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I want to buy my own engraving machine to do brass plates for my military projects. The research I've done suggests a fiber laser?

framegame

Grumbler in Training
Joined
May 29, 2009
Messages
8
I would love to do my own engraved plates for my military customers. The research I've done suggests a fiber laser. Any suggestions?
 

alacrity8

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Joined
Sep 22, 2009
Messages
732
Looks like we don't have many Grumblers with Engraving machines.
Maybe repost in a month or two when people get back to work?

Brian
 

Ylva

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
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Jul 14, 2008
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14,674
I know there are some people who have one, I just don’t know which members do.

It will get answered, I’m sure, but Brian is right, more people will be back on once we are in full swing again.
 

wvframer

Humble Picture Framer
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Oct 9, 2007
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1,515
I seem to have responded the same day, then failed to "post reply!" Sorry.

Just don't unless you really need to control the timing or the quality. There is a learning curve that is at least as steep as framing and it very different. It takes a lot of time, and it involves learning yet another software program to do it well, usually Corel Draw.

And lasers, in particular, are notoriously picky. I used to do it, and I still have the machine. I bought it to do one large order for the J. Peterman Co. back in the day when the company was hot. I made thousands of plates to go in frames with the china used in the move Titanic.

But after a while and several repair issues, I developed a relationship with a local guy who has every method of engraving and marking possible. Mechanical, multiple lasers of every type, sublimation; you name it he's got it.

He sells to me wholesale, which is less than $5 per plate in most cases. Often $3 in quantity. In return, I frame a few things a year at the wholesale rate I give professional photographers. It takes a lot of plates, even at three times the price I am paying to approach the cost of a good laser.

I email the copy and he drops off the plates a couple of days later. If I am in a hurry he can usually do them same day.

In any case, go to a show and try to find someone nearby to guide you in your purchase. Technical support for some of these machines is thousands of miles away and you will be paying the travel if you need the help. Buying something that others have who work reasonably near to you can save you a lot of grief and provide some support as you learn your way around.

Good luck whatever you do! I don't mean to scare you off. I had a lot of fun learning and doing it; I just could not make any money on it.
 
Jack Richeson & Co

framegame

Grumbler in Training
Joined
May 29, 2009
Messages
8
Thanks for the honest feedback! I spend 500-600 per month paying two different trophy shops to do the multiple engraved plates that I need being next to a military base. I'm not looking to engrave glasses or trophies or wood ... just black or satin brass engraved plates. Any advice would be great!!!
 

wvframer

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I will ask my engraving friend for some user-friendly software and hardware for what is essentially one kind of work. He cut his teeth engraving for the naval base in Norfolk, VA. I will try to catch him tomorrow. I think that you could use an entry-level laser that does not require the hottest of bulbs that you would want for lots of versatility.

Have you had a look at Engravers Journal and Awards & Engraving? They both have online versions and the subscriptions are not expensive.
 

framegame

Grumbler in Training
Joined
May 29, 2009
Messages
8
No I haven't. I'll check it out. I'd love to hear what your engraver friend says!
 
Presto Frame & Moudling 800-431-1622

wvframer

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Here is what I have learned. PM me if you want the details on how to contact my expert or you are interested in this laser he is about to return. He is constantly getting loaners to review for one of the magazines. He always has the best toys! Just as an aside, with business slow everywhere, this is probably a good time to negotiate discounts on equipment if you have cash.

"I recommend the Epilog lasers. The entry-level is the Mini 12x18” 30 watt laser. Probably around $8K but that’s just a guess on my part.

The laser I have is a Zing 12x24” 50 watt. Used only by me for testing and review. They should give him a good discount to avoid having to ship it back at their expense. New, this one would probably go for about 20K.

If he is really interested in the used laser, have him call me. I’ll work with him and the co-owner of Epilog."
 

framah

PFG, Picture Framing God
Joined
Mar 15, 2001
Messages
8,694
Will be interesting to see if he needed a crash cart after those prices. :faintthud: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Me personally, for that money, I'd rather buy a nice large CNC machine.
 

framegame

Grumbler in Training
Joined
May 29, 2009
Messages
8
OUCH! I've been conversing with other engraver manufacturers and some have said that I don't even need a laser engraver if all that I want to do is engraved plates
 

wvframer

Humble Picture Framer
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Well, mechanical engraving is a different animal. You can't get the same level of quality, the surface of brass is essentially scratched by a rotating head. You have to change it for different fonts.

You have to use a mild acid to darken the letters. It is very difficult to get consistency if you are making mulitples.

