With laser etching, cutting, and engraving you have the unique ability to blend function and creativity into a profitable career. Machine prices on the low end have almost bottomed out but are quiet reasonable as of Sept 2014. If you find a laser etching machine for sale at a good price, you might be able to start your own laser etching business for less than $5000, and easily earn $15/hr or more depending on the projects you accept.
The main decision you have to make when opening an engraving business is whether to target people placing small orders, or businesses making orders in bulk. If you want to engrave metal projects, you’ll need a different, special kind of laser. The CO2 lasers commonly used for engraving can generally only handle anodized aluminum. To engrave bare metal, you’ll want an Nd:YAG-based laser.
Before you start, you’ll still have to learn to use the etcher on different materials, and figure out how to connect the program to the machine. Here are some of the things you might find a laser etcher doing.
A laser etching machine can personalize a wide variety of materials and products. From glass, marble, masonite, leather, wood, paper, tile, coated metal, plastic, ceramics, bamboo, to nylon, a laser can handle a dizzying array. You can even engrave a variety of different objects: picture frames, desk accessories, boxes, company awards, pens, metal trays, jewelry, and key chains. Because a laser engraver is completely freehand, you can use one to engrave images as easily as text.
Some business owners and managers like high-end creative business cards. These might use metal, plastic, wood, or matte board. As mentioned earlier, to engrave or cut metal, you’ll need a specialized laser.
Here is example:
Couples also sometimes like nontraditional wedding announcements or wedding invitations. The laser etcher’s ability to mark various materials allows very clever ideas. Marketing your laser engraving services via party planning and wedding magazines can be worthwhile. In this case, a bit of graphic design experience is very helpful. These customers will often want custom designs or typography.
Laser glass etching machines make intricate, beautiful designs on a variety of glass surfaces. Most laser etchers can also handle glass. Popular products are window panes, glass mugs, shot glasses, beer steins, wine glasses, and champagne flutes. Laser etched champagne flutes are particularly popular for weddings.
3D laser etching machines are even available that create three-dimensional images inside solid crystal or glass cubes.
I just found a good link for personalizing glass gifts which is done via. laser etching glass:
You can also market laser glass etching services to security firms and law enforcement. These may want to etch identifying codes or marks onto glass surfaces for security reasons. Firearm Engraving: Firearms have strict standards for etching serial numbers. Below is a video about the same…
Lots of people need custom stencils. You can sell services to people that hand make objects, whether as a hobby or as a profession. Crafters, interior decorators, and carpenters all can use custom stencils. A laser etcher can cut these from thin material stock.
Laser etchers can even make custom puzzles. After printing the desired image onto heavy cardboard stock, you cut it into puzzle pieces using the laser. These make very popular gifts during the holidays.
Laser Etching vs Laser Scoring and Laser Ablation
There’s a lot in common between laser etching and other laser materials processing techniques. With laser etching, laser scoring, and laser ablation, the laser cuts into the surface of the material and partially removes layers. It does this to a specific depth, and doesn’t penetrate all the way through. The result is a three-dimensional design in the material, though the depth is usually so small that the design appears two-dimensional.
Where laser scoring generally makes a single straight line along which the material is bent or broken, laser etching creates larger designs or patterns in the material surface. And while laser ablation is mostly used to remove the top layer of two bonded-together materials — like conductive coatings or anodization layers — laser etching generally works just the top layer in a homogeneous material.
Of course, you can combine laser etching with other processing techniques to achieve multiple production steps in one pass.
What’s laser etching used for?
Laser etching may replace chemistry for etching electronic circuits and components. This doesn’t just eliminate hazardous, environmentally poisonous, and expensive chemicals from the manufacturing floor. It allows for greater precision. Lasers are frequently used in electronics manufacturing to produce extremely precise resistance values. By trimming a resistor with a laser during the production process, 0.01% or better precision is possible. This allows engineers to design electronics that operate much more efficiently.
The automotive industry even uses portable laser cutter machines that can engrave as well. These aren’t widely available yet, but they use a handheld unit linked to a larger laser with a fiber optic cable to etch designs on objects too large to put inside a regular laser engraver.
As well as making stencils, laser etching may add information about the part onto each stencil. This helps boost brand identity and simplifies keeping track of inventory. It’s even possible to laser-etch instructions for using the stencil onto each one, reducing the risk of user error.
Many industrial marking technologies are limited to printing on rigid surfaces. The CO2 laser has the ability to cut or etch flexible and floppy surfaces just as easily. This means that a laser can add brand information, serial numbers, and expiration dates to flexible surfaces that would be hard to mark otherwise.
3D laser etching machines can even embed security features into both rigid and flexible surfaces. By etching the pattern inside the layers of the film rather than on the surface, tamper resistance improves considerably.
Graphic Art and Design
Laser etching or engraving adds a new design possibility to printed pieces. It’s possible to make elaborate and detailed cuts in the paper a core part of the design, without the price and limitations inherent to die cuts. A laser cut top layer can reveal different paper colors and textures underneath.
What can laser etching do for you?
Laser etching can create unique and complex patterns without restrictions on the design. There are no stamps or dies, allowing you to minimize downtime by changing designs digitally. Processing happens quickly and cleanly, without needing to touch the surface. Thanks to the low tool wear, there’s very little maintenance needed. High-end laser etchers can even etch their features below the surface in clear materials, considerably improving security.