When you think lasers, you might imagine the kind that’s used in laboratories or high-tech manufacturing facilities. Consumer and small business-grade laser tech, however, is more powerful and useful than you may think.
Over the past few years, lasers have been used to solve a wide range of problems small businesses have. They can make a company’s job much easier, no matter what kind of niche or sector that business is in.
This is how laser tech will continue to evolve in 2021 — and how businesses can take advantage of new developments.
1. Laser Cutters and Engravers
Laser cutters and engravers are machines that cut materials into shape or engrave them. They can add a bit of personalized flair to materials normally hard to customize at scale — like leather, metal or wood.
If you’ve wanted to offer personalization to your customers but haven’t found an efficient way to customize your finished products, a laser cutter or engraver may help.
Unlike wood burners or similar manual engraving and cutting tech, you can preprogram laser cutters and engravers with custom patterns. This can help businesses automate a significant chunk of their workflows, potentially saving a good bit of time.
If your company relies on a third-party vendor, machinist or engraver for finished products or components, a laser cutter can bring more of your business’s workflows in-house.
In the future, laser cutters may also enable some unique material properties. In 2015, researchers at the University of Rochester found a way to etch materials in a way that made them superhydrophobic. They were water-resistant to the point that droplets would simply bounce off the metal’s surface.
Since then, a few different research teams have replicated the result. Normally, you’d need special coatings to achieve this kind of effect — but soon, you may be able to more effectively waterproof metal products with the right laser cutter.
These machines are a bit of an investment. Budget laser cutters may go for as little as $1,000 but will probably lack advanced features — like a high-powered laser or powerful engraving software — that may make them less appealing than other options.
Mid-range laser cutters typically cost more, with prices ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $9,000. However, prices may fall as demand for these machines inspires businesses to create an even wider range of options.
2. Laser Markers
You may want to invest in a laser marker instead. These machines use lasers to burn markings into finished products. However, unlike laser cutters and engravers, they use a lower-power laser to create surface-level markings without digging into the material itself.
The laser’s lower power level means the marking process may take a little longer than it would with an engraver. However, these markers can be a valuable alternative for businesses that don’t want to risk damage to a material or are working with particularly thin items.
3. Smart Laser Measures
Smart laser measures are a high-tech, digital alternative to other measuring devices. They can be extremely useful when you need high-accuracy measurements, and other options are too impractical or imprecise.
For example, some sign companies offer laser measures to help businesses ensure signs are spaced perfectly apart or give the best possible information on how much room they have.
Similarly, construction companies and landscapers — or really anyone who needs high-quality measurements of an area — may benefit from the increasing availability and quality of smart laser measures.
These measures are already fairly powerful and easy to get a hold of, but increased demand may make the right laser measure even easier to find next year. Costs can vary pretty significantly — with some of the cheapest around $20 and the most expensive worth hundreds or more.
4. Laser Safety Devices
Lasers can also help make a workplace safer. There are tools like safety scanners, which form a cage of light around a machine while it’s in use. If the laser is interrupted, the device will automatically stop or shut down, potentially preventing an injury.
These safety devices are an excellent line of defense against workplace accidents for businesses that use heavy or dangerous machinery. While they’re not a replacement for good safety practices altogether, they are a valuable tool that can help prevent injuries around hazardous equipment.
Newer laser scanners are getting smaller, making them practical for just about any kind of working environment.
Laser Tech Can Make Businesses Safer and More Efficient
Laser technology can provide major benefits to businesses — and next year, they’re likely to invest more in new laser solutions.
If your company needs a new safety solution, wants to add personalization to its products or needs highly accurate measurements, lasers may be just what you need. Some of these tools can be pretty expensive — especially cutters and safety tech. However, the benefits they offer may be worth the price, depending on your business’s needs.