‘I remember reading,’ says John Ralph of Quail Run Signs, ‘where someone said that it’s hard to build a business around the laser in most areas, because the market just isn’t that large yet. He went on to say that you can successfully use a laser in almost any sign shop in almost any market to increase your sales. That stuck with me. A laser lets you do so much more in a sign shop. It complements both the tools you have and the work that you do really well.’
Of course, you can make complete signs with the laser, like interior signage, nameplates, wayfinding systems and ADA signage. It’s a natural for a sign shop and Ralph, who added his Epilog laser seven years ago, does a lot of such work.
‘Along with acrylic and other materials,’ he said, ‘we use a lot of laser-specific materials as well. We do a lot of interior signage for office buildings as well as promotional items with those materials. There are quite a few materials to pick from and loads of colour options.’
In most sign shops, though, the laser engraver/cutter quickly finds a home for many aspects of production. You can make components for other signs: cutting out acrylic and HDU lettering and graphics, cutting out acrylic panels, engraving graphics that get applied to large signs.
Coupled with your CNC and digital printing equipment, the laser has even more potential as a sign making tool. This lets sign makers use more of the laser’s power and potential, and get even more value from it than many users.
Shops that have added a laser recognise this right away. ‘With sign work, there are a lot of other related uses for the laser,’ said Steve Shepherd of Custom Engraving & Signs. ‘For example, we often cut a poster board template as a pattern for letter installation. If it’s large, we do it in panels and tape it together. We can walk into an office, tape it to the wall and install the letters in a matter of minutes.’
Of course, a laser also lets you do all the incredible engraving feats that a laser can do on almost any surface — detailed photos on marble tile, wedding announcements on paper, intricate logos on leather coasters and perfect monograms on knife blades. But most likely, it’s how the laser helps you enhance your signs and speed production that will keep you wondering how you ever got by without it.