Nobody I know who’s heard about the Versalaser hasn’t immediately wondered how they’re going to get the $10k to get one. It has been mentioned on Slashdot and Boing Boing. It’s basically a printer-sized laser which can cut and engrave wood, plastic, fabric, thin metal, rubber, etc, and which hooks up to your computer via a printer driver.
Now, I know I don’t have that kind of money lying around. But the Versalaser definitely came to mind when I was looking into ways of designing and making custom cuts. The current methods of doing this are making metal engravings or through a photopolymer process. Both of these are options, but from what I’ve seen, if I wanted to do enough cuts to do multiple colors, the costs can add up pretty fast. With the versalaser, the up-front cost is pretty high, but the per-unit cost for materials and processing are pretty negligable. (Actually, the up-front cost is probably still cheaper than what I think a photopolymer unit goes for, but I may be wrong on that).
So, I filled out a form on the Versalaser site requesting a free demo, to get an idea of what they could do, figuring that if they couldn’t do work precise enough to cut, say, a 6-point font, it might not be worth even pining over one. I got an email back in a few days from Greg Conyngham at Integrated CADD Services, my local Versalaser reseller. He sent me a bunch of samples, and offered a demo. I finally got around to the in-person demo this Wednesday.
Their office couldn’t have been much closer from my (day job) office. It’s a stone’s throw from Toscanini’s, and now, my question of what is in that quirky little triangular brick building has been answered.
Within a couple of minutes, Greg whipped up a little logo in CorelDraw, and burned this into wood. He also made a prototype plate in a very hard plastic material called Delrin. I still have to figure out how to mount it so that I can see how it does on the press. The versalaser is as cool as advertised, and, I have an idea that a lot of people think so, but don’t have the money to buy one. But if the prototype works out, Greg offered make custom cuts on his versalser. Which might turn out to be a better option than photopolymer or magnesium. And while not quite as cool as owning one, the fact that their office is so close probably means that I might have an easier time of getting exactly what I want, which might not be the case if I were getting custom cuts made via mail order.