Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Glowforge Effect?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    1,814

    Glowforge Effect?

    I thought 2020 was bad, but 2021 seems to be turning out worse for me. Sales have tanked this year and I'm trying to figure out why and if they will ever return.

    I'm thinking that the price of a laser has gotten so low over the past 5 years that customers are either buying their own lasers or the prices for laser engraved/cut items have hit rock bottom because the number of people offering this service has exploded exponentially. Additionally, I think the demand for laser engraved items has decreased due to the large increase in CNC, 3D printed items and more colorful dye sub options.

    I'm not even sure anymore that what a laser can do, some other process can't do better, faster and cheaper. Would you prefer a picture burned into wood or a 3D contoured image carved into wood by a CNC? A logo etched lightly onto a glass or a full color logo printed on the glass? A cermarked serial number on a piece of stainless for $7 each or a durable UV print on stainless for $0.50 each? Engraved rowmark tags for $3 each or UV printed rowmark tags for $0.25 each?

    I think whoever is doing the advertising and marketing for Glowforge should get a raise.....I see those ads EVERYWHERE and regardless what you think of the quality of the machine, they must be selling thousands. And the thousands of people buying these machines are flooding the market with laser engraved items like never before.

    And competing with China is getting worse. A customer can either spend $100 and get an item engraved in the USA within a week.....or if they can wait 4 weeks, they can get it for $10 from China or India or one of the hundreds of other countries where people have lasers and are willing to work for pennies an hour.

    And if you come up with a creative, innovative and even mildly popular idea or product......within a very short time others will be making and selling it cheaper than you. If you don't believe me.....send me a picture of your unique and creative item.

    But even look at this forum......10 years ago I would come here daily and there would be 5-10 new posts a day.....now there are 5-10 new posts a week, if that.

    So I think the laser engraving and cutting industry is dying a very fast death.....if you agree or disagree with me, please chime in.

    But I think I'm going to put my laser in mothballs and go work as a Walmart greeter or at an Amazon warehouse.
    Epilog Mini 24 - 45 Watt, Corel Draw X5, Wacom Intuos Tablet, Unengraved HP Laptop, with many more toys to come.....





    If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have one idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas... George B. Shaw

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Medina Ohio
    Posts
    4,141
    What I don't get is the problems that people have with the Glowforge. Same thing over and over again. And they complain about how slow they are.

  3. #3
    Well, in contrast to your woes, I'm so damn busy I have no clue how to keep up with all the work... Note that I've been involved in the engraving business since the 1960's. Dad started with one pantograph in 1966, was pretty much a hobby until the early 1970's, when computers started coming into their own. Suddenly there was a dearth of 'necessary' computer keycap buttons, of all things, as computer engineers kept figuring out new things to make computers do. Problem, they needed computer buttons to tell the computer what to do--solution, buy blank keycaps and have someone engrave them! But who-? Most of my dad's old coworkers from Litton were now in the computer designing business, and they knew he had his own machine. I remember going to Sperry Univac with him one day, one of his friends gave him a handful of keycaps and asked if he could engrave and paint them? Within a year we had to buy several new pantographs as word spread. Me and my 2 brothers-in-law even had our own machines at home just to keep up. Dad bought a big Gorton machine just to make masters for all the new button texts. In 1981 computer controlled engraving machines came to be, and that led to the eventual disappearance of our pantographs. Enter Bill Gates and Windows, and suddenly "applications" and F-keys completely eliminated the need for special buttons. Kablooie went that cash cow, and it got bad for a couple of years. But soon I was learning how to engrave metals, and the CNC engravers made easy work of Rowmark signage. More of dads old work buddies, and the extended business branches created by them, let to more 'can you do this?' phone calls, and the short version is, while the work has slowed at times, it's never stopped coming in. Got into lasers right after Y2K, and a whole new world opened up. Right now virtually every company in this area with "Electric" in their company name is our customer. And until 5 years ago when Google took it upon themselves (I didn't ask!) to create a business listing for us, we had never advertised. Right now I have no website. It's funny when web designers call ..

    Back to 'I'm so damn busy'-- In addition to my normal workload, which DID let up somewhat last year but has come back in spades, I've picked up a few new customers who needed a new engraving shop, due to losing their old one to Covid. And, I'm suddenly flooded with mass-production orders. 3 of them at them moment; one is a 10,000 part order, and this is one of other similar parts-- another is one of my 'Electric' companies, a job they started last January and had to stop, they needed done in less than 2 weeks, 4300 brass wire-tags. I got them done in less than a week, including procuring that many blank tags! (can't say enough about McMaster!) More coming in lots of 1200-ish once they get these hung. Third job, customer manufactures firearms, and they have a $40,000 fiber laser, that keeps breaking down. Costs them thousands to repair even under warranty (airfare and lodging for the mechanics aren't covered, nor is new hardware upgrades needed to do the repairs- sound fair? ) -- They came to me to cover their shortages during 2 breakdowns, they like my work enough I got the whole job now...

