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Discussion Starter #1
I'm thinking of expanding my range of offerings and am considering buying either a laser engraver or a rotary engraver. Do any members here have experience with either and what prompted your decision to buy? I would use the machine to make rhinestone templates and engrave the aluminum plates that attach to awards and trophies. I'd also like something that would engrave pet memorials. Thanks for taking the time to read this far.
 

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Frank:
I have owned both. I currently own an Epilog EXT36 40watt. I will say this, I have produced more with the laser in 3 years than I produced in 5 with the rotary. However, the laser is a lot more money. The rotary can do a better job on some things, such as deep engraving in metal plates and the like. On the other hand the laser is very versatile and can engrave or cut a variety of materials, wood, fabric, acrylic, mylar and oilboard for templates, granite, marble, Corian etc. You can actually mark stainless steel by using Cermark. You can etch coated metals i.e. anodized aluminum and metals specially coated for lasering. But don't fall for the sales pitch that you can get rich with the output off a laser, ain't so. You have to view it as a tool to be used in conjunction with your other machines and skills to make money.
It is prudent to do a lot of research before making this investment, which, for a top of the line brand name machine, your looking at $10,000 up. (my Ext was $27k new from the factory).
 

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I have a Universal x660 50w Laser, a sublimation printer, heat press, screen press, vinyl cutter, and a mutoh 64" vinyl printer. In 5 years I can think of a dozen jobs I turned down because they needed to be rotary engraved. They were always ittybitty 1-off jobs too, low profit.

I made friends with another local shop that has a rotary... I send him those jobs and I print his vinyl for him. I make alot more money printing his vinyl than he makes doing my rotary jobs.

These days I sublimate almost all my trophy plates. We use the laser for ADA sign jobs, electrical & solar tags, leather cutting, acrylic, etc... but hardly ever now for trophy plates!

I could have bought a rotary a couple times for 1k-ish and passed.

I would buy a hot stamp ribbon machine though... we job out imprinted ribbons, and lose lots of jobs because of price.... just lost a 5k ribbon gig over a few pennies/piece to a guy that prints them himself!

I never lost a 5k rotary engraving job! LOL!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks Larry for your very informative response. I have done some research into both laser and rotary engravers and I think secretly I was hoping that I would hear what I wanted to hear, which is that a rotary engraver is the equal of a laser, but a whole lot cheaper. I'll have to work harder and save up some more money.
 

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Keep your eyes open on teh used market... a good laser can be had for 5k. Just be sure to check the tube wattage with a calibration tool. They go bad. Bearings, belts, and lenses can all be replaced cheap enough but a tube can cost a few K's
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you Glenn for taking the time to respond to my question. I have learned so much from members like you, this is such a helpful and generous community.
I think I'll look for someone I can work with who has a laser, until such time as I can afford my own. Currently I work with friends, one does silk-screen printing (and got me into this business) and another who does embroidery.
I have registered my name with Gravograph, Epilog, Universal and Class Act Engraving for used or refurbished machines.
Once again, thanks to you and Larry for your advice and insights and helping make my decision.
Cheers and have a smashing week.

Frank
 

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