Story by John DeWitt - The
Ray Zukowski may be the archetypal entrepreneur.
After 14 years of designing/building trade show exhibits for AT&T, Zukowski quit, took his savings and some investments, and devoted five years to developing a new process for etching glass and other hard surfaces that may revolutionize an industry.
Now, he hopes his perfected process and his company, Rayzist Photomask Inc., will make him rich.
Zukowski's invention involves using photographic techniques to make an adhesive mask that can be applied to glass, tile, stone or any other hard material. The material can then be sandblasted to cut a the pattern into its surface.
When he quit the graphic arts
company that custom built trade show exhibits for AT&T, Zukowski, a
Located on the main road through Summerhaven, people kept stopping and asking if I knew a place they could rent in the mountains for a few days," Zukowski recalls.
The sideline developed into a 6 cabin complex along with a bakery specializing in giant chocolate chip cookies, right next door to the Living Rainbow.
(All above buildings were lost in the 2003 Mt Lemmon tragic fire)
But today, rebuilt and called Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin, without
rental cabins available.
Zukowski, clearly had photomasking for etching and carving in mind for his principal focus at that time.
Using the method, a design of any kind - whether a corporate logo or your 5-year-old's picture, can be cut into the surface of a glass or coffee mug.
At the new Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, all of the room number signs and directional signs were etched into sandstone using the Rayzist Photomask process.
Zukowski says the Ventana job came about after he talked to the designers of the La Paloma development about their needs. He and one other company bid, but the other company dropped out because it couldn't do what Ventana required.
At the entrance of the new resort a giant boulder with the resorts name carved deeply into its face was done by Rayzist.
The etching has the look of something that should have taken a skilled stone carver weeks of hand labor to accomplish. "It took us about 16 hours of actual blasting time" Zukowski says.
Timing-saving and simplicity are the
real strengths of the new system, say Zukowski, adding that the new process
allows much more intricate design to be etched onto surfaces than did old
methods involving rubber or metal masks.
As an example, Zukowski shows off an on-the-rocks glass with the "A and eagle" logo of Anheuser-Busch deeply etched into it side. Just below and to the right of the A is the small circle-R mark indicating that the trade-mark is registered. It is tiny, but crystal clear. Before his photomasking process came along, detail that small would have been impossible, Zukowski says.
Old methods using metal and rubber masks also resulted in what is called "undercutting," in which some of the abrasive powder that etches the glass would creep under the edge of the mask and slightly blur the image. With photomasking, that is no longer a problem.
After descending from the mountaintop, Zukowski started his company in 1983 in his garage. In the first year, Rayzist which was incorporated in 1984 grossed $250,000 in sales.
This year, he says, he expects to do
double that or more. The Fenton Art Co of
But Zukowski has bigger ideas. He holds up a coffee mug wiht the likeness of a small child etched into its side and says he is negotiating with a major entertainment company to produce mugs and glasses with pictures of children, family dogs and what ever else they want engraved.
Then, with a bit of a gleam in his eye, Zukowski explains that the new method is so simple -- a photomask can be exposed and developed and applied to a glass mug or piece of tile and an image sandblasted into the surface in less than five minutes -- that eventually "there'll be a shop in every shopping mall in the country to do it,"
Zukowski, who invested $60,000 in the process, has a patent pending.
Meanwhile, his first shop after
moving out of his 400 sq. ft. garage was a 1,500 sq. ft. building located in
the 3800 block off
When Rayzist out grew its first business location it moved to Vista, CA in 1988 and rented 13,000 sq. ft. to continue growing. (top picture)
(Today in 2016, after 32 years in
business Rayzist is currently operating in a 33,000 sq. ft. with over 60
employees and is located at
In Nov of 1995, Zukowski, sold controlling interest
of Rayzist to his first full time employee, Randy Willis and retired.
Twenty one year Retirement Story
2013, Ray moved to
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