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Thread: How do you leverage CNC to be unique in your local marketplace?

  1. #1
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    How do you leverage CNC to be unique in your local marketplace?

    I'll state up front that I'm seriously considering adding a CNC setup to my shop to "expand the possibilities". Aside from the obvious things like signage, etc., I'm interested in hearing what folks have found to be "their niche" in their local economy based on CNC. Ultimately, I'll need to build my own business case, but hearing what others are doing or have done may be enlightening beyond the "happy customer stories" that the manufacturers offer. To be clear, CNC production on smaller machines is more what I'm personally interested in as I doubt I'd go larger than 2-3" x 4'. With that in mind...thanks in advance for your input!
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  2. #2
    A friend of mine was a coworker in a production machine shop, both of us on CNCs.
    After retirement he bought his first CNC and quickly built up a reputation making signs with some kind of plastic material that has various colors at different depths.
    Today he is a rich man. Most every town and village nearby has one of his signs on the side of the road welcoming them to town. Very nice signs.
    Last I spoke with him he had jobs lined up for golf courses all over the region.
    A few years ago he bought himself a new toy...a foreign sports car for about half a million.
    A must add that he has always had great organizational skills and a good business mind. So the success of others will vary, but the sky's the limit it seems.

  3. #3
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    IMO a CNC Router and a sheet of solid surface material will produce the best quality and longest lasting exterior signs hand down. This technique is easy to learn as well.

    There are machining opportunities everywhere. Plywood templates are excellent work for a CNC Router from construction companies. I have made acrylic lenses for parking lot lamps, just shipped a large number of laser engraving plaques....the list is almost endless. Get yourself a good reliable machine, the work will come from multiple sources once you get the word out that you are available.

    ADA signs for commercial buildings are the best work and most profitable but they are generally large contracts with long lead times. You might be surprised that a CNC Router is a master mold making machine. Lots of opportunities if that interests you.
    Last edited by Keith Outten; 01-05-2018 at 1:19 PM.

  4. #4
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    Jim,

    Check out the online world - Local business is great but very competitive in my area and takes alot of foot work, We started by doing small local jobs. It was alot of running around and dealing with customers that had no idea what they wanted. Once we got our website up and running, business exploded. Most of our business is commercial based, we get the prints/ designs, quote the job and then wait for approval. With the internet we get jobs from all over the US, with some google advertising it opens you to millions of customers. Getting started with a small machine i would check out Etsy and Ebay.

    I would go for atleast a 4'x4' machine - Most sheet goods are 4'x8' so that means only one cut to get the wood on the machine. When you go smaller it requires alot more cuts and small scraps are the result.
    3X Camfive 1200 48" x 24" 100watt Tube
    Zcorp 450 3d Printer
    Laguna Smartshop 2 - 4x8 ATC

  5. #5
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    Thanks for your comments, Bill, Robert and Keith.

    Robert, 4x4 may not be possible, both for budgetary reason and space reasons. But you never know...
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  6. #6
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    <p>
    Jim, If your not in a hurry you might schedule some time to attend the Aspire Event at Jim Magrews cabinet shop in South Carolina this April. CAMaster and ShopBot are usually doing live demos of their machines, there are plenty of show and tell projects and classes in the main shop for two days straight. The people who attend range from expert level to novice. Attendees come from all over the country and some from Canada. This is don&#39;t miss event for CNC Operators, you will always take something back home that will be beneficial for at least another year. I will post the details and class schedule shortly. Register early, there is normally a limit of about 150 people.</p>

  7. #7
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    Thanks, Keith. I noticed Jim Magrew's event mentioned on CAMheads and will certainly give it some thought.

    Because you asked, I did confirm that the Axiom machine is an all welded heavy steel design--there is a lot to like. But based on your input, Bruce's input and some "gentle prodding" from other folks I know, it's more likely I'll go with some forum of Stinger. I'm just waiting on quote(s) so I can get closer to a decision. If you know of any available hidden incentives, please let me know. And I do believe our Honey Bees will approve of a Stinger, too. LOL
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  8. #8
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    Jim,

    I am in the same boat as you. I have been looking at the Axiom and the Stinger. I will more than likely end with a 2x4 Stinger I with a 4th axis for space reasons. Camaster has sent me quotes already. I am waiting until summer when I have the time and money. I initially was planning on building one so the pocket book is going to hurt a little more. It doesn't seem like they have many incentives.

    Cary

  9. #9
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    Originally, I was planning on a 4 x 4 machine, but after doing my research, and moving some things around at the shop, I decided on a 4x8. BTW CAMaster's 408 model is actually 5' x 8'. The price difference in the machine was pretty small and I will be able to get more use out of the machine.

  10. #10
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    Cary, I'm actually pretty excited about the idea of adding this kind of thing to my arsenal...and am feeling impatient about actually receiving the quotes I asked for. LOL Having spend the last 38 years in technical sales and other IT related business, it's a bit frustrating to wait for that kind of thing because my customers never would have waited. But these companies are also relatively "small businesses", so many folks are doing multiple jobs I suspect. Stinger I is most likely for me. The Stinger II is really nice, but it may be a tight fit and not economically practical for the combination of hobby and commission work I anticipate. The Axiom presents a better "package" at first relative to standard features on a comparable machine, but I think that the support structure for Camaster is clearly world-class now that I've spent some time studying it. Additionally, Camaster appears to have brought "real industrial" to the smaller machines without compromising their "we build it all". I do wish that the spindle upgrade wasn't quite so pricy, but...

