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Excited about laser


#1

An unexpected use/benefit since got the laser. It absolutely excells
at model making. I am just no good with wax, not my thing…but the
laser lets me join 60 teeny tiny tubes and prongs(for one and half
pointers today) all clustered together very close and precise. Put em
on one at time, use the reticle as an alignment guide, neat clean, no
torch/solder/firescale to muck up the detail.

When I was angsting over whether to pop for the machine, I thought
I’d like to make the money back on the investment within a certain
time frame. The real benefit isn’t the money(although that’s
definitely there too) its being free of the limitations of the torch.
Imagine that, the most basic tool in our arsenal, the thing that took
years to really master, I barely use it anymore.

Where the money is, is not in substituting the laser for the
torch(welding jump rings…Boring!). Its in making stuff that enables
the sale of lots of smaller stones. Diamond total weights are way
more profitable(percentage-wise) than say, 1-2 Ct stones. Shoot,
anybody can go on the web and buy a certed diamond that you have to
eat dirt to sell. Why knock yourself out for 15%? But sell that same
weight in gem melees and custom make the piece and you’ll net about
the same dollars or more and the customer has something special and
will TALK about it and flash it around.

Well, I guess the benefit IS in the money afterall, but in a
roundabout, fun, exciting way. If anyone is considering it, go get
one
already. The way to compete is to not compete. Do what they don’t.

Sorry for my 3.a.m. enthusiasm.


#2

How much do those lasers cost? Roughly.

RC


#3

I’ve been jonesing for a laser welder lately – it’s nice to see
someone else is really enthused by its capabilities. Have you tried
fusing different types of metals together with it? I do a lot of
copper/silver pieces, and it would be so nice to not have to deal
with the excessive oxidation that the copper develops so early on,
making it hard to get solder to flow, etc. I honestly haven’t seen
but one laser welder in person, and it was not available for demo,
so I didn’t get to see it in action. Which one did you get? Would you
recommend it specifically? I am working on taking out a small
business loan to try and beef up the studio a little, and this is
definitely at the top of my list, since I get so many repair
requests for itty bitty details on antique pieces, and I’m terrified
to attempt it with the torch. Plus, I love the idea of maintaining
the original patina! I don’t think I could turn away from the torch
completely, though – too much of a pyro love for that!

Jennie


#4

How much does a laser cost? Anywhere from $17,000 to $30,000.
Crawford and Lasterstar are the top 2 choices.

Don’t think in terms of $17-$30,000 It doesn’t cost that.

THINK:

Increased productivity Monthly payment of about $400 a month.

If you could HIRE a jeweler, who would work 5 days a week to help
you and he or she increased your productivity 40-70% when it came to
torch solders and their salary was $400 a month, would you hire them?

In a New York minute. 75% of most repairs will go FASTER with a
laser, You’ll make money just from productivity. 25% will go slower.
Sizing and shanks are one an din my price book we charge 50% MORE in
sizing labor just for that reason.

I have NOT MET ONE person who has said “gee, I wish I hadn’t bought
this machine.”

100% of people tell me “Wish I had done it years ago”

Lease with option to buy at the end.

David
David Geller
JewelerProfit
www.JewelerProfit.com


#5
In a New York minute. 75% of most repairs will go FASTER with a
laser, You'll make money just from productivity. 25% will go
slower. Sizing and shanks are one an din my price book we charge
50% MORE in sizing labor just for that reason. 

Even with that bunch that are slower if done only with the laser,
there are ways around that, if one retains torch skills. For example,
there are a number of types of joints where a nice clean capillary
joint is desired, rather than the sometimes wider and less
penetrating nature of a laser weld. But even then, using the laser to
position and hold the parts for soldering, ends up saving you time.
And with the bunch that are in fact still slower, that’s offset by
the fact that the laser weld is exactly that. a weld. A higher
quality joint that won’t show up as a solder line or leave evidence
that it’s a repair. Such jobs are worth more not just because they
take longer, but also because the end result can be higher quality.
And some of the jobs that go much faster with the laser (some types
of retipping, for example) are also worth more, even with time
savings, due to the higher quality work done.

