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Creating a Lasting Laser Legacy

Tips for expanding into engraving services

Our company A&P Master Images has been in business for 19 years and we offer everything from graphic design, embroidery, screen printing, promotional items, uniforms, vinyl graphics, sublimation, and our latest service is 2D and 3D laser engraving. Years ago, we were always interested in engraving but back then never found the right piece of equipment at that time.

Two years ago, during COVID, my wife and I had time to do some research on the process and some of the options out there and became quickly surprised on how the technology had progressed to speed up production and the quality of the detail that could be produced. Another fun fact is the machines not only have a lot of output, but they take up very little space.

At first, we were researching the flatbed units since you can put several pieces in them and walk away, but we learned very quickly that if you wanted to get into drinkware they would or could take six to eight minutes to produce one piece, which would be too slow for us. We knew right away drinkware was already a hit for us with our clients, and we also knew we wanted this process to help us sell more items on our online stores. Another great thing about drinkware is the size of the image. It is usually no larger than a business card and takes, on average, 30 seconds to laser engrave one piece of drinkware. The other thing we paid attention to was what materials we could laser and what was the largest size design we can engrave. Our first machine two years ago was the CO2 laser and right after that we invested into a fiber laser next.

CO2 laser

With our CO2 laser, we focus on our drinkware products. Our laser came with a rotating table that can hold up to four pieces of drinkware at a time and rotates each time a piece is done to speed production up. Our CO2 laser is a 3D version, which I highly recommend. It allows you to laser engrave without losing any artwork distortion up to a certain point, which is key when dealing with curved surfaces. Our CO2 laser can engrave up to a 12″ X 12″ design and our fiber laser can engrave up to a 6″ X 6″ design.

Laser engraver
Our first machine two years ago was the CO2 laser and right after that we invested into a fiber laser next. (Image courtesy Howard Potter)

When laser engraving you will think the larger the engraving size the better, but from our experience that is not really the case. The larger the field the longer one single design can take and the goal for our company is how many pieces can we produce an hour.

When you look at a process like the laser. The math simply speaks for itself. How many processes out there can you net at least $360 an hour? From one machine you can generate up to $748,800 simply having the machine running eight hours per day, 52 weeks a year. My wife and I are very happy we made the investment for our company. It is easy to run and has a very low error rate, which allows you to keep your net profits high.

The laser engraving machines do not consume much power at all either. Both of ours run off a 30-amp breaker and sit side by side. By setting up the lasers side by side we can have one employee run items on the CO2 laser, which can take a little bit more time due to the size of the imprint and while they are waiting, they can run other items on the fiber at the same time which really boosts output and allows you to invest in your employee as well.

Running the laser engravers is more repetition work than it is back-breaking work, which is the great part about the process. It is very easy to do and rewarding for the owner and employees all at the same time. From a customer standpoint with this process, we have really been able to expand the in-house line of products that we offer, which is very important to our company. The more items we can offer, the more we keep the customer coming back in the door, and the more we can offer online for customers with one-piece orders.

Engraving as marketing

Many do not consider laser engravers a great marketing piece of equipment. What do I mean by that? Our company knew out the gate we did not have many customers at all with our new laser equipment, but the important piece was to get everyone’s attention. How do you do that? Simple! One way is to always have extra blanks on site and when you have an existing customer that is great to work with, take five minutes and laser a tumbler in front of them and let them know they can take pics and video of it running their logo. They will post it all over social media and tag you and it costs you under $10 to do so. Another way we market this is by us personally taking pictures and video of the machine running and posting on all social media platforms.

Few people know anything about any customization process. So, let them have a sneak peek and get them excited about how their products are made with your equipment.

As a business owner myself, I really wanted you to get a full view of what you are investing in for a process. It is a process that can really help you out financially, takes very little space, but like any process you must be committed to learning it, maintaining it, and growing it.

Examples

  • Travel mugs: Take an average of 30 seconds to run one, which equals 120 units completed in an hour. 180 X minimum $3 net profit = $540 net in an hour
  • Keychains or leather patches: Take an average of 20 seconds to run one, which equals 180 units completed per hour. 180 X minimum $2 net profit = $360 net in an hour
  • Pens: Take an average of 10 seconds or less to run one, which equals 360 units per hour. 360 X minimum $1 net profit = $360 net in an hour
Howard Potter

Howard Potter

Howard Potter is the author of the Making Shop Moves column for GRAPHICS PRO. He has 17+ years of experience in the promotional products industry, from designing to building brands and a family-owned business. He's the co-owner and CEO of A&P Master Images, along with his wife, Amanda Potter. Their company offers graphic design, screen printing, embroidery, sublimation, vinyl graphics, and promotional items. www.masteryourimage.com www.facebook.com/MasterYourImage

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