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Thread: The State of the Laser Engraving Industry in 2024

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    New York
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    1,843

    The State of the Laser Engraving Industry in 2024

    My CO2 laser has about an inch of dust on it from lack of use, so I'm thinking about selling it.


    How do you feel about the CO2 laser nowadays? Has it jumped the shark?


    With the influx of CNC's, 3D printers, fiber lasers, UV printing, stencils, and glowforges (ie. any cheap chinese laser), is there anything a CO2 laser can do that can't be done better, cheaper or faster.with one of these other processes?


    My corporate customers are investing in low cost lasers to keep the process in house. I used to do work for other sign shops and trophy shops that didn't have a laser and they now choose to steer their customers toward products that they can make themselves, so they don't have to share the profit. There are a bazillion people on Etsy with low cost lasers that are willing to work for pennies (with all the international sellers, some literally do work for pennies).

    I used to cut plywood, engrave rowmark, etch glass, mark metal with cermark, cut and engrave acrylic, cut masks to paint wood, make stamps, etc. but like I said, with these other machines, these things can be done better, cheaper or faster than with a CO2 laser.


    Even this forum is indicative of the death of CO2 lasers.......10-15 years ago there used to be a robust community on here that posted 5-10 times per day.....now I barely come on here any more.


    I've run out of ideas......so can anyone tell me what a CO2 laser can do better than a different process with a different machine? Or should I just dump this dinosaur?


    How do you feel? If your CO2 laser is running 24/7 can you share what you are making?
    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
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Hayes, Virginia
    Posts
    14,817
    My laser engraver also sees less production time these days than in the past, mostly because I am ramping down my sign business because of my age. My experience with laser engraving is that it has never produced the level of income that my CNC Router has and the laser was much more expensive in my case. What has worked for me is that I found that the two machines work extremely well together, the CNC has made laser engraving profitable for me. I am not looking forward to the day my laser leaves my shop but it is much to valuable to let it sit and collect dust.

    As you mentioned a laser engraver is capable of many tasks that it can do extremely well, in fact no other machine can duplicate many of its capabilities. The majority of the sign designs I have been using for many years depend on both machines in order to provide the highest level of quality that I have come to expect. My shop without a laser will be a different place but that is to be expected when major changes are planned. With some planning and design changes I will always be profitable with my CNC router, that's my experience so far as commercial signs are generally much larger projects than traditional laser jobs. My laser has been used mostly for drop-in additions for large signs.

  3. #3
    The newer low wattage cnc type lasers seem to be making a big splash with wood workers, particularly those who are in it for a living. As I have tired of the usual TV fare I am spending more time on youtubewatching various dyi things—mostly wood working. These people, after buying every thing that Festool has, seem to have landed on the smaller lasers as their next “gotta have” tool. Some have achieved quite good results and with that, some remarkable creativity.

    As for me, I’m still using my laser, but not everyday. As Keith said, have taken myself out of some laser business or I have handed it off to the fellow who will be taking over my business in a couple of years or sooner.

    There is still plenty of laser business to be had but I have chosen to redirect my efforts. This is not new, I’ve been on this path for years. But my laser is not for sale!
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

    Trotec Speedy 300, 80 watt
    Gravograph IS400
    Woodworking shop CLTT and Laser Sublimation
    Dye Sublimation
    CorelDraw X5, X7

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    SE South Dakota
    Posts
    1,543
    I started with a laser in 1995. In 1996 I had 3 of them as I was so busy.
    I turned in my tax license last year as I hit 70 y/o. Seemed like the thing to do as I wasn't as busy as I used to be.
    NO regrets--I used to come to this forum several times a day in the past as there was always something to learn or teach!
    Funny--there isn't near as many posts as in the past. Sometimes maybe not for several days.
    I STILL LOOK 'THO...

    Bruce
    Epilog TT 35W, 2 LMI SE225CV's
    CorelDraw 4 through 11
    CarveWright
    paper and pencils

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Peoria, IL
    Posts
    4,726
    The aging of the group will take a tole on every forum here! My first laser was a rebuilt Universal that I paid $9,000 for. Now that I'm 71, my last one was $350 so I can make things for the grandkids. I work a lot of 3mm plywood for the kids' things. It just works well and the software is easier.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Hayes, Virginia
    Posts
    14,817
    I am willing to wager that the Laser Engraving Forum archives are pretty active. There is a lot of valuable information there and plenty of pictures and files to download.
    Pictures and file sharing are important to almost everyone.

  7. #7
    In my case, I shifted my business to commercial years ago and been pleased with the results. But things change, especially after Covid, when my business was severely impacted. Most of my clients are back but a couple of big ones did not come back.
    The market changes, I used to do lots of Yeti’s, but the bloom seems to be off that rose. My plaque business is also down, as is my label business. Other things have picked up and my three largest customers have continued with no let down. Two of them have been with me for over 25 years.
    I do work other than laser cutting or engraving and that has been good..In today’s world everyone is a competitor so there are some things I don’t share here but I have enough business.

    The Etsy and Ebay markets have impacted a lot of us and will continue to do. The fact is, without them a lot more people would be struggling to make ends meet, so I don’t grouse over their success. Besides, there is a ton of creativity, particularly on Etsy. I enjoy browsing there.

    At 87 I have some physical limitations, and I have a part time helper, but I don’t have anything else to do so I’m going to keep working until I can’t.
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

    Trotec Speedy 300, 80 watt
    Gravograph IS400
    Woodworking shop CLTT and Laser Sublimation
    Dye Sublimation
    CorelDraw X5, X7

  8. #8

    lasering

    In the last three years laser projects are not doing well, possibly people don't have the extra money or the house person just does not decorate
    I used to cut musician's pictures on old lp's (exhaust through filters) house door designs , family trees, wedding engraves all these items did well
    Now 2024 zero and a lot of these cuts engraves were one of a kind
    Even selling equipment is difficult now , people do not want to pay the asking prices even though good tools are expensive and in my experience it takes one year to sell a tool for the asking price
    My laser cuts and engraves peaked at 2019
    my experiences
    Attached Images Attached Images

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    NW Arkansas
    Posts
    1,964
    Blog Entries
    1
    I jumped into this with a 80w CO2 in 2016. Did a bunch of random stuff and found I had folks asking often if I could mark on metal, Yes with Cermark, but no, etch into metal. So I added a 20w fiber in 2017. And I've since added a 50W fiber in 2020 and bought a second hand small Boss from a local couple who got tired of thin ply stuff and etsy. The 20W fiber has made me probably 55% of my profits over the year. The 80w co2 about 30% and the 50w 15% and the little Boss maybe 1% its more of a backup and I use it for rowmark mainly. Business was actually good during covid, dropped in 2022, even in 23 and so far about 10% down this year. Cup marking is way down. Numerous corporate customers are not buying and giving stuff away. Etsy is almost non existent, I don't and won't work for no true profit. And several of my long term customers disappeared. One local guy I marked his parts with his logo has a new fiber. No big deal, I made maybe $800 a year off of him, but he's not only one. I'm approaching 66, I don't owe anyone anything and I've no issue doing what I do for another 5 to 10 years, as I enjoy the one offs, but there are LOTS of cheap lasers that actually do a decent job and folks are buying them and doing their own work. And LOTS of fibers cheap. Business will most probably flatten and probably slowly drop. It's life
    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

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