Most of them can also do diamond scratch, which is a diamond head literally scratching the surface like engravers used to do by hand. This is what you see on those gold-colored aluminum trophy plates that do not have darkened letters.

But yes, you can probably buy some mostly abandoned used engravers for about 3 grand. But it is the difference between a manual mat cutter and a CMC.

With the laser you get perfect plates time after time, and you have the ability to do many other things to make money with it.

Everything is a trade-off. And again there is a pretty steep learning curve. And remember, the person selling it is not the right person to give you information about how the machine works. They will know the features, but you want to know how it is to live with them.
 

artfolio

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Joined
Feb 16, 2007
Messages
2,624
If the quality of the laser cut plates is significantly better that that of a mechanical engraver and you switch now eyebrows will no doubt be raised among your customers so I believe your choice is to either continue as you are or invest in a laser machine.

In addition to the machine you will also have to invest in a stock of plates and, possibly, some consumable spares for the machine and training for yourself or employees. If there is a lot of this work it may pay to employ someone part-time to handle it.

The only sound basis for that decision is some fairly precise calculating of the exact costs vs benefits of bringing this work in-house.

Factors would be:

Exact cost per plate versus your present arrangement.
The expected life of the machine. (remembering depreciation is tax deductible)
Will your machine's work at least equal the quality you are getting now?
How long will it take to pay back the capital cost?
How much time will this additional work take and how will this affect your turnover?
 
Jack Richeson & Co

Rick Hennen

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Dec 7, 2017
Messages
21
wcframer is correct. I own a CNC router and have done numerous decorative wood projects requiring special routing and carving and as accurate as my machine is, I would not attempt to use it to engrave brass or other smaller metallic plates. The finished product would just not be clean enough. I just finished a special sign for a Hyatt Hotel and I contracted with a company that uses lasers to make the brass letters that were required. There is a lot more involved with CNC and Laser work than there is running a CMC. The software required is entirely different and although you can design in something like Corel Draw the files must be exported in a format that is recognized by the machine that you would be using and in the case of a CNC Router you would need to apply tool paths based on the bit being used to each of the files. Feel free to give me a call at 619-733-1742 if you have any questions.
 

framah

PFG, Picture Framing God
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Mar 15, 2001
Messages
8,694
Yeah.. i wasn't suggesting that he get a CNC machine for what he wants to do.

I was just wanting a CNC machine for myself for doing anything else besides engraving plaques.
Seems like it would be a really cool toy to play with!!
 

Rick Hennen

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Dec 7, 2017
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framah, Yes, they are fun and open a lot of doors giving new meaning to the word "custom". If you ever make it to San Diego give me a call and you can stop by and play for a while.
 

framegame

Grumbler in Training
Joined
May 29, 2009
Messages
8
Thanks everyone for all of your feedback, it seems that I will be looking for a Co2 laser desktop size. Does anyone have any suggestions using this criteria?
 

framah

PFG, Picture Framing God
Joined
Mar 15, 2001
Messages
8,694
Thanks for the invite, Rick, but I only have to drive about 30 miles to visit a woodworker who just bought a 4x8' CNC right around Xmas.
I took a really large Claro Walnut burl slab up for him to flatten. He did a bit extra and ran it thru his large bed sander as well.
$100 for the whole job.

BUT... if i was really going to spend that type of money, I'd probably buy one of those small buildings that are for sale all over the place up here and install a sandblasting set up for embellishing my wood turnings.
See?? So many toys, so little money. :thumbsup:
 

triplechip

CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Featured Vendor
Joined
Dec 7, 2008
Messages
162
We have a couple Fiber laser engravers at our shop. We use them to engrave customers names and Logos on saw blades. We purchased a Rofin F20 (German) laser on Ebay about 10 years ago. It has been flawless ever since we purchased it. We have engraved 100's of thousands of saw blades over the years.

I'll try and send some video of how it works.

Bill
 

Rick Hennen

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Dec 7, 2017
Messages
21
Thanks for the invite, Rick, but I only have to drive about 30 miles to visit a woodworker who just bought a 4x8' CNC right around Xmas.
I took a really large Claro Walnut burl slab up for him to flatten. He did a bit extra and ran it thru his large bed sander as well.
$100 for the whole job.

BUT... if i was really going to spend that type of money, I'd probably buy one of those small buildings that are for sale all over the place up here and install a sandblasting set up for embellishing my wood turnings.
See?? So many toys, so little money. :thumbsup:
That's a great price for the work he did for you. I know what you mean about the cost of equipment with the newer technology. I have been wanting to buy a 3d printer but the cost is prohibitive for the size bed I would want.
 
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