Are you looking to create a unique product line for your craft business? Consider having your designs laser cut. If you’re not familiar with laser cutting, essentially the process involves a focused laser beam that’s used to cut or etch materials into specific designs, patterns, or shapes. All different materials can be laser cut, making the process very versatile: glass, wood, plastic, leather, paper, gemstones, and metal are potential options.
Although it’s possible to purchase a laser cutter for your craft studio or rent time on one at a local maker space, you may want to simply outsource the process entirely. But what should you look for when evaluating laser cutting services?
Whether you are seeking quilting templates, acrylic rulers, or tags and other unique products to promote your business, the options are endless. You will want to look at both engineering and laser expertise to choose someone who will design your product exactly the way you need it.
Candace West, owner of Barn Catz Studio, says many factors come into play with laser cutting. Unit price can be dependent on everything from cutting time and material price, to the thickness and color of the material, and even clean up. Adding engraving details adds another expense.
For example, there are two main types of acrylic, according to West. Extruded acrylic, typically used for windows and sneeze guards, is hard to engrave. Cast acrylic is stronger and provides a frosty relief when engraved. Color also counts when pricing acrylic. Clear is the lowest priced. Light green is the most popular, at least at Barn Catz Studio. And purple. “It’s like the “Holy Grail”, says West.
And all these things can fluctuate in price depending on what is going on in the world and the availability of the product. For example, prices went up after the Covid-19 virus hit. West’s knowledge comes from years of experience. A competition quilter, West started designing her own long-arm patterns, first on a Cricut machine, but found she wanted more freedom with cutting. Now she runs a successful laser-cutting business, specializing in products for the art and craft industry. When choosing a laser cutter, West suggests:
- Find someone who knows your industry. This will likely result in a cost savings too.
- Provide a clean drawing, preferably done on a computer program. A picture scribbled onto a napkin is going to cost considerably more.
- Ask about timeframes.
- Know the size of the product you want along with the type of material you want to use.
“A reputable laser cutter should have the correct acrylic for your project,” says West.
We asked West and five other laser-cutting businesses about their products, fees and additional tips when seeking a laser cutting service. Here are the details:
Materials: Will cut anything. Popular products are acrylic, mylar, wood, and paper.
Pricing/setup fees: Contact with your idea. A drawing is required to start. Prices are $50 per hour to take an idea from a napkin drawing to a product that a laser can read. Will make prototype for testing.
Minimum orders: $25.00 minimum for custom orders. Will cut one-off an item.
Timeframe: Call for information.
Delivery areas: Worldwide. Purchaser pays shipping fees.
Owner, Katy Westcott
www.katrinkles.com – Contact through web form.
What they do: Katrinkles specializes in wholesale knitting needle gauges, rulers and tools for the yarn and fibre arts industry.
Materials: Wood, acrylic, faux suede. Materials are sourced locally.
Pricing/setup fees: Pre-made retail pieces with name/logo added. Pricing can depend on quality of product used. No artwork fee.
Minimum orders: Wholesale minimum is $125 (10+ pieces)
Timeframe: 2-4 weeks, dependant on time of year.
Delivery areas: Worldwide.
Owner, Madi Hastings
What they do: LaserCut Quilts specializes in laser cutting fabric, pattern printing and produces custom quilting rulers.
Materials: The company features different colors of acrylic for rulers/templates as well as high quality cotton & FlexiFuse lightweight fusible web. They include 80-100 lb. cardstock instruction inserts with their laser cuts.
Pricing/setup fees: Pricing is pattern/design specific. Email with image and dimensions and quantity desired for a quick quote.
$30-$75 set-up fee (dependant on pattern size plus digitizing time)
Minimum orders: Minimum order for custom kits is 12. Minimum for rulers/templates is a full sheet of acrylic.
Timeframe: Typically, 2 weeks but depends on lead times.
Delivery areas: International
Owner, Missy Bosch
What they do: The Studio does laser cutting of all kinds. Custom items they have produced include ornaments, tags, bookbinding equipment and more. Send your ideas. They will do one-off items.
Materials: Wood, leather, acrylic
Pricing/setup fees: Depends on the project. Costs are based on various factors. Can do design work for an extra fee.
Minimum orders: No minimums.
Timeframe: Two weeks, on average.
Delivery areas: US and Canada. Call to discuss shipping.
Materials: Can cut any material including fabric, cardboard, cork, wood, acrylic and leather.
Pricing/setup fees: Reasonable pricing; dependent on the project. Pricing factors include simplicity of design and cutting time.
Minimum orders: No minimum. $15 setup fee.
Timeframe: Generally, 3 days but depends on individual project and time of year.
Delivery areas: US and Canada. Call for information.
What they do: Quilter’s Rule does custom work for a number of companies in the sewing and quilting industry as well as in the sign industry. This includes laser cutting, injection melding, silk screen printing, digital printing and more.
Materials: Acrylic, low density polyethylene (LDPE), and other plastics by special request.
Pricing/setup fees: Pricing is based on a formula combining materials, labor, machine cost and setup fees.
Minimum orders: No minimums but they want you to do an economical run. Prototypes are available.
Timeframe: Not specified. Call for information.
Delivery areas: Worldwide. Customer pays shipping.
Tips for working with lazer cutting services:
- Choose a laser cutter who knows your industry and what you are trying to make.
- Provide them with a clean drawing and know what material you want.
- Talk to the company about your needs before investing time in artwork.
- Ask if pieces will be free-floating in bag or if they tab the pieces. Free-floating results in higher kit error rate.
- Ask if the laser cutter is kitting in bulk or collating for you. Some cutters give you the opt-in. Bulk pieces should cost significantly less.
- Ask if the cutter uses optimization software to help reduce costs.
- Ask about quantity discounts.
- Ask about materials and size, especially if project is large. Not everyone works with all materials. Also inquire about design work; some companies will simply cut as sent while others will suggest fixes and tweaks. Beware of cheaper, online services as they will not typically do fixes to designs.
- Send digital files. Consider bed size of laser cutter. Skill Mill NYC’s is 24”x36”. The more they can cut on a sheet and put on a digital file, the more the cost can be reduced.