I agree. The engrave times are just too long. I thought of moving to a standard 4" premade coaster to save some money and a bit of time, but the dither engrave just takes forever, especially with cork. Moving to wood might be a good alternative. I don’t know how much time I’d have to put into R&D on another coaster size, but it might be worth it in the end. If I could get the cork engrave down to 15min or so, We’d be in a whole different ballgame. I even thought about selling the wood elements as a flat kit to bring it down a bit. It still feels too high.
You can probably drop the LPI setting on the Eggo engraving in order to cut the time. Maybe the waffle texture needs to be its own setting and the text have its own setting. This way you can lower the detail on the waffle texture since cork is a rougher material that gives some flexibility, but not sacrifice quality on the text.
Another option is use the GF to produce stamps, then you can stamp the coasters with ink (added benefit, you can easily do colors) and cut the time way down.
Not sure what sort of rate you’re using for machine time but I wouldn’t drop below the $45-$60/hr mark.
There are smarter ways of buying materials to get their prices down too, like buying 4’x8’ sheets and cutting down. You can save 30-50% or more per 12"x20" piece if you do that part yourself, plus you can improve overall yield by cutting full sheets closer to the sizes actually needed. In other words, instead of using a 12"x20" piece that generates a huge amount of scrap for a given project, cut the blanks to maximize their use.
LPI is something that I haven’t experimented with yet, that may be the ticket right there. So far, I’ve only played with the S/P/Dither. I also thinks separating the elements to cut down on the time is worth a look as well. I never thought of stamping them. Time does seem to be the issue for sure. One coaster takes about 45-60min currently so really I’m only charging about $25/hr currently.
Right now I’ve been buying big 12x12" cork tiles and cutting them myself which does save a lot of money. Cork really doesn’t like to be cut on the laser but I’ve got it dialed in to work with a few passes. A die would be a good move in the future if I do a lot of coasters.
These are great ideas. Thanks!
I ran into this the other day. I did not get their free 3 page workbook because it was all explained in the brief on that page.
Sounded like solid advice for anyone who wanted to break out of the Hobbyist mode.
Would you mind telling us how you arrived at that machine per hour rate? Is that retail versus actual cost or more of higher cost higher perceived value? Really interested if you don’t mind.
since you are asking for opinions, here’s my 2 cents.
I wouldn’t pay 135$ for 6 coasters.
I like the show myself, and I know a few people who would appreciate this, but from a buyer prospective, I would not think this is worth more than 100$ max. even then, I would give it that value based on the custom box: the buyers don’t know or care about engraving times etc.
you got some good advice already, if you think you can sell a bunch then either built a stamp, or even etch a plate for hot stamping or something. your laser can make a die cutting stamp maybe.
The reason to have a robot do the work in part is so you can do other things.(keeping an eye on it, but certainly not doing nothing else) Thus the time it spends, up to the point it is running all the time is very little of your time involved and very little of its time for the most part. Unlike a 3d printer that can take a whole day on a single object.
The really big time consumer is the engraving. If you cut out two pieces and glued them to a third and then cut the outside of all three, few people would notice, and the cutting time would be a fraction of the engraved version. I had earrings that were engraved in part and the difference plus that you can’t really engrave both sides, makes it something to not do if you can find a way to avoid it.
Reducing LPI to the bare minimum acceptable and finding the fastest possible engrave speeds are both required.
(Why do some PG engraves run at speed 300? Seems like tripling speed and power should basically produce the same result, three times faster.)
They aren’t setting it to 300 just arbitrarily. Here’s possibly one reason…
Interesting reading on the Rowmark website about laser engraving photos and might explain some of the HD settings:
Normally, when raster engraving, the speed is set at 100% to maximize production time. When fine detailing is necessary, there is a phenomenon to be considered. As the laser arm sweeps in a horizontal direction at extremely high speeds, the laser fires and shuts off as dictated by the original artwork. This requires fraction of a second timing and normally produces excellent results; however, when tiny details are being rendered, there can be discrepancies between the horizontal and vertical axis. Occasionally the horizontal renders at full thickness, but the vertical strokes appear significantly thinner. The high horizontal speeds do not allow the pulses adequate time to burn through the cap, thus leaving the strokes looking incomplete. By cutting the speed in half, the situation is resolved, and the vertical and horizontal strokes are equal in weight.
For high quality rendering, the recommended speed should be dropped to 50%, and the power setting needs to be adjusted to a corresponding percentage that will allow the cap to be burned through. Higher power settings than needed will distort the dots and will, in turn, alter the tones in the photo. There is also the danger that some dots will be burned away completely. If quality is paramount, engrave photos at 25% speed. It is strongly recommended that each machine should be tested at different speeds to examine the clarity of the halftone dots they produce which can be examined using magnification. The clearer the rendering, the better the photo will appear.
Makes sense, thanks.
In my own work, which has been simple shapes and not photo engraving, high speed seems harmless. One more thing to keep in mind though.
