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Thread: Industrial Engraving... Worthwhile?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
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    Industrial Engraving... Worthwhile?

    Always wanted to start with this.....

    Not for me, asking for a friend!

    I know someone, retired, who has recently gotten a bug to get into industrial engraving, having had work done for various boats and equipment over the years. He and I have been discussing the topic and have come to a few conclusions so far.

    1) Pricing is low, or at least it is low when you go looking for it online.
    2) Service levels are expected to be quite high, 1-2 day turn around (plus shipping) seems normal. Not sure if that is again a bias based on what is advertised versus a silent majority.
    3) Rotary Machines are the way to go. Trotec's maybe, but certainly versus a chinese laser (like I have for cutting acrylic mostly).

    There is an old thread here with another member who was getting into industrial tags, and the dollars she mentioned didn't seem too exciting compared to what a full time business with overhead, etc....ie what I run normally, would need. It might be OK for part time work from home but even then, not sure. I know in our business, any job has a minimum time it takes to cut, finish, invoice and possibly ship the finished part, but some of the sites online (small outfits) have a $2 approx and 1 tag minimum and $4 shipping.

    Now, if that's just because the orders are normally larger and they get so few small orders, I get that, but if you need to run 100 different tags at $3 each....that seems (to me, again, not in the business) like it might take a while and that's still only $300 in revenue......and much worse if those 100 tags start getting split between multiple customers / materials / colors / sizes / or job sites.

    So, before it's too late, am I missing something? Is industrial engraving a niche that might be worthwhile on it's own (not as an incremental add on) as a business or is it closer to just "self-employed" earnings? I know the margins on revenue versus materials are great, but I still can't see it without pricing the operator labor dirt cheap or unless volume and average sale is a lot higher than I would think.
    80 watt RECI 1290 Shenhui laser.
    Chinese Quick CNC 5x10 toolchange
    Unofficial record holder of 6 tubes shipped for one machine. 2 defective and 4 broken. Recommend Coletech for replacement tube!

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    You have to ask a fundemental question as a start up.. why would a customer use you?
    Rodney Gold, Toker Bros trophies, Cape Town , South Africa :
    Roland 2300 rotary . 3 x ISEL's ..1m x 500mm CnC .
    Tekcel 1200x2400 router , 900 x 600 60w Shenui laser , 1200 x 800 80w Reci tube Shenhui Laser
    6 x longtai lasers 400x600 60w , 1 x longtai 20w fiber
    2x Gravo manual engravers , Roland 540 large format printer/cutter. CLTT setup
    1600mm hot and cold laminator , 3x Dopag resin dispensers , sandblasting setup, acid etcher

  3. #3
    Very good point, Rodney...

    and question 2 is do you want to invest a small fortune, in order to be able to undercut others and make very little return on the investment, or why are you wanting to get into business, if not for a reasonable profit and the hope to be able to retire one day...?

    P.S. Greg, when you say 'industrial engraving', I'm assuming you mean stuff that is supposed to last? The substrates with greater longevity are not the cheapy ones that fade or go brittle in the sun. If tackling any industrial market, quality & service must be of greater importance than low price... $2 a piece sounds rather like craft market junk...
    Last edited by Ian Stewart-Koster; 11-10-2017 at 7:39 AM. Reason: typo.
    Best wishes,
    Ian



    ULS M-300, 55w made 2002 with rotary. Goldenlaser 130 watt, 1300x700 made 2011.
    Flat bed 2500x1300 150/90watt 2 tube laser, 2018 model.
    Esab router, 1989, 4.5 x 2.0 m, conv. to Tekcel, and modded a 2nd time.
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  4. #4
    I don't agree with your comment that a Rotary machine is the way to go. In your example, you site 300 different tags. On a Rotary, the bit would have to engrave every tag, so you aren't getting much economy with motion. However, with the laser, you do get improvements. It might take 1 minute to run 1 tag, but it might take 2 minutes to run 10 tags. Speed and power are certainly your friend when it comes to quantity.

