I am purchasing a laser and I need advice
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  1. #1
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    Post I am purchasing a laser and I need advice

    Good evening everyone,

    I'm looking for some advice on the profile cutting industry and how difficult it is to start out.

    Here is my story:

    I have several years of experience with operating water jets and plasma tables and going on 8 years of design experience. I am well versed in modeling (solidworks) and decent with prints. About a year and a half ago I took the plunge and left my job to start my own business. I started a detailing business because it was very low start up cost and almost no overhead. This business has been successful so far and I have 3 employees, but this business was only created so that I could understand what it means to run a business successfully. Now that I have seen the business side of things I am ready to make the move to buying a laser table (well sort of).

    Questions:

    First and foremost- Is it possible to run a 2k-3k watt laser in my 1500 sq. ft. shop at my house? I have 240v in my shop, i assume i will need a transformer and some other equipment, but it would be the most cost effective. If not i'm looking at at least 1800 a month to rent a shop. I already rent a shop for my detailing business, which I could convert for the laser table since most of my business is mobile, but it wouldn't be my first choice because it is neither heated nor cooled, not to mention I don't want to cloud what belongs to each business.

    #2- I'm going to have to finance/lease to buy a table. Based on everyone's experience, is it possible to turn a profit while making payments on a table (I don't really expect to pay myself very much in the first few years. I know this is an investment, but I need the table to make money to put back into growing the business).

    #3- What laser? I intend on staying under 100k. I fully understand that you get what you pay for, but there is no way i'm dropping 500k on a trumpf in my first year. I've been looking into rose/bescutter but I would love some feedback if anyone has experience with them. I still have connections in my previous jobs and it looks like most of my business would be- mild steel/SS/Aluminum up to 1/4".

    #4- The bottom line- Can anyone give me a number on what it costs to run the machine yearly(parts, consumables and labor)?

    #5- Is there anyone here who operates just a profile cutting business? I would love your input.

    #6- Any advice on other machines to compliment a laser?


    Thank you all for your input; positive or negative. Really I just need a kick in the ass to get going. Any other input/advice is greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Last job we had a few cincinnati laser cutters. The last one was a 5x10 cutting area CL-707 with a Slab laser from Rofin that worked awesome but still not a small shop foot print nor power requirement. The laser was purchased off ebay for 27k but it was a customers of the laser tech we used normally so he knew the status of the system and would be able to set it up when it arrived. Avoid tubed base systems like the plague now days since they are a pain to work on and required alot of care.

    100 amp 208 3phase circuit
    27k for system
    4k rigging (Heavy SOB)
    10k for laser install

    Laser tables are a different beast compare to plasma or waterjet for maintenance. I've repaired all 3 different types and would rate laser as the most difficult with the most expensive parts. Plus hard to compete with the boys that only require a dxf upload with material selection to get a price. We would send metal parts to other companies since it was cheaper and we were setup to cut composites with the laser.


    What is leading you to want a laser versus a plasma or even a HD plasma?


    Video of a system similar to the one we used. The white rofin laser cabinet is a slab laser.
    YouTube

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    I would get a waterjet... You will never compete with laser cutters that have automated pallet loaded machine and buys metal from the mill. Jobshopping on a waterjet opens you up to every material and way more potential for higher margin onsie twosie stuff. You can get laser cut parts for almost as much per pound as the steel costs at a local steel yard depending on volume.

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    A job shop laser will never make money unless you are prototyping. I make a lot of individual items and I have been debating a laser purchase myself due to lead times, but when I can buy custom cut 1/4" stainless plate for cheaper then I can buy the stainless for (as long as it is not a lot of small pieces) it makes no sense to spend 100k + for something to sit here. Plus the inventory of materials and the space alone is a big cost.

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

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    My understanding is the old beam path machines are about free because the operating cost of a fiber is so much lower. You need to figure out the business strategy of this outfit from another thread. Ignore the shit show in the thread and order a few parts from the outfit, and then figure out how you can do it cheaper.

    Anyone using sendcutsend.com? If you're not, watch out!

