Is Mass Production of Lasered Products Viable?

Lots of good answers above and this is not the answer you want but it may be the answer you need. Do the math. I sell things that are partially made on both my 3d printer and the :glowforge: and I always hope to be forced to farm the work out but alas it is at this point cheaper to keep in house.
Get some estimates on farming out the laser work and start crunching numbers. Start selling and if at some point it would be cheaper to farm it out do so. Otherwise, enjoy any success you have and forge on.
Also realize that when they come off the :glowforge: one at a time it is quite easy to offer customization and one-offs for premium $$


The GF is great for prototyping and low production runs, but I would never use it for anything like mass production. I used it for my Kickstarter and it was excruciating even though I was only making around 120 Christmas ornaments. Any higher quantity and I would have sent it all off.


No offense, but I think its silly to not even consider alternatives. You can always decide “no”, but you dont really know the quality or the cost or the time until you’ve tried.

You’re using proofgrade maple, yeah? That’s a fairly big expense, making your end product more expensive. Its also sounds like a huge time suck to remove all the masking. If you used, like, Baltic Birch plywood, you’d quarter your costs just in materials. Though you would need to finish the pieces. Maybe.

Youd have to experiment with masking versus wiping vs sanding vs who knows what other options there are to clean the smoke and residue off the end product. I bet someone around gere has probably tried it all already and could point you in the right direction.

I love your artwork, but you have the outline scoring as deeply as the interior details. Have you considered doing a much lighter, quicker score for patterns and shading? Not only would it maybe save you some time (although I’m not sure if it would amount to much), but it would also make your artwork a little more dynamic. Or, what about cutting out the pieces and stamping your design on? Or stickers? I have a feeling stickers would change the look and feel of the game, but would give you the option to add color, which might be fun.

The other thing I would experiment with is size. How much time do you save by scaling it down 25%? How much does that change the look and feel of the game? Could a smallet game be more travel friendly?

Also, have you considered alternative packaging? That box is lovely, but it could reserved for, like, the deluxe version of the game, not the one you wholesale. That might save you quite a bit time and space and cut costs.


One other suggestion I’ve not seen mentioned yet: it is possible to increase the efficiency of your scores and cuts by carefully planning exactly where each line goes. I suppose you would have to do it with different colors since we don’t have access to exactly how the motion planning is done. What I mean is planning the beginning of a score so it is close to the end of a previous one vs all the way across the sheet of material. I’ve not done this, but I could swear I saw a posting a few months ago about it. If I find it I’ll link.

Edit: here’s one of the posts. I think there might be another one also. Increasing Cutting Efficiency


Oh darn, I thought I was going to learn a new word today. Just a garden variety typo. :smile:

When I did two orders of 1,000 pc. each I found pulling the mask saved me hours of weeding. I would soak like 15 pieces at a time for a few minutes in alcohol, and the smoke stain would wipe right off with a rag. The material was proofgrade maple, and soaking in alcohol had no affect on the material.


Agreed. My corporate rate is a lot higher, but my quality of life and return on creativity compensates for lower hourly.


I like to think it’s an outstanding typo. :slight_smile: fixed.

It really was a believable one!

I thought you might be the master of obscure words!

Have any kids? Nephews, nieces, neighbor kids? They’ll work for candy, just don’t offer them chocolate 'cause that will definitely blow an hourly rate budget. :slight_smile:

The first question you need to ask is, What is the market value? What are people willing to pay for the game? The answer to that can be tricky because if you ask them directly, the answer is of course too low to make it worth the time. You have to look at similar items and kinda factor in how yours sets itself apart to make it more desirable, and go from there.

You have to work backwards from the market value. Factor in the production costs the way you’re making it, account for any retail, wholesale and distributorship discounting. Don’t forget your own salary or employee wages. Do the numbers and figure out if it’s worth it.

The gaming market is simply enormous. There’s an audience for any game anyone can dream up so do not cut yourself short on MSRP.


@evansd2 @icirellik Thanks so much. You both bring up good points and I think I needed to be more clear.

There is no way that I can/want to produce this thing in scale on my Glowforge. Even if the machine wasn’t sitting in my bedroom and I could run it 24/7 then that’s still only 12 units a day tops. My main goal is to find ways of finding somebody who can do the lasering for me so that the time and cost is brought way, way down.