But just to keep the discussion fair, understand that there are some
things a laser will NOT do well. Some metals tend to produce overly
brittle welds, or welds with cracks. Others, like sterling or fine
silver, and very high karat gold, can be difficuylt to weld at all,
needing high power levels and even then not always welding well.
Different types of laser welders will handle these situations with
varying degrees of success, with the less expensive machines offering
fewer options (pulse shaping, for example) to deal with such
problems, and some of those situations are still just better done
with a torch. And some of the types of jobs people tout for laser
welders get somewhat overstated. Retipping prongs on colored stones,
for example, can be quite risky, since most colored stones do not
much like being hit with a laser beam, and both the direct beam and
reflected energy from the beam can damage the stones. Retipping thin
prongs can be tricky when the metal you’re trying to build up is too
thin to protect the stone underneath, for example. There are work
around methods for some such situations, but it’s still not always as
much of a miracle tool as one might expect from the advertising. It’s
a wonderful tool, but it doesn’t change the basics of metalurgy or
gemology one must consider in jewelry work. Joining two different
metals is another example. Done with solder, the seam is a thin tight
capillary line with full penetration of the solder into the joint.
Done with the laser, the weld is a bit less neat, as the two metals
get mixed and muddled in the welding. Sometimes this matters, and
sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s a consideration.

But on the whole, I’m in love with my laser. It’s an old model by
today’s standards (eleven years old now), but it does what I need it
to do. When it stops doing that, it be difficult for me to decide to
buy another, if I can swing the purchase price…

Peter


#6

I used the Laserstar at SNAG in Savannah and fell in love with it. I
have been wanting one ever since. It is lovely to work with.

Susan
www.ThorntonStudioJewelry.com


#7

A bit over four years ago I convinced my last employer to invest in a
laser and we quickly found that there would be whole days when the
torch was never lit once. Then after three years using the laser for
most of my work I changed jobs last year, moving to a growing shop
with no laser. There is just so much assembly and repair that the
laser is better for than the torch, that going back to having only a
torch was almost like going back to using only an old fashioned
alcohol lamp and blowpipe! It’s not that the laser is the best for
every job, as a torch does have advantages over the laser in a few
areas, but for most of my work the laser is quicker, cleaner, less
risky, and it is the ONLY way I will willingly assemble or do repairs
on platinum. Two months in our new shop without the laser was like
working with both hands tied behind my back. I made the investment
and now I own the laser.


#8

An alternative to laser welding would be the purchase of a TIG
welding machine. My machine is about the size of a tower computer and
including everything, argon gas tank and regulator, torch and cable,
safety wear, and machine, I have approximately $5000.00 invested. It
is possible to spend less than this in order accomplish most jobs a
jewelers would need to do. I can accomplish 85% of the jobs a laser
does. When it’s best to use a laser I subcontract the job. But I
can’t do it on the spot with customer waiting. When it comes to
palladium, I do not have brittle welds, which have been reported to
me by laser operators. Before buying a laser take time to investigate
TIG as an alternative. Look at main stream industrial welding
machines. The machine of interest to you would be an inverter TIG
welding machine. I have a ITW Miller Dynasty 200 DX and I have used a
ITW Miller Maxstar 150 STH with successful results also.

Kevin Lindsey
lindseyjewelers.com


#9
Which one did you get? Would you recommend it specifically? 