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    Where are you going to store and handle 250k lbs of stock ?
    If your not buying your materials in truckload qty's, your cost's
    will be too high.

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    Vytek Fibercab might be a fit?
    No experience with them (we run Amadas) but I know they are not as pricey as the big names

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    Thank you for the response Duc!

    My reason for not wanting a plasma comes down to cut quality. I have a few possible customers already lined up, and i know what they need cut already. A plasma cutter simply cannot give the cut quality a laser does, this is especially important on bolt holes. now maybe things have changed, the last time I used a flame table was in 2014. It was a torchmate with a hypertherm 130 power supply. It was an absolute beast cutting 1/8-3/16 4130 chromoly with a fine tip, but when it came to holes it just could not give the roundness the waterjet provided. I don't want to have to throw each one on the mill and ream out the holes, then I would need a slew of carbide reamers to do the same job a laser or waterjet could do (that was a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point).

    I understand that it is a much more complex system than a waterjet, but is it really that much more expensive to repair than a waterjet? The flow waterjet I worked with had theeeeee worst dual intensifier ever built. Even after getting a brand new one that thing was a hunk of junk. Always leaked, always blew seals, always having to rebuild it. Had a KTM intensifier on another machine, and even though it was a beautiful intesifier that was very quite, it was the same deal. Then talk about having to empty the 2.5 tons of sand out of it every month. I just cant imagine a laser being worse, more expensive maybe, but not worse. But, that's what I am here to learn, so I appreciate your input.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kustomizingkid View Post
    I would get a waterjet... You will never compete with laser cutters that have automated pallet loaded machine and buys metal from the mill. Jobshopping on a waterjet opens you up to every material and way more potential for higher margin onsie twosie stuff. You can get laser cut parts for almost as much per pound as the steel costs at a local steel yard depending on volume.
    Thanks for the input. You make a valid point about being able to cut other materials. I used to cut quite a bit of bullet proof glass for an arms company in the area. I think i'm so disinterested in waterjets because I know what a pain in the ass they can be. In my mind a laser is a common ground between the plasma and waterjet. Clean cut without the mess. I will say, now you have put the idea of a waterjet back on my mind.

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    You must live out in the country, I can't imagine trying to operate even a very small Laser in a 1500 sq foot home shop in a residential area. You may be able depending on your location in the world to pick up some one off and small work, but it would be hard to compete with the big boys. Lights out self loading large production machines and large volume material purchasing is hard to compete against. There is a difference in cut quality and accuracy between a 20 thousand used machine and a half million dollar production laser. Not trying to rain on your idea, just suggesting you really research your idea.

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    Thank you gbent! My current plan so far is lead times. I know i can't beat them on price but I have no problem running that machine 24/7. If there is something I learned from working in racing it's that I can make deadlines. The race was always Sunday, whether your car was ready or not.

    I plan to focus on local businesses that need profile parts cut. If i can offer 1-2 day turn around times for a few key customers who would be my "bread and butter" I think I would be able to make it work. I live in an area that is overgrown with fab shops, custom hot rod shops and race shops. Every which way you turn there is a fab shop buying locally cut parts whether it be waterjet or laser.

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    Thanks Ollie, I will check them out!

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    Thanks Digger! I completely understand that. My plan is to provide better lead times than anyone out of the area could even think about. I will hand deliver parts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmarshll View Post
    Thank you for the response Duc!

    My reason for not wanting a plasma comes down to cut quality. I have a few possible customers already lined up, and i know what they need cut already. A plasma cutter simply cannot give the cut quality a laser does, this is especially important on bolt holes. now maybe things have changed, the last time I used a flame table was in 2014. It was a torchmate with a hypertherm 130 power supply. It was an absolute beast cutting 1/8-3/16 4130 chromoly with a fine tip, but when it came to holes it just could not give the roundness the waterjet provided. I don't want to have to throw each one on the mill and ream out the holes, then I would need a slew of carbide reamers to do the same job a laser or waterjet could do (that was a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point).

