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Thread: Making money from CNC? Naive?
02-26-2010, 10:53 AM #1
Making money from CNC? Naive?
I am completely new to CNC. My current plan is to fix or retrofit a Bridgeport Series II Interact 2 CNC mill that I bought, to the point where it is actually usable.
I do not harbor any illusions that a person of my skill level, a beginner garage machinist, can make a comfortable living by competing with millions of underpaid Chinese workers, or to make more money than I make in my day computer job (which I love).
What I was hoping for is just to make a bit of money on the side with a CNC mill, making and selling some hard to find machine parts or doodads.
An example could be making replacement compound slides for a lathe, for instance. I would try to sell those on ebay.
Has anyone ever attempted doing something of the sort. Thanks
02-26-2010, 11:16 AM #2
I ask myself long and hard every day to figure a way out of this business. To be right honest, some people love it, some people just do it. Sure seems there is a doodad machinist born every 5 min. I learned quickly that there is about .001% of machinists that actually make any money at it. Many turn and burn in the garage making some elaborate pieces that sell for scrap price.
We get asked constantly why we do not make this and that. My response is "and what does it cost retail?" Sorry, I don't get out of bed to machine a 50 dollar block for 2 hrs and sell it for 100 bucks and sell 5 of those per month.
Sorry, I am bitter today.
SRT Mike liked this post
02-26-2010, 11:30 AM #3
Will you make any money..... Possibly yes.
Will you make any profit.....Probably not.
At least not without a depth of knowledge.
And that don't come overnight.
.....I'm in Vipers bitter club.
02-26-2010, 11:33 AM #4
But what if machining of that $100 part would only take 5 minutes of your time, with machining preprogrammed, where your job is just to set the part in a vise, make a couple of tool changes etc. So, even if the machine takes 30 minutes to make it, you only spend 5 minutes doing stuff.
So, as your part is being machined, you are watching a movie, or doing something else, only to interrupt yourself when it is time to give the machine some attention.
Would that change your labor vs. reward equation?
I do not have an answer. This is what I am trying to figure out.
In computers, at least, there are numerous ways to make money whereby the computers do preprogrammed work and people just attend it a little bit. For example, some websites fit this description. I have several projects that have been making money for me year after year.
CNC, really, is a step in the same direction, with computers making stuff and freeing people's time to do something else.
02-26-2010, 11:37 AM #5
As well as MACHINING the parts, you now have to market them, promote your business AND collect the money.
Someone also has to do the paper work. (You!)
So, in the process of wearing these other "hats", you may end up in a situation you never really bargained for.
IF (and only if) you can afford the machine without making any money from it, then it sounds like a good idea.
02-26-2010, 11:57 AM #6
So, assuming that I can make, say, a lathe compound in 1 hour, out of which I spend only 5 minutes on setup, from a $50 block and sell it for $200 on ebay, it is a relatively attractive proposition. This is, of course, purely hypothetical. I am just asking at this point.
I am 100% positive that I could never achieve a satisfactory return by manual machining.
02-26-2010, 12:05 PM #7
Don't listen to all the negatives. If you want to do it, then by all means DO IT. If you happen to make a little money along the way, then that's a bonus.
I have reached a point in my life where I don't have to work any more, but I do it because I love it.
Someone once told me to pick a job that I would pay someone to let me do, and I have found it. I love CNC machining, and I would pay someone to let me do it.
I have a couple of Dyna-Mite 2400's right now, and when WESTEC rolls around next month, I am going to buy either a Haas VF2 or a Sharp 2412.
I make parts now for my own stable of remote control race boats, and that's what I will continue to do. If I happen to sell some along the way, good for me. If not, then that's just too bad.
02-26-2010, 12:05 PM #8
02-26-2010, 12:06 PM #9
As being one that walked those shoes years ago, I will say that you WILL miss some things in that picture. It sure sounds great to fire the machine up and it cranks out parts for you. IN reality, they need babysitters and every thing costs big bucks. I am confident you are missing some stuff just by lack of experience.
Paper work, advertising, yapping on the phone, fixing machines, tooling costs, etc. I want to walk away everyday....
02-26-2010, 12:18 PM #10
Know folks in this business that have gone from working for some company to doping their own shop. Usually on a part time basis to begin , doing odds and ends until their work load became enough to support them full time.
However the common thread in all this is almost always that they have had exposure in the trade.
This is a complex business..tons to know and lots that does not come out of books.
Working with others in varied situations seeing different parts/machines and processes is invaluable.
Having a CNC mill is the easy part, just like buying a computer.
In hobby terms seems like a fine idea, if you can make a bit of cash doing odd work fine. Just don't make that your target for the immediate future!
As to a product....your example is not what i would choose...a compound slide for a machine requires pretty high levels of skill and time to make anything worth having...not to mention usually some additional hand fitting/scraping.
I would look in another direction. Follow a personal interest like cars or boats or motorcycles...... get with a local retailer /repair shop and see if any of their customers need special work, parts made etc.....Stay with cosmetic stuff to start. Get your foot in the door and build a reputation for fast reliable and fairly priced work....
02-26-2010, 12:43 PM #11
Putting it mildly your assumptions are very naive.
If there is a job out there where you can take a $50 block, spend 5 minutes setting it up, and turn it into a $200 part while you watch the footy and scratch yer balls, I have yet to come across it.
It aint about owning a machine, it's about what you can do with one. And to be able to use a machine properly you need in intimate knowledge of all the variables.
Do you have any knowledge of tooling at all?
'm still in vipers bitter club.
02-26-2010, 12:44 PM #12
You are definitely starting out with many advantages. You have a day job that you enjoy that pays the bills, and low overhead. So if you make mistakes starting out, and we all do, they won't make you bankrupt. Good luck and happy machining! Also you have the help here on PM, you might even find someone local to you that can give hands on teaching for the price of a few beers and a pizza.