    SO THEN-- you'll notice my work is primarily industrial related, not awards or trophies, not jewelry, not personalizing items. I CAN do those jobs, but frankly, they're time-sucking jobs that just take away from my good-money jobs. Almost all of my customers are other businesses, and about 80% of my work involves "providing a service", whereas 20% involves "manufacturing" something, Rowmark tags and SS ID tags notwithstanding... My biggest customer is (arguably) the world's largest ski-lift manufacturer, and for the past 12 years I've made-from-scratch every operator panel they've installed in every lift setup they've built and installed (or upgraded) in North America. (They've been my customer since the '70's, I got the panel building job because (a) I knew what a PEM stud was, and (b) because I'd figured out I can cut holes in aluminum with my engraving machines, and told them so-- ) Not much else do I 'manufacture'. I engrave a LOT of 'other peoples parts'. Which is always risky and involves lots of white knuckles sometimes. Only one time ever did I try to market a stand-alone product, which was pet headstones. I literally could not give them away for free, and I tried! At least it was a cheap failure, cost me 3 granite floor tiles ...

    YES I agree there's lots of lasers now, which is likely diluting the customer base pool. Right now I have 4 C02 lasers, which are not nearly as busy now as 5 years ago, and 3 fiber lasers, which I have jobs stacked up waiting for jobs in front of them to get finished. I'm debating on buying a 4th fiber right now. And note, my 'gun guy' isn't my only customer that can do their own engraving, at least 6 of my customers use my services rather than do the work themselves...

    I'm sure all this doesn't help much, but I do have a different perspective about the engraving business. It's been very good to me...
    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE- make that FOUR now - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


  4. #4
    Much like Kevin, my business has shifted to nearly 100% commercial. That was deliberate. I am home based and don't want people coming to my home. But it has been successful. Yes, I took a big hit in 2020 and early this year but I still did ok. Right now I am referring new business to a friend of mine who has just started an engraving business. (he's doing well)

    When I began nearly 25 years ago my only piece of equipment was a laser engraver. Over the years my business has shifted to the point that my other processes account for more volume than the laser.

    But, like Kevin, there is no shortage of business, and if I wanted to be more aggressive, there is business to be had.

    I haven't lowered any prices and, in fact, have raised some and will be raising more. Further, to support Kevin's position, I have always considered mine to be a service business.

    Maybe you should have a look at your marketing strategy.
    Last edited by Mike Null; 06-22-2021 at 7:56 PM.
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

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

  5. #5
    I never was a business per say, its always been just a fun hobby for me were I could make a few bucks here and there. I have a few things on ebay and last year I did ok sold 3 or 4 items a week. this year maybe one a month. No big deal for me but yes I see the drop off. Could be just the economy and fall out from covid. I don't see a lot of people selling what I sell so I don't know LOL
    If the Help and advice you received here was of any VALUE to you PLEASE! Become a Contributor
    Rabbit RL_XX_6040-60 watt Laser engraving/cutting machine Oh wait its a 3D Printer my bad LOL
    Lasercut 5.3
    CorelDraw X5

    10" Miter Saw with slide
    10" Table Saw
    8" bench mount 5 speed Drill Press
    Dremel, 3x21 Belt Sander


  6. #6
    The forum died right when it required a pay membership for fairly basic functions. No one browsing an internet forum looking for an answer or information wants to pay money when they can theoretically get it free from someone else.

    As far as business, it's 100% based on your clients and what you offer them. There have been sectors that have been absolutely booming and then there are other sectors which have been absolutely awful.

    Regarding Glowforge, it seems to be primarily targeted to Makers, who I never worked with and when I tried, were a complete PIA. If you're offering Etsy type products, it's a wild market. Generally speaking "artists" do not value their time.

    Big picture, people want price and they want service. Quality doesn't really mean much anymore from my experience. It just can't be awful. Okay is the same as good. They're valued the same by I'd say 90% of the population. The customers accept them as the same. I'd also say design is more important than putting out a nice quality product. You can have a great design and run it at 200dpi and have the engraving look pretty poor and the customer will like it more than a more average design that's engraved at 500dpi and looks pristine.

    Price is also a huge driving factor. People naturally just want it as cheap as possible. Not everyone, but most people. There's a local shop that doesn't deliver on time and is pretty inconsistent, but people continue to go there because he's 20-30% lower in price than me. The owner is a real nice older guy. People just accept it. Now don't get me wrong, he loses customers because of it, but because he's nice and cheap, he still has a loyal customer base. What I've also found is even if you offer a service for half price or even free, people still demand A+ customer service. $15 order? A+ customer service. Especially if you're a small shop. Walmart and their billions can provide awful customer service, but a small shop of 2-3 people need to offer A+ service.

