Christopher Zelich has been in the laser business for 38 years, but technology is creating new possibilities.
“I love lasers,” he said. “There are so many creative things you can do with them.”
When it comes to carbon-dioxide laser engravers, the question is more what can’t you do with them, Zelich said.
“The CO2 laser is really versatile,” he said. “You can use it to engrave on all kinds of material – acrylic, wood, leather, stone, fabric, you name it.”
The laser engravers are “really easy to use,” Zelich said. “If you know how to use a cellphone or a computer, give us 10 minutes, and we’ll be able to get you going on the laser. If you can push a couple of buttons, you’ll get the hang of using a laser engraver.”
Zelich, 57, of Pleasant Township has established the Laser Foundry in Grove City to offer small businesses, artisans and community members a space where they can use CO2 laser cutters and engravers to complete small and large projects.
“You can think of us as an incubator for people’s creativity,” he said.
The foundry will operate much like an art studio that provides space multiple artists can use, Zelich said.
During the week, the Laser Foundry will be open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to members. The foundry is at 3466 Grant Ave. in Grove City’s Town Center.
“Memberships cost $119 per person for one year, and that gives you full access to sign up to use any of our lasers,” Zelich said. “You’ll be able to sign up to use a machine for a 3-hour block, and the cost will vary depending on the type and power of the laser you’ll be using.”
A CO2 laser is a type of gas laser, in which electricity is run through a gas-filled tube, producing light, according to sciencing.com. The ends of the tube are mirrors; one of which is fully reflective and the other which lets some light through. The gas mixture generally comprises carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen and helium. Light produced by CO2 lasers is invisible, falling in the far infrared range of the light spectrum. The foundry has seven small-format lasers ranging from 25 to 120 watts, a 120-watt laser and three 250- or 500-watt machines that each offer a 48-by-48-inch bed in which to put items, Zelich said. The foundry will hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 21 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 22 during the Arts in the Alley Festival in Grove City.
It will be open for regular business beginning Sept. 23.
Weekends will be set aside for nonmembers to visit free of charge.
“What we’re hoping is that they’ll want to become regular members of the foundry,” Zelich said.
Zelich owns Photovac Laser Worldwide in Grove City, a 25-year-old business that offers laser-tube repair and refurbishing to clients from around the world.
The foundry “is going to be a totally fun time for me,” he said. “I’m really going to enjoy helping people explore their creativity using lasers. If you can conceive it, you can create it.”
Businesses will have access to machines they couldn’t afford to purchase and maintain, Zelich said. For individuals and families, the foundry will offer a fun activity in the heart of Grove City’s downtown, he said.
“There aren’t a lot of family-centric activities in the Town Center,” Zelich said. “I love the idea of families working together on a creative project using our lasers.”
Levi Simonton of Orient is a laser-tube technician with Photovac. He has worked on laser projects with his children, Noah, 15, and Jamie, 13.
“What’s great about it is that they’re able to do projects that relate to the things they’re interested in,” Simonton said. “My son is into Nintendo, so he engraved some of his favorite characters on a tumbler, and my daughter loves different languages, so she engraved ‘hello’ in various languages.”
Both youngsters used the lasers to make personalized engravings on their cellphones, he said. The foundry’s weekend hours likely will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Zelich said.
More information is available at thelaserfoundry.com and facebook.com/thelaserfoundry.