    There are many differences in retail and industrial, and they vary from location to location, but in general, industrial aren't as price sensitive as retail. We don't try to compete with online companies. Going on my 11th year here and not once has one industrial customer told me they could get something online cheaper. In general, if you are the type of customer that is going to go online to get your tags, then we probably won't be a good fit for each other. I'm not fighting to get the lowest possible price. We give a fair price for the work we do.
    Lasers : Trotec Speedy 300 75W, Trotec Speedy 300 80W, Galvo Fiber Laser 20W
    Printers : Mimaki UJF-6042 UV Flatbed Printer , HP Designjet L26500 61" Wide Format Latex Printer, Summa S140-T 48" Vinyl Plotter
    Router : ShopBot 48" x 96" CNC Router Rotary Engravers : (2) Xenetech XOT 16 x 25 Rotary Engravers

    Real name Steve but that name was taken on the forum. Used Middle name. Call me Steve or Scott, doesn't matter.

  5. #5
    I think you're about as far off target as you can get. Read Steve's comments again.
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

    Trotec Speedy 300, 80 watt
    Gravograph IS400
    Woodworking shop CLTT and Laser Sublimation
    Evolis Card Printer
    CorelDraw X5

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Location
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    Like Ian has stated, you will need to spend a small fortune if you plan on targeting Industrial, Commercial Customers right out of the gates. Remember a Cnc operator can operate several machines at one time, this allows reduced pricing but high cost to acquire the machines. Large companies enjoy this benefit, you being a start up will have to find a way to offset this cost savings so you can offer better pricing, Maybe you buy new high end equipment that is the fastest in the industry. You have to find something that will make your business special, it could be speed or maybe you offer 10 different services under one roof. If your targeting business you will most likely need a Commercial space, a customer with a $50k Contract doesn't want to see the product being engraved in your home garage. Its possible and many of us have had success but its not easy, dont be afraid of 60 - 80 hour weeks, 40 hours is a thing of the past :-)
    3X Camfive 1200 48" x 24" 100watt Tube
    Zcorp 450 3d Printer
    Laguna Smartshop 2 - 4x8 ATC

  7. #7
    60 - 80 hour weeks, 40 hours is a thing of the past
    Absolutely!
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

    Trotec Speedy 300, 80 watt
    Gravograph IS400
    Woodworking shop CLTT and Laser Sublimation
    Evolis Card Printer
    CorelDraw X5

  8. #8
    80 hours? Slacker!
    Lasers : Trotec Speedy 300 75W, Trotec Speedy 300 80W, Galvo Fiber Laser 20W
    Printers : Mimaki UJF-6042 UV Flatbed Printer , HP Designjet L26500 61" Wide Format Latex Printer, Summa S140-T 48" Vinyl Plotter
    Router : ShopBot 48" x 96" CNC Router Rotary Engravers : (2) Xenetech XOT 16 x 25 Rotary Engravers

    Real name Steve but that name was taken on the forum. Used Middle name. Call me Steve or Scott, doesn't matter.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Cape Town, South Africa
    Posts
    3,922
    Buy a $5000 desk/benchtop 30w fiber laser .. a cheap way into industrial engraving .. suck it and see.. you wont lose the farm
    Rodney Gold, Toker Bros trophies, Cape Town , South Africa :
    Roland 2300 rotary . 3 x ISEL's ..1m x 500mm CnC .
    Tekcel 1200x2400 router , 900 x 600 60w Shenui laser , 1200 x 800 80w Reci tube Shenhui Laser
    6 x longtai lasers 400x600 60w , 1 x longtai 20w fiber
    2x Gravo manual engravers , Roland 540 large format printer/cutter. CLTT setup
    1600mm hot and cold laminator , 3x Dopag resin dispensers , sandblasting setup, acid etcher

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Vancouver BC
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Null View Post
    I think you're about as far off target as you can get. Read Steve's comments again.
    Sorry, which comments are those? I don't see any Steve on the thread....Very willing to read any comments that might enlighten me!
    80 watt RECI 1290 Shenhui laser.
    Chinese Quick CNC 5x10 toolchange
    Unofficial record holder of 6 tubes shipped for one machine. 2 defective and 4 broken. Recommend Coletech for replacement tube!

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Location
    Vancouver BC
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    Hi Scott,
    I don't agree with your comment that a Rotary machine is the way to go. In your example, you site 300 different tags. On a Rotary, the bit would have to engrave every tag, so you aren't getting much economy with motion. However, with the laser, you do get improvements. It might take 1 minute to run 1 tag, but it might take 2 minutes to run 10 tags. Speed and power are certainly your friend when it comes to quantity.
    My comments on Rotary is based on the depth of the engraving (and even the top layer is thicker for non-laser material, is it not?) versus laser and the poor results I have ever had in messing about with my 80 watt Chinese laser.....but engraving proper engraving material has never been it's main use. I do one job for a magic products inventor and that's it, and it takes forever....so much so that I am thinking about moving that to my CNC next time. And, if a trotec is twice as fast, I think it's still slow. However, if a trotec and more experience would make it 5x faster, yeah, then I start to see laser as a clear winner.

