This will be an involved question, and one without a correct answer, but what will Glowforge owners be charging to cut items for their clients? Material costs aside (presume the client is supplying the paper/wood/whatever), how will you price your (and the Glowforge’s) time?
Honestly the cost of the Glowforge’s time is very minimal. It’s my time to set the file up and do all the work that’s going to cost.
Hourly charge out rate labour - $40-$100hr. Depends on job and amount of work.
+2) Material cost - Varies (No I won’t put client supplied materials in my machine).
+3) Glowforge time - Honestly $1 an hour will cover amortization of the machine, the bulb usage and electricity. So the cost of the machine is pretty minor in the scheme of things.
I expect most of the money from using the machine will come from selling the items I want to produce in quantity and not custom orders. However that could change depending on what shows up in the catalogue.
@Jamie thank you for your reply. Honestly, because pricing is such a touchy subject, I was surprised to see any response to my question, especially one as frank as yours.
It might be outside the remit of my original question but, because you seem strict about using only materials you’ve sourced, where do you source your materials? Do you know of a standard ‘do/do not’ use list?
My intention is to add to a supportive network of Glowforge owners to form a strong group of professionals. We want to have strong relationships with neighboring owners so if either of us find ourselves in a bind we can smooth over the cracks.
I’ll be sourcing my material from all over, depends on what type of material it is. As the Glowforge crew have found out material varies from batch to batch and supplier to supplier so by only using material I’ve sourced I’m hoping to mitigate the variance between the materials that go into my machine. This should also minimize playing with power and speed settings while I try to figure out how the material reacts.
Sourcing only your own materials is a good call for anyone to consider.
Someone else bringing in materials has to understand that sometimes cuts do not work right (do not bring in a priceless heirloom or sentimental artifact and just “hope it works out”)
They have to understand what materials are safe to cut (Not going to put it past them to bring in an object which appears to be solid wood, but is a thin case around some harmful crap)
They have to bring in a spare to figure out power/speed settings (how many people will throw a huge fit when you tell them to bring in 4 times the material they need - One to get settings, one for alignment mistakes, and one for the inevitable personal change of desired outcome or repeated mistakes?)
Personally, I won’t be charging anything at all, since mine is in a classroom. So either you look at it as I personally don’t charge them, or you look at it as the University doesn’t charge them more than other students who do not get to have time on my laser. Sure, they pay to be here (and that sucks), but not to use the fancy toys I try to provide.
If you are looking to compete with existing services then those are the prices you should be looking for. If a customer is looking for something any laser cutter can do, then a Glowforge will not make any difference in the equation.
Shop around and see what the going rates in your area are for laser time.
Check makerspaces (be sure to factor in any membership requirements), sign makers, engraving shops, etc. I found that there were some pretty big price differences for a few jobs I had done within the last few years.
You need to cover your costs, pay for your time, make a profit, and not go out of business because you are charging too much. Should be an easy equation to master. When you figure it out let me know.
Seriously though, I am in the same camp as @Jamie. The idea of running a service bureau is not especially appealing, but I love the idea of making things and selling them!
Coming out of some specific service industries and working with people from other areas, you could consider yourself a professional and when working for a company, top tier techs and can look at $20-30 an hour. The company will look to charge $50-150 an hour(though a great many places will charge/job though the cost of said job is normally determined by the hourly cost and that part is simply undisclosed to the customer). I was in telecommunications for business telephone systems and our techs got $16-25 and the company had a flat rate of $95 an hour(minimum) and an hour travel charge. Obviously travel won’t matter here.
A buddy of mine is running his own 1 man handy man business. He charges a flat rate of $75 an hour(his minimum charge to show up and do whatever(like change 3 blown light bulbs in an 18’ vaulted ceiling)) and will prorate additional time at 1/4hour increments. He works off of quotes so he estimates the time and charges that. If it’s a faster job. He makes out like a bandit. If it takes longer…he learns how to do it faster or without mistakes for next time or learns that he way under charged.
Using those as premise, you can figure out what you’d like to be making “/hour” and then prorate the time. Anything you do, if done with planning, can be used as a template for doing something similar later on thus saving time and making the same money with less work.
So say $75 an hour; it takes 10 minutes to run the laser. Took an hour to design.
You could charge just $12.50. Recoup the cost of design on later reuses. Makes templates highly profitable.
You could charge just $75 and consider the 10 minutes a marginal as you do other projects.
You could charge $87.50. Doubt someone paying you $75 for something would notice the extra $12.50.
Shipping cost is added, or not.(I’d probably add it or at least a base rate to offset loss of my profit margin.)
Add tax(or pre-include it). I’ll be trying to sell and will Pre-include tax into pricing. If I say $100 to engrave a …macbook air, it’ll be $100(your shipping) or local work only.
And yeah, I absolutely will not trust other people to bring in materials unless I know 100% what it is(macbook air) as I will be making a legit business from this and don’t want insurance hassles of stupidity. And to protect my own assets.
A place here in Cambridge, Ma (danger!awesome) have a standard charge of $4.50/minute laser time or $45/0.5hr design time, at least according to there website. This seems to agree mostly with what people above have said.