The Neutec 30 joule Studio. I’ve only used one other laser, an older
Crafford full sized, so I can’t really say the neutec is this or
that, but it works and it was affordable(no lease for me) and its
small which is important to me. It does however overheat sometimes(no
damage, it just doesn’t allow more shots til it cools off) but this
has only been under heavy use at high power settings, not frequent.

repair requests for itty bitty details on antique pieces 

Aside from accuracy, I think the main thing is the isolated heat
which is good for repairs of fragile or stone set stuff. There is a
consideration though for tiny articles. Since it is essentially a
spot welder, joins that have very little contact area need to be
built up. Solder would of course run a fillet around the join,
increasing surface area. You have to do much the same with filler
wire.

I love the idea of maintaining the original patina! 

At the join you will lose the patina, but the loss is confined to a
very small area.


#10

Peter,

Others, like sterling or fine silver, and very high karat gold, can
be difficuylt to weld at all, needing high power levels and even
then not always welding well 

thankyou for telling me this. I work in enamel and there are times I
have many pieces to fuse and solder. someone mentioned the laser
welder to me and now thank you for the clarification that I don’t
need to spend the $$ just the time to continue what I have been
doing. It would have absolutely driven me to diversion if I had
tried to weld my fine silver and not had it work, but create a
larger problem for me.

jennifer friedman
http://www.jenniferfriedmanstudio.com


#11
thankyou for telling me this. I work in enamel and there are times
I have many pieces to fuse and solder. someone mentioned the laser
welder to me and now thank you for the clarification that I don't
need to spend the $$ just the time to continue what I have been
doing. It would have absolutely driven me to diversion if I had
tried to weld my fine silver and not had it work, but create a
larger problem for me. 

I didn’t say it can’t work. The point is that metals with very high
thermal conductivity or high infrared reflectivity are difficult to
weld. In the case of high karat gold (22K, 24K), it’s just that the
metal reflects most of the beam, so you have to crank up the power.
This can be dealt with by use of things like black or red magic
marker or other ink on the metal surface, so the beam is absorbed
more by the metal. Works, but just makes a little more hassel.

Silver gets you on both the high reflectivity and the high thermal
conductivity. It takes sometimes very high power levels to weld.
Sterling (standard sterling) also tends to be somewhat brittle when
welded, though annealing fixes that if the piece will be enameled or
something. Fine silver doesn’t have the brittleness problems, but
takes even more power to weld. (Argentium sterling, by the way, welds
very nicely. For some reason, it absorbs more of the infrared energy
than does standard sterling or fine silver so it welds well. Standard
sterling is more problematic, or at least, has been for me. But then,
I’m working with an older machine…

Now, this all doesn’t mean the laser won’t work on fine silver. It
just means you have to crank up the power levels to do it, and many
of the lower cost (like the benchtop models) laser welders simply
aren’t capable of the higher power needed. For you, if a laser had
enough power to do it for you, fine silver gives good welds. And if
you’re working with sterling silver, you’ll benefit from using one of
the models of lasers that offer more than one pulse shape, since
these can be used to help solve the problems some metals have with
giving brittle or cracky welds.

The bottom line is simple. If you want to get a laser used primarily
for silver work, you’ll simply have to set your sights on one of the
models capable of doing that, and these are not likely to be the
lower cost entry level lasers. But the field is evolving so rapidly
that by the next time you see laser welders at some show, who knows,
they may have solved the problems I refer to. Enough people use, or
would like to use, laser welders with silver that there’s plenty of
market for machines optimized for that use. You just have to be
careful to be specific as to your intended uses and needs when
shopping. And take the time to actually try one with the type of work
you intend to do. That will give you an idea as to how well it will
meet your needs. You wouldn’t, after all, buy a new car without a
test drive or considerable prior familiarity with the model. This is
the same, and the same price range perhaps. So it would make sense
to compare and test carefully. For the record, I know at least two
jewelers who’s work is primarily in silver, and they’re happily using
laser welders in their shops.

Peter


#12

Kevin, would you say a TIG is more like a spot welder or an arc
welder? Can you lay down a nice bead in short order?

One of the confining things about a laser is that it makes a surface
spot. For deeper penetration or running a bead you have to go thru a
more time consuming process.