    I admit I don't have the right laser to compare to a rotary, but most of the industrial (think electrical equipment information tags by what I mean) I see seems to be of a style that a rotary would make.....hard to tell if that is *actually* how it's made sometimes. I also have zero familiarity with fiber as per Rodne's suggestion. What I see in youtube of Rotary versus *my* laser, rotary seemed better, deeper, and perhaps more versatile for industrial engraving uses like metal with paint.

    Thanks for the comments on your business versus online....that is helpful as research is easy online but isn't always the best places to base a plan on.
    Last edited by Greg Facer; 11-10-2017 at 2:29 PM.
    80 watt RECI 1290 Shenhui laser.
    Chinese Quick CNC 5x10 toolchange
    Unofficial record holder of 6 tubes shipped for one machine. 2 defective and 4 broken. Recommend Coletech for replacement tube!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Vancouver BC
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    Hi Rodne,

    Does fiber work with plastic engraving materials? My friend hadn't mentioned fiber once and I am not too familar either. A quick look at youtube shows it's good for metal though!

    Thanks, Greg
    80 watt RECI 1290 Shenhui laser.
    Chinese Quick CNC 5x10 toolchange
    Unofficial record holder of 6 tubes shipped for one machine. 2 defective and 4 broken. Recommend Coletech for replacement tube!

  13. #13
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    Cincinnati, Ohio
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    If you are talking Fiber lasers, a Gantry style Fiber just won't do. I do find use for mine, but the Galvo, that puppy stays really busy. Advertising is generally a waste of money. Going door to door is a waste of time. If you are any good, they WILL find YOU. Price... don't even think about undercutting another engraver, cost isn't much of a factor for most of my commercial/industrial clients.
    Tim
    There are Big Brain people & Small Brain people. I'm one of the Big Brains - with a lot of empty space.- me
    50W Fiber - Raycus/MaxPhotonics - It's a metal eating beast!
    Epilog Fusion M2 50/30 Co2/Fiber - 2015
    Epilog Mini 24 35watt - 2006 (Original Tube)
    Ricoh SG3110DN
    - Liberty Laser LLC

  14. #14
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    To Rodne,
    You have to ask a fundemental question as a start up.. why would a customer use you?
    My Friend has no idea. It's hard to know as these are "sitting on the fence" discussions. We don't know the market personally and we don't know who the actual competition would be. He can buy some equipment, he has business experience and I don't doubt he can differentiate himself just fine...but he is trying to decide if this niche that has caught he interest is a worthwhile pursuit. A lot of these "hypothetical" discussions come down to average order size in terms of price. Obviously, pricing can be adjusted for smaller orders, but he's not too keen (to start) if the majority of business is small orders. He's also very specific that he wants to pursue if this can be a "business", ie worthwhile if run by an employee in the long term, not something that only makes financial sense as a 1 man show.

    He would not likely be looking at undercutting anyone (as per Ian's comments) but knowing what is out there is important, to a point.
    The comments of Mike and Scott about 80 hour plus work weeks....well, let me just say that I hope they make a lot of money for those hours!
    Last edited by Greg Facer; 11-10-2017 at 2:28 PM.
    80 watt RECI 1290 Shenhui laser.
    Chinese Quick CNC 5x10 toolchange
    Unofficial record holder of 6 tubes shipped for one machine. 2 defective and 4 broken. Recommend Coletech for replacement tube!

  15. #15
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    Location
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Bateson View Post
    If you are talking Fiber lasers, a Gantry style Fiber just won't do. I do find use for mine, but the Galvo, that puppy stays really busy. Advertising is generally a waste of money. Going door to door is a waste of time. If you are any good, they WILL find YOU. Price... don't even think about undercutting another engraver, cost isn't much of a factor for most of my commercial/industrial clients.
    I have forwarded some youtube videos of those machines for him to look at.
    80 watt RECI 1290 Shenhui laser.
    Chinese Quick CNC 5x10 toolchange
    Unofficial record holder of 6 tubes shipped for one machine. 2 defective and 4 broken. Recommend Coletech for replacement tube!

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