    I understand that it is a much more complex system than a waterjet, but is it really that much more expensive to repair than a waterjet? The flow waterjet I worked with had theeeeee worst dual intensifier ever built. Even after getting a brand new one that thing was a hunk of junk. Always leaked, always blew seals, always having to rebuild it. Had a KTM intensifier on another machine, and even though it was a beautiful intesifier that was very quite, it was the same deal. Then talk about having to empty the 2.5 tons of sand out of it every month. I just cant imagine a laser being worse, more expensive maybe, but not worse. But, that's what I am here to learn, so I appreciate your input.
    Can be very expensive if you dont understand them or know how to fix them. Its not knowledge that is posted on the net compared to a waterjet system. If you understand mechanical system with basic hydraulic knowledge then a waterjet is easy but few on trained on lasers. Reflective mirrors can be a couple grand, cutting lens are sensitive, cutting gases, tuning requires a expert, vacuum systems. Tons of items Im forgetting that I ran into on the laser system. Waterjet is a much better system for the average user and give more options.

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    Thanks Dana! I live 15 minutes outside of race city USA. Its the meca of small-medium size fab shops. I guess you could compare it to the hot rod shops of southern california. Running it in my shop at my house is just an idea I had to help cut costs initially. It's not just a detached garage, it is a purpose built shop. I don't have the capital to buy land and build a shop yet, so I am just exploring alternatives. I guess the common them is not being able to compete with the big boys, which I understand. Thank you for your input!

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    So i guess the common thought is not being able to compete with the big boys. If that is the consensus, What do all of you do for a living? Are you all the owners of the 100,000 square foot shops with automated everything? I respect all of your input but I have to ask. Do you all only prototype and produce your own product? Do you just outsource all of your profile cutting? I need to know! I don't like to assume but i'm sure at least one of you has a piece of equipment worth 50k+. Would it be more worth my while to invest in a small mill?

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    Most owners on here have multiple pieces of equipment over 50k. I have a cheaper plasma just for doing curves and such and I have contemplated a laser for over 5 years now. I have been reading laser and water jet issues on here since I became a member and I still cant justify it. I have a company 5 miles from me that has a water jet. I am going to start a product line which would easily pay for a laser, but why when I can get pieces cut cheaper then material costs. From my years of experience, it is better to drop 50k on a machine shop, water jet or welding shop then on a laser shop. That not saying it's not possible as there is a band saw only company that has been seemingly doing well 4 years after opening. At the end of the day, if you can sell ice to an eskimo and make a decent profit on every sale, then there seems to be a good business for you.

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

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    I would be inclined to think that building on your detailing business would net you more cash than supplying raw material to an industry you are not part of. 1500 - 1800sf isn't much space to have a machine, forklift, crane, material storage etc. As others have pointed out, there ain't much room for improvement in turnaround or cost. Each new job you do you will need raw stock, programs, containers for the cut parts etc. and all to make pennies. There is money to be made in the metal working industry and this country may well be poised to make that better in the not too far off future but I believe you are late to the table on this one if making money is the goal, however if you just want practice working hard and long for not much it could be just the thing to do.

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    I have a 1000 watt Bodor that I am happy with. 5X10 open table and I had to make a vacuum lifter to load sheets without scratching them. Your business plan needs more thought and for damn sure you need to make a profit AND make loan payments. Maybe not in the first few months, but thereafter. Otherwise you have an expensive hobby.

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    I run a 1KW 50x100 CO2 laser off an RPC in my shop next to my house. Takes a lot of juice. 90 amps @ 240V 3 phase.

    I would never, not in a million years try to compete with the big cutters. My laser is for my parts, primarily marking at low power.

    I outsource most of my cutting 1/4 mile away to a 300K sq ft shop with millions in Amada equipment.

    If you can learn enough about CO2 lasers to maintain and fix one on your own they can be a steal of a deal. But you can also go blind or cut your hand off if you fuck up.

    1500 sq ft doesn't sound like enough to me. I have 7000 and I probably shouldn't have a fullsize laser in addition to the machining I do.

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