Get the laser. I have both a laser welder and a 4 axis mill with
full CAD/CAM software so I have some basis to recommend upon. On the
other hand my business is unique in that we are not jewelers, but a
tool and supply distributor and using the machines to rent and draw
the trade to us. None the less I can give you some input on both that
is only partially biased. I should qualify that by saying that I sell
both laser welders as a distributor for Zahntech and CAD/CAM systems
with the Sherline line and Jewelspace software.
Pretty much here is how I see it. The CAD/CAM system with a mill
allows you to do something that you can already do yourself or that
you can contract out pretty cheaply. The time it takes to create a
design then mill it is about the same (once you become proficient) as
what you can currently do. The laser welder on the other hand allows
you to do things that you can not do on your own currently. You can
also offset a portion of your laser cost by selling time on it to
other jewelers. There is a training curve that will take your time to
teach them, but it is only about 3 - 4 hours and then you are not
investing any of your time. With CAD/CAM the training curve is much
steeper and you can not recoupe anywhere near as much by selling
rental time to the trade.
Basically put I think that a laser will give you a better ROI and be
a much larger profit center long term. If you want to introduce
computer design to your business just get the design package and then
send out your prototyping to someone like 3D Factory where you can
buy 10 prepaid ring sized prototypes for about $800. If you figure in
your time and the investment in the CAM and mill you will not be able
to cut waxes for $80 each.
If you want to discuss this feel free to call me at the store. Be
glad to also tell you why the Zahntech laser is the way to go
compared to the more hype and pushier companies.
A2Z Metalsmith Supply Inc
5151 S Federal Blvd Unit I-9
Littleton CO 80123