Beams of Might
Laser diemaking stands ready to serve big and small shop needs.
by Susan Friedman
Many bigger die shops are upgrading; many smaller outfits are finding the investment more palatable. But where do the rosiest prospectsfor buyer and sellerlie in laser diemaking systems?
"Laser system sales have been cyclical," says Tim Christopherson, regional sales manager, Laser Machining. "Heavy sales prior to 1984 filled existing need, and very few were sold in the next few years." From his perspective, 1992 was the next peak sales year, and volumes are likely to swing upward again in the near future.
Renewed sales volume could spring from any point on the die shop size spectrum. Thomas Marino, president of Elcede, says many commercial die shop customers are re-evaluating bringing equipment such as laser diemaking systems back in-house. At the same time, he notes, bigger die shops are in search of higher dieboard output to lower costs.
At Data Technology, where laser offerings include fixed beam/flatbed systems, hybrid "flying optics" systems for flat tables, and rotary systems for the corrugated market, V.P. of Sales/Marketing Steven Gore projects nearly even demand for each design in the coming year.
Data Technology plans to build 30 to 35 different types of systems, and expects to sell around 10 of each. When the company's hybrid system was introduced five years ago, Gore says it was initially expected to replace fixed-beam technology, but the market for the latter has remained strong. Other frequent purchases have included combination rotary and flat systems, upgrades to faster lasers, and rotary capability add-ons.
Because there is a healthy selection of laser systems available for budgets big and small, it's tough to assemble a hard and fast profile of the typical laser system purchaser. Higher wattages that ensure faster cutting speeds will push prices skyward, explains Christopherson, with larger 2200 watt, 90 ipm systems running $240,000 to $340,000. Diemakers interested in adopting laser on a lesser scale can opt for systems such as Laser Machining's Model 6200, a 500 watt, 20 ipm flatbed machine that burns dieboards up to 4´ x 4´ and costs about $175,000.