CNC machine for billet wheel making
Dear fellow practical machinists,
I have been reading all your great posts with great enthusiasm. I have some savings ($15K) and after I improve further my knowledge of CNC machines (save more) I am thinking to purchase commercial machine (used or new) for making the aluminum billet wheels. My questions is that what is the minimum parameters for CNC VMC for machining blank aluminium centers for different wheel size of up to 21". The business I am trying to start will not be located in USA so don't think I will be one of your competitors. I hope to hear unbiased and open advices. I am thinking to import one from Taiwan or South Korea or even Dubai because they have better quality then chinese CNC machines (so I think). Although, I heard CNC machines in China are ridiculously cheap. Any thought, any advice, any experience will be most welcomed.
15k is just a down payment on a machine big enough to cut a 21" diameter. You will be loooking for a machine with at least 1600 x 800 mm table that's a big VMC by any standard. look for a bed way machine solid and stout.
You could get a machine moved and installed and tooled up for $15k.
Everyone and their mother makes custom wheels. I doubt there's much if any money in it these days.
A mill with 20" Y travel would handle the milling on a 21" wheel. You'd never be in a situation where the diameter of any decorative milling would be greater than 19" or so.
Are you looking to make motorcycle wheels or car wheels?
If car wheels, the cost of a mill is only a small part of the overall cost. Billet aluminum car wheels have a center that is machined from solid and then welded to a roll formed rim. A piece of aluminum round stock large enough to allow machining a complete wheel from the solid would typically cost more than a finished wheel sells for. Lots of misperceptions out there though that they're machined from solid rounds.
Anyway, to make the car wheels you'd need milling, turning, and rim rolling equipment at a minimum.
Motorcycle wheels are can be made cheaper and yet they sell for more than car wheels. You can buy rotary forged wheel blanks completely turned and polished for $200 apiece or so. All you then have to do is machine whatever design you want into the wheel disc and make a hub assembly for the wheel.
My own opinion, based on a reasonable amount of knowledge of what's required to make either wheel, is that you can find all sorts of car parts or motorcycle parts to machine that will generate much greater profit than billet wheels.
For example, a wheel that retails for $1000 will gross about $600 max for the manufacturer. Out of that $600, you'd spend say $200 for the forged and machined blank plus $75 or so in material and parts for the hub if you made it in house too. That leaves $325 for all the labor, overhead, tooling, assembly, packaging, hub polishing, and profit. The mix of diameters, center designs, wheel widths and hub widths reduces productivity since you're not actually making production runs but rather piece parts (unless you have lots of money available to tie up in inventory). I don't see much profit left out of that $325 myself.
There are endless numbers of smaller parts that can be produced for cars or bikes where there's far less competition than in the custom wheel market, for far greater profit margins. A particular part might have $5 in material and a few minutes worth of time to sell for a price that allows for lots of sales. You can make legitimate production runs because you don't have to tie up lots of money to make a hundred pieces. Each part is the same, as opposed to the mix of sizes in wheels, further enhancing productivity. Polishing of small parts can be mechanized without spending a lot of money.
Using motorcycle parts as an example, for each person who will spend $2000 on a pair of billet wheels, there's probably 500 who will spend $40 for some dress-up part for the same bike. Its a whole lot easier to make some money off $20,000 in sales than to make it waiting for those rare customers who'll spend $2000 on a pair of wheels.
I've wondered if a way to riches (or at least to pay for your new machine) along the OP's lines of thinking these days is to accumulate a gcode library for all sorts of bits of older cars and motorcycles, and knock 'em out as needed. I bet the library itself would take on significant value as it grows.
I see your point but that is about USA market. I live in the third world country and in my country customization/tuning of a factory car generally is NOT welcomed except multimedia or some other dummy staff from china. This is due to many reasons safety/cost of entailed cost of aftermarket parts/no knowledge.
But custom designed wheel is a whole lot different story, it makes car to shine, to sell easier, to drive the cost up, to be unique, it does not require special knowledge or master etc. Therefore, I see market for it. Of course, since we are next to China we can import all sort of wheels but truly custom wheel based on clients desire in computer which is later materialized into wheel is different level of service unheard of in this part of world.
Now, about the custom wheels. first I am not aiming to produce high-end wheels for rally or other race competitions. But decent wheel for every day use. Yes sure blank wheel ring (or rim) and blank center wheels are available in the market. And machining the blank center should NOT be that different from machining other aluminium staff I guess. So now all is needed is right machine to handle the task, it can be used machine by the way.
So, all I am asking what is right/minimum parameters for this kind of machine to have and what is the cost estimation. If anybody have done it, great please share be it good or bad experience.