02-26-2010, 12:49 PM #13
02-26-2010, 01:41 PM #14
After 15 years in the machine shop I bailed and ended up an independent IT consultant. What was a hobby became my career. That was 10 years ago.
With the steady decline of manufacturing in the US, it has become a buyer's market for machine tools and supplies. I have a used VMC and CAD/CAM software with a total of $11k invested, tooling and all. What have I made so far? Modifications and parts to support my motorcycle obsession. Maybe I come up with the next great accessory that enough people gotta have that I make some money, maybe not. Thing is, I really enjoy making $hit. It's what I've always done since I was a kid. With that attitude, I can't lose. I will certainly have some of the more unique stuff you'll find on a trackday bike or woods bike.
I feel for those of you still in the game busting your a$$es with considerable investments in equipment and talent where your skills are easily undervalued. I have no interest in competing with established job shops that are way better at it than I will ever be.
So what was my carrer has now become my hobby. Hell it's only money and I can't take it with me when I die.
02-26-2010, 02:33 PM #15
To quote Bobw from an old thread...
.... don't you know that you just put the material in the machine and push the "BIG GREEN BUTTON", and it does it for you.
Step 1: Pick up material.
Step 2: Put in machine.
Step 3: Press BIG green button.
A whole 3 tic-tacs worth of calories exerted.
02-26-2010, 02:36 PM #16
If you have the money do it. If you just want to put some extra money in your pocket it is very doable. if you you want to make money at it that is a whole other ball game. I was thinking just like you about 4 to 5 yrs ago. Didn't know anything about machining but thought just load part in and make money. there is a lot more to it than that. right now i have got everything in the garage paid fore(manual lathe,series 1 with ajax control and some tooling for both). mainly do some repair work for my daytime job. you will have to do all and i mean "All" the leg work but if you do you can have a pretty cool hobby that can pay for itself.
02-26-2010, 03:07 PM #17
I used to think along similar lines as the OP. I bought my first Hurco and spent a whole lot of hours learning about the machine and getting it back to the condition where it could perform as designed. I spent some significant money on "enhancements" for the controller, spare parts, documentation, another Kurt vise, and lots of Kwik-Switch tooling. I then sought jobs that were a good match for my machine, and found very few of them. Onesy-twosey jobs took hours for me to program and fixture, and seldom generated any real profit.
I then bought my next Hurco (same controller) and spent an incredible number of hours repairing controller issues and getting it up to par. I felt I needed to move away from conversational and into g-code. More hours and equipment to get the Hurco setup, and then realize, "hey, this g-code stuff ain't something you learn overnight". Then came a thunderstorm and took out a servoamp, CRT, and proximity sensor. More repairs, time and money! Then one day I realized that I spent waaaay more time and money maintaining this thing than I ever used it or got paid to use it. I then looked at how much space the machine, tooling, literature, computer, etc consumed. I decided to leave CNC work to those that have already made the considerable investment in equipment, training, software, and personell.
I hadn't thought about it for a while, but I used to manufacture a product. Several of the components were machined on CNC by a shop that I am still very friendly with. I looked at what I was paying them to make my parts, and said "He!!, I wouldn't even begin to think of making them for that much money".
Another friend of mine set up his own manufacturing facility to make about 1/2 dozen different parts. Almost everything was made on a Hardinge CHNC, and a second op done on a Hurco mill. After several years of making his own parts, he discovered that a better equipped (and higher volume) shop was willing to make his parts for less than his labor cost alone. Now the machines just sit there gathering dust and taking up space.
I think my Hurco is leaving in the next couple of weeks, and I look forward to having the space back. Too bad I will never recover the time and money I spent oh this foray.
02-26-2010, 03:20 PM #18
S10 Truck Aluminum third-door handle, Stealth Conversions
On ebay, it sold like crazy for the first six weeks, and then sales dropped dramatically.
Somebody made a knock-off, and it was not as functional. It lacked features that make the handle move with smooth movement, and prevent overtravel of linkages.
Now, there are at least three crappy knock-offs being sold on ebay. With competition, prices have dropped from about $25 to about $10. I doubt any of them are making money on the handles.
We no longer bother to sell the handles on ebay.
Producing CNC parts is not as fast and simple as many people believe.
After I purchased some more CNC equipment (it can be an obsession), I called the machine shop that made parts for me for the previous ten years, to apologize, in a joking manner, about how I underestimated how much work is involved in making parts. They laughed, and said, "We get that all the time from people who think they can make stuff cheaper."
02-26-2010, 03:21 PM #19
You're already waaay ahead of most. You have a good paying day job that you love so you've got most people beat already.
Hey, look at it this way: most guys have a pile of money tied up in useless hobbies like cars, motorcycles, golf clubs, wood working.. whatever.
Most hobbies are like pissing money down a hole anyway.
At least you're money will be in something that's productive and possibly profitable. And who knows, some kid might hang around and get interested and learn a skill.
Take it from someone who was lying on a gurney five years ago thinking he wouldn't see the next day. You don't want to look back and say "man I wish I had just stepped out there and tried it"
Follow your dreams. I did. I started selling tools out of the back of a $1700 van four years ago and never looked back.
02-26-2010, 03:28 PM #20
From what I’ve seen, the guys who do okay in their garage are doing work for a company they’re employed at or a company where they know someone. ( I know there are always exceptions, I’m only generalizing. Some guys have gone on to make millions, some have lost everything)
As for making doodads and selling them on ebay, sure, go for it. I’d say there is a 99% chance you won’t make jack for money and it’s a waste of your time, but all you can do is try. The world isn’t going to end if it doesn’t work out.
Something I always try to remember is that good ideas for products is the easy part.