Need some advice and direction on starting a laser shop
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  1. #1
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    Default Need some advice and direction on starting a laser shop

    I have a 2500w prima rapido. I have a shop that covers the specs of the machine. I'm about to pull the trigger. But I want input. Any advice?

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    So you have a laser machine and you have a shop for said machine.

    Hasn't the business already started? What trigger are you ready to pull, exactly?

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    Chewy chewy chewy ma chomp, errr derrr...

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    Put more time into a business plan and line up some customers or have your own product.

    I don't know the rapid speed on the machine you mention, but five years ago the big boys were running 4kW to 6kW with rapids fast enough to throw a guy if hit by the gantry. If you want to do production, anything less is a toy.

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    Doo you have work for it, or are you going to go out and look for it?

    It sure seems to me that the market is saturated with lasers. I hafta think the margins are low?


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    I've heard people say you can get laser cutters to cut parts cheaper than what you can buy the raw steel for.

    No idea if that's true but maybe 3 years ago I scored a job for my cnc plasma. I cut 23 sheets of stainless for an industrial company, who'd already been getting quotes from laser cutters. I'd heard lasers cutters were cheap so I quoted a bit lower to get the job. The company couldn't say yes to my quote fast enough so I knew I'd under quoted significantly compared to laser cutters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mancavedweller View Post
    I've heard people say you can get laser cutters to cut parts cheaper than what you can buy the raw steel for.
    If the quantity is high enough then it's true in most cases.

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    Quote Originally Posted by azmachining View Post
    If the quantity is high enough then it's true in most cases.
    I get how that can happen with Brass were the scrap can add lots of value, but with steel how can one sell cheaper then the material?
    Or is it they buy in bulk so they pay much less...nesting programs so they are wasting very little material.

    Or they just underbid to keep machine humming while losing money?

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    Quote Originally Posted by SIM View Post
    I get how that can happen with Brass were the scrap can add lots of value, but with steel how can one sell cheaper then the material?
    Or is it they buy in bulk so they pay much less...nesting programs so they are wasting very little material.

    Or they just underbid to keep machine humming while losing money?

    One of my fab shop customers has had software for many years that will look through their parts library to see what else it can take out of the drops of any given part that they are running. Sift through the list of "best use of" (I'm guessing) and find which parts that you think that you have the best likelyhood of selling, and cut those out and toss them on the shelf.


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    Quote Originally Posted by SIM View Post
    I get how that can happen with Brass were the scrap can add lots of value, but with steel how can one sell cheaper then the material?
    Or is it they buy in bulk so they pay much less...nesting programs so they are wasting very little material.

    Or they just underbid to keep machine humming while losing money?
    Quantity on the buy side, plus volume through the shop to make it highly automated. There are places that are set up on shipping ports, and/or train lines that are buying in material direct from the mill by the train or ship load. They would be paying the same or less than a steel service center/distributor.

    For a small laser or plasma shop, if they are buying from a service center rather than a mill, they have an extra middle man to deal with. The big shop buying direct can sell the cut parts for the same price as the raw material from the service center and still make money.

    Having said that, there are a bunch of smaller shops with lasers, plasma, and oxy-fuel cutting. I suspect they are low volume shops that are making it by being easier to deal with for smaller orders than the huge outfits. I'm genuinely curious how they make it work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SIM View Post
    I get how that can happen with Brass were the scrap can add lots of value, but with steel how can one sell cheaper then the material?
    Or is it they buy in bulk so they pay much less...nesting programs so they are wasting very little material.

    Or they just underbid to keep machine humming while losing money?
    all of the above, but mainly imo they buy in bulk. Service centres started adding burning as a way to differentiate...basically to sell more steel. Billion dollar services centres who buy mill direct.

    Lasers are expensive to buy and operate and have very low margins. Makes for a lousy standalone business imo.

    The only processing guys that seem to be making a go of it are ones combine multiple operations, i.e. they burn, bend, weld, coat etc

    EDIT. its also a function of loation, how many lasers are around you. I know a guy in Calgary, and he bills his out at close to 2x the going rate in the GTA....so my bearishness is a bit localized.

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    The absolute LAST "job shop" process I would get into is 2-axis laser cutting, especially sheet metal. That is quickly becoming a commodity. There's a job shop out here that is so cheap, I rarely ask them to quote, I just send them DXFs and qty/material and tell them to schedule it (and that's for onesie/twosies). I have a few techniques to "keep them honest" that I employ but, overall, I am still pretty much amazed at what they offer me.

    Not sure what the machine does that you're referring to but, if it's some kind of special process, maybe there's a market. But just laser cutting? Unless there's a service gap you know you can fill, stick to something more value-added like forming and welding. There's more process knowledge required there and greater opportunity to offer a short lead time if you understand the basics of quick set-up. And, yes, buy your blanks already laser cut! I just recently talked to a hybrid OEM/job shop that said that exact same thing. They have a CNC punch that they keep because they do some louvering on their product but they always buy the stuff that makes sense on the laser. Why invest that much in a machine when the technology keeps improving at a faster rate than you can keep up with?

    The Dude

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nkim View Post
    I have a 2500w prima rapido. I have a shop that covers the specs of the machine. I'm about to pull the trigger. But I want input. Any advice?
    So I want to be clear, Nkim you have 5 Axis Laser and you are looking for direction on starting a Laser Shop?

    Try getting one of these:

    Ulterra | Minn Kota Motors












    Best Trolling Motor available.


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