Cutting-edge laser printer to boost local business

Examples of freshly engraved custom pins atop the new Glowforge printer. Photo provided by Alpine Images.

Gemma Harris, owner and operator of Alpine Images, is “glowing” after the business received a small- and medium- sized business recovery grant from the provincial government to buy a new 3D laser printer, known as a Glowforge.

The grant program was implemented by the provincial government during the pandemic and is  meant to help businesses recover and sustain business lost, with $10,000 to $30,000 dollar grants. An additional $5,000 to $15,000 grant is available to eligible tourism-related businesses. 

Harris seized the opportunity and applied with a full-fledged plan that outlined what she would do with the grant and how she would market the product, material costs and training costs.

“It’s called a Glowforge, it’s a laser printer that will enable us to make and design custom products in house for different demographics of clients,” Harris explained.

The printer uses a laser to engrave materials like wood, leather, glass, various metals and even chocolate or macaroons.

“You upload your designs in certain file formats and then decide whether you’re going to be cutting, engraving, or scoring those lines and you apply those different methods to the different layers in the design,” Harris explained. “Then, it gets sent to their servers, and back to the printer. When it’s ready you just press a button and it just goes for it.”

Harris is currently working on designs for products such as: pin badges for the upcoming Tod Mountain anniversary, jewelry, coasters, and Sun Peaks souvenirs.

By the winter, Alpine Images plans to have greeting cards with stock designs customers can customize with their family name or favourite ski runs.

“There’s lots we can do, anything from tiny little customized pins for someone’s birthday, up to engraved charcuterie boards, big family trees, wedding guest books. It’s quite broad, what we’re able to use this machine for.”

Ultimately, Harris is excited to see how the machine will aid community members and businesses who may need custom engraved gifts, awards for conferences or sporting events, wedding toppers, or arts and crafts projects.

“I’m interested to see what the village and community brings us, because we get a lot of requests for different things. So I’m excited to say, ‘Yes, we can do that!” Harris said.

“For example, we had someone come into the shop, where we sell a lot of Christmas gifts and ornaments, and they were after a skiing giraffe, which, you know, generally it’s not something I would look for when I’m doing my [bulk] ordering, but now we could make that for them.”

The grant will also enable a sense of sustainability for the future of Alpine Images as the pandemic required some major changes to remain profitable.

“We’ve been open for 10 years, and felt like we were in a pretty good spot before the pandemic, but COVID-19 actually took away quite a large portion of my business with the lack of ski races or events to photograph,” explained Harris. “The pandemic taught me to never get complacent, and has kept me on my toes, which is good.”

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