.

I wish I had spent the $20000 I have put into my laser into various cnc machines. lasers (American) are more plug and play than a cnc machine but there is a major limit to the size and materials they can handle.

Oh and you dont need compressed air of external exhasut. For all my cnc machines I use a Fien Dust collector and dust deputry cyclone. In many cases you dont even need this.

To be honest I am not a sign maker. I use all my tools and machines for specialty computer case design and other robotics applications. So I may be way off tracker here.