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£1 / min - £50 / hr

I heard an interesting comment today, and I considered doing a blog post, but I thought it was more important than that, so it gets its own page in the Prices & Materials section.

£1 / min - £50 / hr, these are our prices here at Exeter Laser, we charge in machine time only (excluding materials, shipping and VAT of course) which means no charge for handling, setting the job in the machine, loading or unloading the machine, setting the job up in software, nesting if applicable, nothing... just machine time only, and machine time is £1 per minute for smaller jobs, with a minimum charge of £10, and for larger jobs that run to over 1 hour the rate drops to £50 per hour, a discount of £10 per hour over the per minute rate.

Yet apparently this is considered excessive for some.

Let us consider the letter A, in uppercase, in the font Arial, set to be 100 mm high, to be precise that will be 100.000 mm high by 89.909 mm wide at the standard 95% width setting we use for fonts.

To be precise that will involve the laser cutting 493.3 mm of material if we cut this shape out of say 5 mm coloured acrylic, and at 7 mm /sec and 35 watts that will create a beautiful display ready edge, sure, you can cut it a lot faster, but the quality of the job goes down if the speed goes up, and here at Exeter laser we are all about the quality of the job.

So at those settings it takes just about one minute, which means £1, to cut one uppercase letter A, 100 mm high, in font Arial from 5 mm acrylic.

5 mm coloured acrylic is approximately £48 per square meter, and simple mathematics tells us that without any fancy nesting we could get approximately 10 x 10 or 100 letter A's out of a square meter, so material cost would be about 48p.

So we have material cost of just under 50p and laser time cost at high quality settings of £1, for a total cost per letter of £1.50.

If we scale the same letter up to 250 mm high it comes out at 222 mm wide, so we could get 16 out of a square meter without fancy nesting, so 48/16 = £3 a pop for materials, and the cut line length increases to 1,233.3 mm and job time goes up to 3 minutes, so we are at £3 a pop for materials and £3 a pop for laser time, for a total cost per letter of £6

If we scale up again to 500 mm high it comes out at 445 mm wide, so minus fancy nesting you get 4 out of a square meter, so 48/4 = £12 for materials, and line length goes up to 2,466 mm so job time per pop is now 6 minutes so £12 for materials and £6 for laser time for a total cost per letter of £18.

You will have seen the inevitable mathematical relationship... when you increase size you increase area, and area increases more rapidly than outline length, so we go from the 100 mm high letter costing double the laser time compared to the material cost, to the 500 mm letter where the roles are reversed and the material cost is double the laser time cost.

In any event, I would like to take you back to that bit above where it mentions in red text all the stuff you get for free, you are more than welcome to spend US$ 10,000 on your own nesting software, or just lay an array out by hand, or as you can see from our video here, you can take advantage of our nesting software and save up to 50% in materials costs.

Being brutally honest the "£x per letter" pricing model is one we deliberately stayed away from when Exeter Laser was formed, simply because it is such a rip off for the customer... sure, £18 a letter is easy, so you want "WOOLWORTS" (sic) in 5 mm reddish acrylic letters 500 mm high, for a sign over 4.4 meters wide, it makes it easy, 9 letters times £18 = £162

Except the way WE charge, that job is almost exactly an hour of laser time, so £50 for that, and the nesting will get the material cost down to £80 so the total cost is only £130, which is only 80% of the cost of the per letter method.

Going back to the 100 mm high letter A's, nesting will squeeze around 175 of them out of that metre square we mentioned above, not the 100 you'd get with a designer doing it manually, so only 57% of the material cost of the per letter method.

What this all boils down to is one simple fact, £1 a minute does not make Exeter Laser expensive, it is the apparently "flat rate" pricing structures (like mobile phone contracts) that are expensive, we recently did a set of acrylic signage for a customer that had 25 common letters per sign, naming the institution, and between 36 and 50 letters unique to each individual sign, giving various instructions and directions, there were 328 letters in total... our apparently "expensive" £1 per minute or £50 per hour tariff worked out saving the customer well over £500 over the nearest quotes from companies doing the usual per letter pricing scheme.

Bottom line here is even if your company is called "ABC Ltd" then machine time billing is the way to maximise value.... however, Exeter Laser is first and foremost a business, and a business exists to make money, so if you feel that we are overcharging, then may I respectfully direct you to the Buy A Laser section, where we will happily, openly and honestly discuss any and all aspects of selling you your very own laser, with which you can set up in direct competition to us, and undercut us and grab large slices of our potential custom.

Or you can try and hire a competent vehicle fitter, or plumber, or electrician, or any other trade, for less than £50 an hour.