For almost 30 years, Epilog Laser has been working to become a leader in the laser engraving, cutting and marking industry. In 2008 the company launched the industry's first low-cost entry-level CO2 laser engraving system, the Epilog Zing Laser, to bring the technology to an even wider audience and appeal to, what was then, the early maker movement.
Now, makers and entrepreneurs everywhere can bask in the creativity and versatility of laser engraving. Personalization and customization of products is in high demand. Adding a laser engraving service to current operation is an excellent way to reach possible new customers as well as offer a valued service to current clients.
The possibilities are endless – engrave journals, glasses, bats, pies and coasters, just for starters.
Here Epilog Laser’s Director of Marketing, James Stanaway, discusses why users should consider Epilog Laser for their creativity projects, talks about some shocking items that have been engraved with Epilog Lasers, and even touches on common challenges.
- Why should customers consider Epilog Laser for their creativity projects? What other piece of equipment allows you to take almost any material and engrave or cut it for a single project?
With an Epilog Laser, you’re not using a router for your woodworking, then a sandblaster when you want to work with glass, then jumping to a 3-D printer for prototyping – you can do it all with just on laser system! Epilog has been part of the maker movement since its inception. Our powerful, easy-to-use systems allow designers, makers, artists and manufacturers alike to easily cut/engrave one-off custom pieces along with larger jobs with multiple identical pieces.
- In your opinion, what are some of the most shocking items that have been created using Epilog laser engravers?
We see a lot of creative types use our systems to cut individual pieces for prototypes and models. Some of the most creative things we’ve seen being cut with the laser and then assembled by our customers include bean bag sets (Jim Puentes, COOLaser Craft), working wooden Ferris wheels and custom-cut bridges (Doug Green, Express Yourself Austin). Laser-cut apparel is also wildly popular – we’ve seen some very exciting things done in terms of fabric cutting as well as direct-to-fabric etching. Someone from the LTMaker Lab (Lane Tech College Prep) even created a few fashion pieces that were worn at the 2016 MET Gala! But if you really want to talk outrageous, just imagine the faces of your family when you show up to Thanksgiving dinner with custom laser engraved pumpkin pies – now that’ll start a conversation around the dinner table!
- What have you seen customers struggle with the most while using your products for creative applications? How have these struggles been overcome?
The lasers are pretty plug and play. The biggest hurdle most users encounter isn’t with the laser itself, rather it’s with the graphic design software. Most of our operators use CorelDRAW or Illustrator to design their laser creations – some use AutoCAD or other graphic design programs as well – but if you’re not familiar with graphic design, it can take a little time and practice to learn how to create designs or process photos that are suitable for the best engraving.
- What is your advice for someone considering laser engraving for their applications? How should customers proceed with selecting the laser that’s right for them?
Ultimately, this boils down to your space and budget. Some users start out with smaller, compact systems, with plans to upgrade to a larger system as their business takes off. Most customers, however, will advise you to get the largest system with the highest wattage possible right out of the gate. Rarely do we hear a customer saying “I wish I bought a smaller, less powerful system.”
- What kind of restrictions are there for makers when it comes to laser cutting?
Not too many. The wattage configuration you choose will impact how thick of material you can cut – for example a 30 or 40-watt system will be able to cut through ¼” of hardwood or acrylic; a 50 or 60-watt can up to around 3/8”; and a 75 – 120 can cut about ½” of hardwood/acrylic, maybe a bit more with multiple passes.
While they can cut a variety of organic substrates, Epilog’s current lineup cannot cut through metal; however you can engrave directly into the metal. In terms of material compatibility, the only thing users can’t put in the in the laser is PVC. Polyvinyl chloride, when laser engraved or cut, releases a gas that is both corrosive to the inside of the system as well as harmful to the operator.
- What would you say to someone so inspired by creativity that they want to launch their own engraving business? Can you really combine passion, creativity, and a successful business?
We’d say go for it. And you can absolutely combine passion and creativity to start a successful business – our customers are doing it every day.
We encourage people to realize that – while powerful and versatile – the laser itself is tool. Those who purchase a system often do so to start a side business, which eventually grows to become a full time job. For people interested in starting a laser business of their own, we offer this guidebook to starting out.
7. When it comes to the Maker Movement and a surge in makerspaces, there are a plethora of tools available to tinker with. Why should someone decide to tinker with a laser engraver? What does it offer the maker and how does it enhance the makerspace filled with these other tools?
Lasers are popular because not only do they mark (engrave) items, they cut pieces that can be put together to create new objects.
Many of the tools seen in today’s maker spaces are very complimentary. For example, a larger piece of wood cut by a CNC router can be further detailed and enhanced using a laser. Something created by a 3-D printer can be branded with a laser. Different fabrics can be cut with the laser and sewn together with a high-tech sewing machine. The possibilities truly are endless when you’ve got such an array of awesome tools at your disposal.