Looking for laser engraving business ideas? Read our guide to find out unique things that you can do with your CNC laser engraver.
Modern laser cutting machines have great potential for business. CNC laser machines such as the Inventables X-Carve 1000 allow you to apply images to a variety of materials: from fabrics to metals. Some more powerful CNC machines can also be used for cutting plywood, metals and plastics.
Read our article to find out business ideas you can start with a CNC laser engraving machine.
What is a CNC Laser Machine?
A CNC laser machine is a machine that can automatically process various materials, including wood, plastic, metal, fabric, leather, etc.) with a laser beam.
The principle of operation of the machine (for example, the Carbide 3D Shapeoko 4 XL CNC) is to convert energy of a high-power laser light beam into thermal energy. The resulting energy can remove the surface layer of different material. For example, it can cut or burn through a sheet of plywood, metal (fiber optic CNC machines) and other materials.
Laser machines have exceptional accuracy, which is achieved thanks to the small diameter of the laser beam spot and the precise positioning of the cutting or engraving lines.
Laser engraving is a method of processing various surfaces with a laser beam. Through laser engraving. you can create images of almost any complexity. When engraving, the laser machine provides high precision, which is not guaranteed by a milling machine or any other CNC machine.
With the capability of even processing hard metals, a laser machine is the optimal tool for creating a business.
Types of Laser Engraving
There are two main types of laser engraving:
- Vector – Here, the drawing is formed from lines;
- Raster – Here, the drawing is formed from dots of different shades, like is the case with digital photography.
Advantages of Laser Engraving
Laser engraving has various advantages over alternative methods of processing materials. These include:
- Non-contact application. This prevents deformation of untreated areas of the material. As a result, laser engraving can be used on fabrics and leather
- High degree of automation
- High image detail
- Fast processing speed
- Resistance of images to physical impact
- After the engraving has been done, additional processing of the product is not required.
Cons of Laser Engraving
It is important to observe safety precautions when working with a laser engraving machine. For example, you should not leave the machine in operation without supervision to prevent fire hazards. This means that an operator needs to watch the machine all the time when some work is being done.
What to Do With a Laser Engraver
With a good laser engraver, you can accomplish various tasks, some of which you can turn into business. Here are some of the things you can accomplish with a laser engraver:
Laser engraving is a popular service for making souvenirs and merchandise. With this material processing method, you can quickly create unique items and reproduce them fast. This is why laser engraving is usually used for personalizing gifts and branding souvenirs or branded products.
The images formed by a laser beam can withstand corrosive environments and mechanical abrasion, provided that the material used can withstand the aggressive effects.
A CNC laser machine can reproduce complex photographs with high accuracy on various materials. FOr example, the machines can be used to create decorative images on items such as:
- Watches, lighters, cigarette cases, fountain pens
- Wallets and other leather accessories
- Various decorative items
- Plates, signs, seals and stamps
- And many more
Here’s a video showing how to laser engrave photos on plywood:
A laser engraver is also convenient to work with thanks to its ability to apply images to cylindrical and more complex objects. To do this, you have to install a special rotary mechanism on the machine. The rotary mechanism will enable the engraver to apply an image on a curved surface without the need of an operator.
Laser marking has the same benefits as engraving but is even more advantageous. With this method, marking is used to identify an object, including by automatic methods. Here, the resistance of the applied image to external influences and readability are extremely important.
Laser marking makes it easier to identify and classify products. As a result, it’s usually applied in accounting, storage and transportation. Most often, the marking denotes the serial number of the product, the date of manufacture and the expiration date.
However, there are some limitations of laser marking.
Special markers are used to apply laser marks on items.
Laser engravers used for marking are usually small due to the relatively small size of the working area. Moreover, they have to be used with special software containing an extensive database of fonts, bar codes, etc.
Drilling with a laser beam is an effective procedure. The result is precisely defined holes that do not require additional machining.
Watch the video below to see drilling in action:
The laser machine burns through the material with a laser beam to a specified depth.
Laser “drilling”, or rather perforation, is used for decorating clothes, shoes and leather goods. The process is also used in many areas of industrial production, where maximum precision of products is required.
CNC Laser Engraving Business Ideas
Here are some business ideas that you can start using your laser engraver.
Cutting and Engraving Metals
You need CNC laser machine with a fiber emitter to cut metals. For engraving metal and simpler materials, machines with a minimum power of 60W (FLUX HEXA Professional 60W CO2 Laser Cutter & Engraver and LaserSolid 690 ) will work. However, the recommended power is 90-120 W.
There are also ultra-low power devices -50 W, which are designed to work with any materials, except metals. Examples of these include the FSL Muse Core 40W Laser Cutter and Engraver and FLUX Beambox 40W CO2 Laser Cutter & Engraver.