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Thanks @livingdedboy. Are you referring to just a superficial stamp of ink, or are you thinking more like a brand that would actually burn the wood?

I was thinking a brand. You specifically stated you wanted to keep the amount of detail that you get from a laser and I can understand wanting to keep the feel of the score and etch lines. You can get similar detail and results from a brand or a series of brands in sequence. Though you’ll have to work out the minutiae yourself, or someone else here may be able to point you in the right direction for some kind of automata to do the stamping for you.

I’m just pulling from what I’ve seen of woodworker/leatherworker branding stamps.

Edit the 2nd: Essentially what we are doing is burning designs into wood, and you could achieve the same results from a woodburner and a steady hand. Though it would take loads more time and patience. I am not advocating this, merely pointing out that you can start with something simple and expand one way of doing this is to use the laser to etch, another is a woodburner, or an extreme woodburner with screw in brands… or something similar. Make a branding press, of sorts, I’m not certain as to what the cost for such a thing would end up being. But making a branding die for a single operation, if you want to repeat it over and over again would lower your production time on that operation.

So thoughts are, making what is essentially a printing press, except with branding dies instead of letter dies. To get repeatable, high accuracy, etchings of a single operation.


Thanks for such a great response, @erin. I need to be more clear. And yet you started speaking to so specific ideas and question that I have.

When I say that I’m not will to sacrifice on materials I mean that I don’t want to use an MDF, like draft board, vs a nice plywood. I am definitely planning on moving away from PG maple for the real thing. It’s lovely, but yeah, super expensive. As long as I can find an alternative that is child-safe and looks nice then I’m happy.

The designs are a little different. I have been able to play around with them a lot and feel that removing detail (=time) I would compromise them to a point where I would not be happy with them anymore. So that would be the last thing I want to change. If push came to shove, though…well, we’ll see.

I am super interested in hearing about other’s attempts and successes around non-masking techniques! I would love more than anything to get rid of that step since my design makes so many little pieces of tape! I’ve found some examples but if anyone has more thoughts or can link to a specific post then I would be very grateful. I remember something about someone just throwing their cut work into a bath of alcohol and then rubbing it off. Sounds crazy, but maybe it would work.

As far as silk-screening or stamping or other printing techniques go, I at this point I have to keep it in my pocket as an options. I’m procrastinating on it for now because the score lines just look and feel so nice. But if it’s the difference between bringing the dream to life and not, then compromises might need to happen.

Lastly, the box. Interestingly the box was created to allow me to charge more for the product. Originally it was just the tiles, but after some research I found that the expected price for something like that (in a cloth bag or whatever) was in the $20 range. However, if I could add a nice box with extra elements to extend the game (you’ll notice some round tokens) then the value jumps considerably. So the time and materials might double, but the value would 3-4x. That’s the idea, anyway.

Thanks again!


Yes! And I have done this to some degree, thanks in part to @jbmanning5’s post. At this point, though, I might be able to shave off another 5 minutes or so, but not much more. It would help in the long run, but would not make it viable for the Glowforge.

And I forgot to mention this on my reply to @erin just now, but I do use two types of score lines. Just as she described, the fine patterns are all Draft and the main outlines are High Quality. I suspect that I can do some manual settings and save even more time, but once again, it’s not going to put me over the top.

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Hardwoods don’t need to be super expensive. I don’t know what your materials budget is or the size of your pieces, but if you can keep it under 6" wide, it’s pretty easy to get 1/8" maple at reasonable prices from Ocooch or Green Valley. I think they both come in at round 6$ per square foot. Green valley sells via ebay with free shipping, here’s a link to their 1/8" maple:

$4.29 per square foot, hard to beat. Of course, unmasked and all, so there’s a time consideration there… But anyway.


Still waiting for my Pro GF to arrive but very interested in cost of materials in the ProofGrade store, can anyone tell me prices for 1/8" clear acrylic and medium and thick Draft-board?

12x20 acrylic is $9.50 and $4 and $6 respectively for the draft board. I believe there is still free shipping (inside the US) for orders of $100 or more.

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Thanks, do you think thin Draft board will be available? wonder what thickness that would be.