    Anthony, if you have the space to support the larger machine, it's my understanding that it will open up more capability and opportunity for you. The 5' bed is nice if you need to get a full piece of BB on it, even though you can't work all the way to the X axis edge.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  11. #11
    We built the prototype Saturn 2x4 from Fine Line Automation a little over a year ago and it's a very robust frame. As it sits now, fully configured and operational, the weight is around 600 lbs. If I had the space I would get a Saturn 4x4 but the footprint just won't work in our small shop.

    One area I have found to be consistent with work load is one of our local trophy shops. These guys are seriously cranking out some work, though, so not your average mom and pop trophy shop. They have some designs of their own and I do their woodworking, mostly Walnut, and a lot of what I do is made possible by the CNC. When I make something for them in quantities of a dozen or more they know that each piece is identical to the previous and that really helps them each time they load that into their laser machines. They don't have to go through the alignment procedure on each piece.

    We also just opened our Etsy shop where I have placed items of my own design. Since we just opened Dec. 1 we were basically too late for Christmas and don't expect folks to begin buying again for at least another few weeks. But we have 4 sales, a thousand views, have been favorited by some, and are looking forward to seeing how that works for us. Plus, Etsy makes it very easy for the seller to get their items out and available. And the entire process of a sale is very slick when they come in - kinda fun, actually!

    I've also hooked up with some realtors to do closing gifts for them. A lot of the realtors will give their new buyer a $50 gift card after closing as a thank you. I asked the question, 'How long do you think they remember you once that card is spent?' The answer was as expected - not long. So I pitched doing a simple face grain cutting board out of Cherry, Walnut, or Maple, and engrave the buyer's last name and initial on the front. Then on the back I engrave the realtors name. And I can do those for the same amount or less than they were giving as gift cards. I doubt these cutting boards will be much more than kitchen art anyway. I made up a sample to give a realtor team so everyone in the office can see how they look (photo below) and also engraved my contact info on the front. Now, and end grain cutting board is different - way more cost but I told them that when they sell one of those $500k to $1M homes then they should be giving an end grain cutting board. The 3 teams I have worked with are closing an average of 18 homes each month but not every one of those gets a closing gift.

    Anyway, we've had our CNC in operation a little over a year and with very little marketing it has paid for itself and then some. Not bad since we're just operating in our two car garage and only have a few customers. This year I will market the CNC much more and see if we can double our revenue over last year.

    David

    002 - King sample - CNC side.jpg
    David

    Nothing to do with woodworking at all, just our music at church (I'm the guy with the Koa Takamine) - Go to YouTube and search for Airline Baptist BC - enjoy!
    Romans 3:23

    Etsy shop opened 12/1/2017 - CurlyWoodShop

  12. #12
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    Yeah, the spindle cost is hard to swallow on the Stinger. I will probably only get the 1.7kw. From what I read it should be comparable to the 2.2kw Chinese one on the Axiom. It's air cooled and you don't have to worry about water if you want to look at a positive.

    I can forward you my quotes for the 2x4 and 3x4 if you want to see the numbers. They are pretty pimped out.
    Last edited by Cary Falk; 01-10-2018 at 12:54 PM.

  13. #13
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    I upgraded to the 1.7kw spindle and have not needed more hp for what I do. It’ll drive a ” endmill without complaint. I was originally going to go with the 1.0kw spindle because of costs. I was told the 1.0kw was great at engraving but a bit underpowered for routing. I (and my family/neighbors) love the spindle when I’m running a 6 hour 3D finish cut.
    Please help support the Creek.

    If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something. - Steven Wright

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Page View Post
    I (and my family/neighbors) love the spindle when I’m running a 6 hour 3D finish cut.
    Yea, this is exactly why I'm interested in do the Spindle thing...sound level. I don't intend to run the machine "unattended", but want to be able to work comfortably in my shop on other things. I have enough noise with the heavy PC router in my table and my J/P, but they only run from time to time on specific tasks. Since I can't segregate the CNC to another area (maybe upstairs, but that would require some additional building remodeling), keeping it reasonable on the sound side will be a good thing. So I'll pay da bucks I guess...

    Of course, to get closer to moving forward, they really need to respond to my quote requests; both from the web form and from a direct message to one of their sales folks on C'heads. Sheesh...
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 01-10-2018 at 1:20 PM.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Page View Post
    I upgraded to the 1.7kw spindle and have not needed more hp for what I do. It’ll drive a ” endmill without complaint. I was originally going to go with the 1.0kw spindle because of costs. I was told the 1.0kw was great at engraving but a bit underpowered for routing. I (and my family/neighbors) love the spindle when I’m running a 6 hour 3D finish cut.
    Bruce,
    Thank for that info. It makes me feel better about the 1.7kw spindle.
    Cary

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