Watch the video below:
Generally, the more powerful a machine is, the more complex the composition can be created on it. High power allows you to perforate metal products. Low-power machines are only suitable for engraving.
Customers often order metal laser engraving to decorate souvenir products such as key rings, pens, USB sticks, watch cases and various devices.
Engraving Plastic and Rubber
Laser engravers allow you to print images or codes on polymeric materials. Transparent plastics can be engraved and illuminated with LEDs for an original visual effect. This is how decorative lamps, bedside lamps, advertising signs decorate.
Materials such as rubber, soft plastics and silicone can be engraved to produce high quality stamps fast. One laser machine is enough to set up the production of custom stamps. With this application, the machine can generate a stable and very good income.
Cutting and Engraving Plywood
You can create unique pieces of furniture and decorative plywood on a laser machine. The principle of operation is very simple: a complex image is created on a computer, which can also be three-dimensional or multilayer. From there, a CNC machine with a laser cuts out the required composition.
Here’s a video showing the process:
Most often, 8mm plywood is used in the manufacture of furniture. The finished items are also durability.
When creating decorative panels and screens for heating systems, for example, casings for radiators, you can use thinner wood boards. Conversely, thicker plywood sheets even allow decorative walls for large spaces.
Create Plywood Keyrings and Other Souvenirs
Desktop laser engravers, such as FSL Muse 3D Vision Autofocus 40W Laser Cutter and Engraver + Coolbox, can also be used to manufacture small souvenirs from thin plywood. Producing unique merch is popular business. For example, you can apply logos on key rings, magnets and other souvenirs.
Watch the video below for more insights:
With the existing trend of using exclusive items made from natural materials in interior decoration, a small laser engraver can be used for production of engraved pictures on plywood. You can produce both standard paintings and make panels based on customer sketches.
Outdoor Advertising, Props, Decor and Street signs
CNC laser engraving machines can be used to laser cut plastic panels for outdoor advertising and signage. The most popular materials in this case are vinyl films, plexiglass, polycarbonate, and PVC.
You can also laser cut polymer materials to design exhibition stands. If there is sufficient production space, you can assemble large-sized structures required for street signs.
To optimize the assembly process, you can use 3D printers on which curved elements will be printed. The introduction of additive manufacturing will simplify the assembly process and reduce the likelihood of plastic panels breaking when bending.
Laser Engraving Business Plan
How do you start a business using a laser machine? Let’s consider an example where you wanted to cut plywood.
To begin, you can install a laser device in a small warehouse. However, fire safety standards must be taken into account.
Next, you need to find reliable suppliers of consumables, that is, the actual plywood. When you buy a batch of plywood, check the quality of the board. The accuracy of the drawing, the accuracy of processing and the strength of the finished product depend on the quality of the board
To start a project, you have to create a cutting model on the computer. The data then has to be transferred to the laser cutting machine.
The cost of starting a laser woodwork cutting business depend on your goals and the equipment you will buy. For example, let’s estimate what you need to buy when using a large, medium power (60 W) laser machine (FLUX HEXA Professional 60W CO2 Laser Cutter & Engraver). The price of the device is (check here).
The workroom must have a powerful exhaust hood, since a lot of dust and smoke are emitted when cutting plywood. There should also be enough space not only for the machine, but also for the materials used. At the very least, you will need a room of 10 square meters. The cost of renting or purchasing the premises will depend on your location.
Apart from the machine, you need to purchase a circular saw, because the plywood sheets are much larger than the working field of the machine. You will also need a sander to remove carbon deposits after cutting. Finally, you also have to consider the cost of the plywood itself.
Business Benefits of Using a CNC Laser Cutting Machine
CNC laser machines are better when starting a woodwork cutting business than machines with metal cutting tools. However, f you are just starting out, it is better to get and learn both machines.
The key advantages of laser engraving machines include:
- Fast engraving, which ensures the execution of more orders per unit of time
- Exceptional accuracy of the finished product (possible deviations from the set parameters – 0.01 mm);
- Almost eternal period of preservation of engraving on objects
- You can engrave nearly any materials; from fabric to metals
- Automation through computer control
- Simple fixation of the material due to the non-contact processing method
- The edges and walls of the material after processing remain in perfect condition
- Low dust and noise levels
- Few additional tools required
A CNC laser machine allows large-scale production with a relatively small investment. Installing the machine does not require a lot of space. Moreover, the machines come in a wide range of affordable prices.
The entire process – from the development of a sketch or digital model to the receipt of the finished product – can be performed by one worker.
Thanks to the high precision of the machine, the result is predictably excellent.