What about heat absorption by the piece? How small a weld can you
make?

No brittle welds? THAT sounds interesting.


#13
One of the confining things about a laser is that it makes a
surface spot. For deeper penetration or running a bead you have to
go thru a more time consuming process. 

Well, yes and no. It depends on your power settings. For example,
sizing a ladies platinum ring shank, with about a 2mm by 2mm
dimension shank, or more, I can put a single weld on that seam that
will penetrate the entire seam. Settings are cranked up voltage to
460, the maximum of my machine, about 7 or 8 milliseconds or more,
and a tight small focus. At that kind of settings, the laser
penetrates quite deeply. Sometimes as much as 3mm, depending on the
metal. To do it, you have the milliseconds settings high enough so
the initial tendancy to just drill through, is blocked by the weld
filling back in as the heat spreads laterally. You then still have to
backfill any low areas after that one deep shot. But it’s a lot
faster than just building up an entire sizing seam with many repeated
passes with filler wire to backfill a whole wider seam as is often
taught as the right method…

I will also say, though, that I don’t always do this. I don’t really
like cranking my laser up the maximum power levels all that much,
since it goes through flash lamps a lot faster that way… And those
puppies aren’t cheap. And on some metals, doing this tends to give
you pits and defects in the weld…

Cheers
Peter Rowe


#14
would you say a TIG is more like a spot welder or an arc welder?
Can you lay down a nice bead in short order? 

My machine is capable of a 1/10 of a second (spot) weld from 1- 200
amperes. My torch is not limit to tungsten diameter, so the weld can
be tiny or large. Heat generation in a spot welding mode is similar
to the laser. My machine is an inverter type power supply which is
different from other TIG welders that are marketed to the jewelry
market. An inverter can change amperage on the fly. I can lay down a
bead with less heat than a gas torch, so many platinum (high temp)
welds can be made without stone damage. The travel speed is limited
to my ability to control the weld with such small tolerances. No
brittle welds? THAT sounds interesting. The ability to weld palladium
without stress cracking is unique. It has been reported to me that
pulse shaped laser welds have not proved to be a solution to welding
palladium. With TIG, palladium can be welded and cold worked without
failure. I have not had an opportunity to demonstrate or give many
workshops. If anyone is interested please contact me.

Kevin Lindsey
lindseyjewelers.com


#15

Palladium Tig Welding - Kevin Are you under an Argon bath?

Scott


#16

Don’t forget the Rofin lasers. Great engineering. High power, pulse
shaping. They’re out of Massachusetts. (home in Switzerland) For
this machine you don’t have to buy deionized water - it takes care of
it for you. VERY nice machine.

I named mine Hotshot.

Jusine


#17
Don't forget the Rofin lasers.. VERY nice machine...I named mine
Hotshot. 

We have had a Power Laser (German made, purchased through B&D Sales
Corp. out of Rhode Island) for 8 years. It’s a beautifully designed
machine, it more than pays for itself in time saved, I love it. We
have a very busy shop and the laser is like a pool table in a busy
bar, but instead of quarters holding it for the next person it’s the
piece the person is working on. The only thing wrong with it is that
we only have one.

We’ve named ours Frankie. It started out as the zapper. As in when
someone was waiting to use it and the person on it was talking
instead of working I would say, a little less yappin’ and a lot more
zappin’ please. The name zapper evolved into “the zappa” and then
Frank Zappa and finally just Frankie. People tend give us a blank
look when we tell them we can fix something on Frankie.

Mark


#18
How much does a laser cost? Anywhere from $17,000 to $30,000.
Crawford and Lasterstar are the top 2 choices. 

David, I am sorry to say the 2 units you mention are the same. As
well Stuller is carrying the Rofin. It runs about 25,500.00

Andy The Tool Guy Kroungold
Director of Tools Sales/Stuller Bench