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Laser Art (interview was given by George Fomitchev to Russian magazine «Zhara»

How to Launch an Innovation Start-Up on Production of Lasers for Engraving and To Make 25 Thousand Dollars per Month

The word «unfortunately» will be very often used in this article, because, unfortunately, the institution for supporting smart and creative entrepreneurs, who are able to bring the future closer with their solutions, is still to be developed in this country. Because of this, many promising ideas are ruined in its infancy, breaking against bureaucratic or corrupt walls of the administrative system.  Endurance is a Russian startup that creates powerful diode lasers for laser cutting and engraving. Since the first months of its existence, the start-up has literally cut through its path to the market. But how else — because the state does not support this kind of start-ups, contrary to the opinion imposed by the media.

 

Business Peculiarities

The business was founded in January 2015. The idea came to George in the US when he visited the CES exhibition in Las Vegas. Over 100K USD in total were invested in the start of the project. The financial source is private investment and personal savings. The name Endurance was borrowed from the film «Interstellar».

The company chose two directions of activity — production of robots and lasers. In both directions the company had ready prototypes from the Endurance partner Mateo Borri. The young starters immediately got an idea what products would be interesting to the consumer at that moment. In January 2015 they entered the Russian and international markets with 2 W lasers. The problem was that people did not fully understand how these devices worked.

Georgy Fomichev: «You can install our lasers on any CNC machine or a 3D printer and get a functional laser engraver in just half an hour. Actually, we offer accessories for 3D printers and CNC machines, which have no analogues on the market. Though the power of our lasers does not allow cutting metal, glass or ceramics, however, they are doing fine engraving leather, plastic, acrylic, plywood. «

 

This solution is unique for Russia. There are only few companies in the world dealing with creation of such lasers.

Creation of lasers for engraving has four main problems:

  1. Choice of a diode, which is able to work long non-stop without overheating.
  2. Choice of a good cooling system to avoid laser overheating.
  3. Development of a universal mount for practical and easy installation of the laser on any 3 printer or CNC machine.
  4. Correct laser powering.

 

The company managed to successfully solve all these tasks. The Endurance lasers are easy to install and they do not fuse. According to George, their customers are satisfied.

In Russia the company offers ready laser engravers to their customers, as it turns out that Russian consumers prefer to buy ready laser devices but not accessories for other machines. While in Europe and America people buy willingly lasers to install on their 3D printers and CNC machines.

Today Endurance sells two types of products: lasers as accessories to be installed on other devices and laser engravers. Sales are carried out exclusively through the Internet. The main «sales engines» of the company are two YouTube channels, which have already about 400,000 views. They demonstrate videos telling how to connect and install lasers, and how to laser engrave various materials.

It’s very difficult to measure the conversion of the YouTube channel, but, approximately, every 100-200 video views generate one sale. In addition to YouTube, the videos are also uploaded on specialized resources. Besides, Endurance periodically produces articles telling about their products and nuances of laser engraving.

 

George Fomichev: “I am the author of more than 40 articles in various online publications, two-thirds of which are American and European. Typically, the average consumer does not know that he can turn his 3D printer or CNC machine into an engraver by installing a special laser on it. Our main task is to bring this information to potential customers and, if possible, teach them how to use our devices.”

 

For the consumer to buy more — you need investments, more massive advertising, corporate sales, etc. In Russia Endurance has 1-2 sales per month, the main market of the company is America and Europe.

The culture of making things with one’s own hands is not well developed in this country. In America, Europe and Australia the situation is different. People willingly buy lasers and create things themselves, share the results of their work and even earn on it.

George Fomichev: “We create the most powerful solid-slate diode lasers in the world. We are the only start-up in Russia popularizing the idea of making things with one’s own hands and home laser engraving.”

 

Hardships, Plans for the Future and the Secret of the Success

 

«The first difficulty is connected with the search for qualified and interested specialists for our team, willing to initially work for the future and “for the idea».

We also faced with the lack of a clear state support of our project. We applied to various development institutions, and none of them supported us — neither Skolkovo, nor Bortnik’s fund, nor others. This is predictable, in principle, given the level of corruption in our country. After all, we wanted to work openly, without various middle men or agents.

The greatest problem of domestic development institutions, in my opinion, is that they do not give any distinct criteria for the evaluation of the project, which makes it difficult to obtain investment for its development. Quite often the main criterion of evaluation is scientific made by people who do not understand the essence of this or that development.

Development institutions, unfortunately, cannot help with anything other than money, while start-ups are in bad need of competent expert appraisals (examinations) of their developments. Moreover, the word «appraisal» should not be understood as «good advice». Real appraisal (examination) should also include assistance of the mentor or curator of the project in bringing the young developers’ products to the market and market launch of their inventions. Why has no promising Russian project of today become the second Microsoft, Google or Apple? Because the specialists from the American Silicon Valley have much more experience in promoting and helping start-ups across the ocean than their colleagues in this country.

As for the crowdfund sites, posting of the project on the popular Kickstarter and Indiegogo costs from 50 to 100 thousand dollars.  A beautiful presentation of the project is required, as well as a serious investment in making a working prototype. In reality, investments in most cases do not pay off. Really successful kick-start campaigns of some projects involved huge investments on the part of their developers.

The success of Endurance is not a result, it’s a process. We are successful because we do what our customers like. We are developers of a new technology, this is what matters! What about our plans for the future? To colonize the Mars together with Elon Musk.

 

What can Endurance lasers do?

…Many things! Creative personalities will definitely appreciate these futuristic devices, because with their help you can create real works of art. Below you will find a short list of what you can do with our devices:

  • Engraving on leather. It’s a great way to make an original gift or a souvenir for yourself or your loved ones. Using the Endurance DIY laser, you can engrave a wide variety of patterns on the surface of this material. Traditional means of mechanical and thermal leather engraving do not provide the same high level of engraving accuracy as laser devices. Laser engraving is a fully automated process that takes minimal time and does not require any intermediate technological steps.
  • Engraving on acrylic and glass. Acrylic or, as it also called, Plexiglas looks like conventional glass. A laser beam goes through transparent materials without affecting them. No adjustment of the laser power parameters or printing speed can change this result. To correct the situation, it is necessary to use a sublayer. A black self-adhesive film is a good sublayer for glass, and a small wooden plank — for acrylic. To get the best quality and resolution of engraving adjust the laser power and printing speed according to the features of the selected pattern.
  • Laser cutting and engraving of plywood. Laser cutting of plywood ensures maximum accuracy of the given image transfer to the surface of the material. Laser cutting, unlike milling, results in a better quality cut edge, which does not require any further refinishing. A focused laser beam cuts out miniature elements of the pattern maintaining the dimension of the given element, while a milling cutter is unable to do that. Using a laser helps you save the material, since there is no waste such as sawdust.
  • Laser manufacturing of seals and stamps. Firstly, this is the time of manufacturing. Secondly, a high level of detail and accuracy of the pattern engraving, which allows you to create not only inscriptions but also elements of complex graphics and counterfeit protection. It won’t take you more than an hour to make even a complex seal bearing a coat of arms.

 

George Fomichev: «During these two years we have achieved remarkable technological results.  Our top-of-the-line development is an 8-watt laser, with which we can cut 4-millimeter plywood in one pass. To date, apart from ours, there are only two other technologies like this but more expensive and more complex. They are CO2 lasers and fiber-optic lasers. These devices have a completely different power and, accordingly, a different target audience of potential buyers. «