I had run through calculations throwing in a bunch of stuff like an ROI of 6 months, laser tube replacement every year (basically running it 40hr/week), electricity costs, unknown maintenance and repair costs, etc… I cant find the whole list right now, but at the end of it all what I found is that running the machine full time like that is dirt cheap. But when you factor in that sort of productivity is unlikely, the hourly costs start climbing rapidly.
BUT… when your laser is down for maintenance or repair, you have to stay in business. So when you have to source work out to some other laser cutting provider where you can not control that cost, you have to keep yourself covered and still profit on the work so you can afford to pay repair bills.
Here’s another article I ran across, it’s not detailed but it highlights a few interesting points:
in all my hobbies (and trust me, I have many… waaay too many) the question of how much to charge for always pops up. In most hobbies however, there are always a few hobbyist who charge way too low. these are often retired or semiretired people who enjoy the time spent on their craft, and are happy to make enough money to cover their material expenses. very often they are actually extremely good at what they do, and that sort of brings down the price for everyone.
I wonder if that will eventually apply to the GF.
well, the GF is only a small part of the laser cutting community. so there are already plenty of people out in the world selling laser cut commodities. etsy is full of them. so i’m sure there are already people undercutting what a lot of us would consider a reasonable price.
Yeah, like @shop said, Etsy is full of under cutters, but they’re also all the ones selling pretty much identical items to each other, like the cut-out name craze with everybody using the same 2 or 3 trendy font styles.
Just make something more unique and ride it until everyone else copycats it, then move on to something else.
Basic or Pro?
You must be running quite a production.
I am really interested in your overall lists as I thought I had done a pretty simple but accurate calculation for my needs but it seems it was not adequate based on your numbers.
I am a basic owner so I took the current cost to replace unit (sort of ROI) and added cost of bulb replacement times 2 just for good measure as you said unforeseen repairs or maintenance and divided by the lowest possible number of estimated laser hours which I halved just to make sure I didn’t overestimate longevity. Then rounded up figure to account for electric and other supplies to give me a per hour /min operating cost.
So 4K+1K=5K/500Hrs =$10 /hr or $0.17 /min
Which I rounded up to $15 /hr $0.25 /min
(I also understand that this is my cost not the price for project)
I understand having to source out when laser is out and you need to get product out but again really interested in yours and other input. I bought my GF as an alternative to xcarve cnc kit like machines. (totally worth the $$ and Waiting and Waiting and Wait for results) This is to complement a side hustle and looking for any guidance so as to not be the guy that keeps low balling the more established and knowledgeable competition.
Any input from you or others comfortable with sharing either formulas or specific numbers would be really and greatly appreciated.
That article was a good read moving on to the others by same author.
This topic has come up several times on this forum, and it typically generates some good food for thought. Here are a couple of links to past threads that go into some detail on the subject:
Thank you for this. Seriously. So many people seem to play the “race to the bottom” game when it comes to pricing ; nobody wins in that one
My main work is as a General Contractor. But really I am a salesperson as I don’t always perform the work. I concentrate on exterior work. I spend a lot of time walking a homeowner trough every possible issue and cost associated. In short I give them a crash course on the process of what ever they want installed or replaced and why I charge what I charge. I am almost always the middle of the road price and I am tired of the overnight and I own a truck so today I am whatever trade and low ball get the job based on all the info I provided. Some however end up calling me back to fix problems introduced by the low ball guys and I am redeemed but I fully understand the reason to not be that guy.
The main difference between our numbers is that I set the ROI for the glowforge at 6 months, which means it pays for itself twice per year. $4k is considerable money but in a business context it is not worth carrying the debt and interest for a year or more. It’s a relatively small amount in context and can be paid off way sooner so actual return can be realized.
The hard part is keeping the laser busy, especially in the start-up stage because most of the time is going to be spent acquiring customers or doing design. There will be only so much time left for business, especially sharing it with a regular job and family. Let’s cut your 500 hours in half to 250, which averages out to 5 hours per week of billable machine time. That still might be tough to achieve but if you do, that fulfills the goal of 2X ROI and puts you into a good position.
For reference, there are industrial laser shops charging $120-$200/hr for machine time on units that literally blow right through stuff in a flash.
If you want a more relatable reference, Ponoko.com has instant online quotes for laser cutting for makers. Last time I poked around there was ages ago and their rates were around the same $45-60/hr mark.
Universal and the other big laser guys recommend $1-$2/minute I believe.
No reason to leave good money on the table and trying to compete with the unwitting hobbyists and knock-offs on Etsy!
So the LPI advice helped a lot. I couldn’t separate the text out since it’s part of the raster since it has a partial gradient to it.
I also noticed my power was low enough that I wasn’t seeing any charring on my mask except for when I was cutting it out. I figured at such a low level of power, my speed was suffering because I had to set it slow enough to burn through the mask. (200/20) So I did a test at full speed with no masking and it turned out fine!
I’m getting coasters engraved at 20min each now which cuts my cost to around $16ea or so. Little better!
Now if I can get the cut time down, we’ll be in business. It currently takes about 10min to cut all 6 coasters which isn’t terrible, but it could always improve. I imagine messing with the LPI on the boxes might help out with time as well…and switching to CA glue for assembly.