    Frankly, I'm pretty done with the industry. The fact I'm held to a higher standard than a multi billion dollar company that pays slave wages has worn me down to the point where I'm ready to move on. Not only that, but people refuse to accept the realities of a post-Covid world where plywood is $60/sheet and you can't get computer chips so hundreds of thousands of cars are sitting 99% assembled. I also have people who don't want to give me money for jobs up front because they haven't seen what it will look like first or want me to wait for a check, but likely spend thousands of dollars every year buying online from companies that have been in business less time than we have, buying products they've never seen before.
    Equipment: IS400, IS6000, VLS 6.60, LS100, HP4550, Ricoh GX e3300n, Hotronix STX20
    Software: Adobe Suite & Gravostyle 5
    Business: Trophy, Awards and Engraving

  7. #7

    seriously

    I had a customer email me this morning, says hes on a budget , want to know what I'll charge him to make an item I sell for $22 but he wants it bigger and to change the design slightly . I told him normally the price would be $ 26 for the larger item and design change but because he was on a budget I'd only charge him the original $22. I'm practically giving my stuff away at these prices, I have about $6 in materials and 3 hours of manual labor plus 6 mins of laser time and the guy says can I do better, NO!
    Like the other guy said here people don't care about quality they just want cheap. Personally I don't care if I ever sell another because I won't drop my price anymore. I'm thinking of raising my price's buy 50 to 100 percent get what there worth
    If the Help and advice you received here was of any VALUE to you PLEASE! Become a Contributor
    Rabbit RL_XX_6040-60 watt Laser engraving/cutting machine Oh wait its a 3D Printer my bad LOL
    Lasercut 5.3
    CorelDraw X5

    10" Miter Saw with slide
    10" Table Saw
    8" bench mount 5 speed Drill Press
    Dremel, 3x21 Belt Sander


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    NW Arkansas
    Posts
    1,792
    Blog Entries
    1
    Well, I'm a youngster as compared to the guys above, I bought first laser a big honking co2 that I imported back at the end of 2016. First Fiber in March 2017 was added as I found that there was business missing around me. I am home based, have looked a couple of times at going to one of the three towns around me, but I've backed out and stayed home based. I can work when and however long I want. Slowly built up a decent side business in 2017 and 2018, did rather well in 2019 and for a while in 2020 things were popping. Covid slowed a lot of retail down to zero, but that isn't a bad thing. I've gotten to the point that a $20 is about as cheap as I go for a one off item, (I did a dog collar tag for $10 today, but rarely that cheap). Want something on a yeti? $20. Want a ring engraved, $30 to 40 for simple text. Go UP on the retail items... I sell several items on etsy. Sales are ZERO for about half the items that I sold a goodly number back in 2019 into early 2020. Some items are half down, some doing well.

    I'd rather not and HAVE turned down some business that is either not profitable, or that I don't want to do.

    But I've moved so much over to industrial engraving. Local conveyor company needed a bunch of large ID plates engraved. Looked like a single order, I've done three now just as large as the first.
    I'm running acrylic roofing material now for another customer, will keep the CO2 running about 50 hours at REALLY good rate ($160 an hour and zero material). And it should be an annual repeat (I hope).
    A few cups every now and then. I've bumped up price a couple of dollars where I can and I've gotten two jobs from another local guy that can't seem to do cups with handles or anything difficult. (new business late 2020) But I don't advertise, all word of mouth or internet search. And I'm not depending on this for my livelyhood.

    Got to do quality work, and yes, go up rather than down in price.
    I had a guy last year want me to engrave PC cups for $2.35 a cup with his logo. I laughed at him and told him directly I wouldn't turn my machine on for that and to go wherever he was quoted that price. You sometimes have to just turn down jobs that won't pay.
    Woodworking, Old Tools and Shooting
    Ray Fine RF-1390 Laser Ray Fine 20watt Fiber Laser
    SFX 50 Watt Fiber Laser
    PM2000, Delta BS, Delta sander, Powermatic 50 jointer,
    Powermatic 100-12 planer, Rockwell 15-126 radial drill press
    Rockwell 46-450 lathe, and 2 Walker Turner RA1100 radial saws
    Jet JWS18, bandsaw Carbide Create CNC, RIA 22TCM 1911s and others

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    NW Arkansas
    Posts
    1,792
    Blog Entries
    1
    Just added up my sales through June. I'm up over last year's total sales by about 20%. Not making 6 figures, but pretty dang good for a semi retired one man operation. My dang credit card processor flagged my last sale as it was over $5k, and kicked me over my monthly processing. I hate taking CCs, but more and more companies want to use them. Just have to insure I add just a bit to the ones that I know or expect will be CC processed to cover the fees or at least some of them. It is a nice place to be.
    Woodworking, Old Tools and Shooting
    Ray Fine RF-1390 Laser Ray Fine 20watt Fiber Laser
    SFX 50 Watt Fiber Laser
    PM2000, Delta BS, Delta sander, Powermatic 50 jointer,
    Powermatic 100-12 planer, Rockwell 15-126 radial drill press
    Rockwell 46-450 lathe, and 2 Walker Turner RA1100 radial saws
    Jet JWS18, bandsaw Carbide Create CNC, RIA 22TCM 1911s and others

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •