Jim Smith, CEO/Owner of Laser Imaging & Design, Inc., began his career with Lebanon Monument Co., where he was in charge of the computer layout and design. “After working there for a few months, I picked up the basics of hand etching by hanging around and watching the other artist,” he said. “After doing a few etchings, my boss decided my etchings were actually looking better than the freelance artists they had been using for years.” As a result, Smith shifted his role at Lebanon Monument Co. and became one of the company’s hand etchers.
Eventually, Dodds Monuments bought out Lebanon Monument Co. “I was the only employee that was kept during the buyout,” said Smith. “The company’s biggest concern was that etchings for memorials were in such high demand. They had about an eight-to 10-month waiting period for hand-done artwork. They hoped that bringing me on board was going to ease some of the workload for the other artist.”
But the demand continued to grow, and after working at Dodds Monuments for two years, Smith began researching the possibilities of laser etching with the idea of starting his own company. “I started thinking about how I could incorporate the job that I really enjoyed, yet be my own boss and start my own company,” said Smith. “That’s when I approached my boss at that time, Eric Fogarty, owner of Dodds Monuments, and threw out the idea of starting my own laser etching company, and asked him if he would be willing to use our services.”
Fogarty was very receptive to the idea, and also offered to assist financially. He remodeled one of his properties, which was then leased by Smith, and Laser Imaging & Design, Inc. opened its doors in August of 2001.
Laser Imaging & Design, Inc.
Type of Work: Laser etching, waterjet cutting, sandblasting and deep engraving, glass etching and stage carving, architectural signage, custom flooring and backsplashes, and concept and three-dimensional design
Machinery: The MLS 610 Laser, the MLT 610 Laser, the 4836 L Star Laser, the MLS 4496 Laser, the MLS 4496 Laser and the 1824 Laser — all from Vytek in Fitchburg, MA; the 1530 Water Jet from Omax in Kent, WA; a forklift from Caterpillar in Peoria, IL; the 40HP Rotary Screw Compressed Air System from Sullivan-Palatek, Inc. in Michigan City, IN; the ABC Automatic Sandblast rooms and the ACT Dust Collector from Granite City Tool in Waite Park, MN; a Gorbel Jib Crane with Anver 1500 Vacuum Lift from Crane America in Monroe, OH; digitizers tablets and a digitizer monitor from Wacom Technology Corp. in Vancouver, WA; and a Ford 550 delivery truck
Number of Employees: Five full-time and one part-time worker
Production Rate: 30 to 40 projects per week
Over the past 10 years, the process of laser etching remains the same, although much of the equipment has been updated, so the lasers are faster and more efficient now. Additionally, the jobs have grown in size and to a grander scale. “Large-scale veteran and war memorials are still our primary focus, but we are moving more into the architecture field for commercial and residential applications,” said Smith.
In response to the company’s growth, Smith built a brand new facility in 2007, specially designed around his needs. The building spans a total of 8,500 total square feet, with 22-foot ceilings for crane and forklift clearance, and offices and a showroom connected up front. In this space, Laser Imaging & Design, Inc. employs five full-time employees and one part-time worker. Smith’s former boss is not currently involved in any aspect of the company, but the two men maintain a friendship and Laser Imaging & Design, Inc. continues to produce and fabricate Fogarty’s high-end monument projects on a wholesale level.
“Despite the economy, our business has almost tripled in sales since 2004,” said Smith. “We have continued to reinvest into the business with new equipment and machines to diversify and grow the company. The waterjet has really allowed us to break into the custom flooring field by creating corporate logos, medallions and other complex designs from natural stone tile.”
Currently, Smith uses many different types of machines in his shop, including the MLS 610 Laser, the MLT 610 Laser, the 4836 L Star Laser, the MLS 4496 Laser, the MLS 4496 Laser and the 1824 Laser — all from Vytek in Fitchburg, MA; the 1530 Water Jet from Omax in Kent, WA; a forklift from Caterpillar in Peoria, IL; the 40HP Rotary Screw Compressed Air System from Sullivan-Palatek, Inc. in Michigan City, IN; the ABC Automatic Sandblast rooms and the ACT Dust Collector from Granite City Tool in Waite Park, MN; a Gorbel Jib Crane with Anver 1500 Vacuum Lift from Crane America in Monroe, OH; digitizers tablets and a digitizer monitor from Wacom Technology Corp. in Vancouver, WA; and a Ford 550 delivery truck.
The company’s most recent investment was a $125,000 sandblast line, which includes automation sandblasting and a manual booth for glass etching and shape carving.
As for where Smith sees his company moving toward in the future, he is thinking even bigger. “Long-term goals would be to get more involved with large-scale architectural projects needing our products,” he said.