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As an aspiring CNC Job Shop owner, where can I go to learn the trade?

Pistonring12

Plastic
Joined
Sep 5, 2022
As of right now I’m a high school student finishing my final year. I plan to start my own CNC job shop as my future source of income. I have chosen to write this thread in this forum, as I hope some of you who have lengthy experience in the industry could advise me in what program I should pursue in college or somewhere else in order to acquire CNC theory/hands-on knowledge. From my personal research I have discovered one program known as “Mechatronics” which seems to target some of what I wish to learn, but that’s all I know a the moment. If anyone knows what program I should look into and where I should go to pursue it, please let me know asap. FYI Im located near Toronto Ontario, Canada Thanks!
 
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RandR10

Plastic
Joined
Jul 24, 2022
I didn't do this track, but you might want to look at your local community college. I seem to remember that being an option all those years ago. I grew up in NY and you could do these types of programs at a vocational school called BOCES while in high school, but a lot of the same programs were available at the community college next door if you wanted to do it after graduation.
 

Shipp

Aluminum
Joined
Jun 23, 2022
Location
Northern California
If having a shop is the goal, go to a community college. That's the way I went. I don't aspire to own a shop, but I see a huge lack of general knowledge among a lot of my coworkers. I started going for mechatronics, but realized I'm more interested in the manufacturing itself so am working on a manufacturing engineering degree. I explained knurling the other day to a guy who's been on a CNC machine for several years. Also take some basic business classes, maybe an intro to accounting while you are doing that. There's a lot of machines that get auctioned off because a great machinist decided to wing business because it couldn't be that hard. From what I hear, your country has a great apprenticeship/certification system, but it won't teach you the business side of things. If you are wanting to learn fast, work at several job shops. The work is way harder but you will get to see more setups and learn more of what an independent shop owner needs to know. Make yourself liked there, a lot of work can come from old bosses when they have jobs they don't care to take or they have overflow. Also save as much money as you can, everything you touch in machining is expensive.

Several good podcasts to check out:
The job shop show: really good. hosted by a guy who started, built, and sold a giant machine shop. Because of this, he has a bunch of great insight and contacts with other people who did all aspects of the business across decades. Can't recommend it enough.

The lathe nite podcast: two Canadian machinists hanging out and bullshitting. Not a lot of shop owner talk, but specifically machining in Canada
the business of machining: Two shop owners, one in Ohio and one in Canada talking about their work and difficulties they have
Home shop machinist: really just the episode with Robin Renzetti. they aren't super knowledgeable, but the best interview of Renzetti I've seen.
Within tolerance: A great podcast with a bunch of different guests with shops on. It's best when it goes to just one host around episode 40(?)

Youtube:
Practical Machinist: not always the most informative, but a bunch of discussions of different shop issues to think about
NYC CNC: A guy has literally documented decades of his life building a machine shop, also is the Ohio guy on the business of machining podcast. They last several years it's been more advertising his products than showing his shop, but he has some great shop tours.

There's also ABOM 79 before he starts his own shop, Mr. Pete for general basic information, This old Tony for comedic relief, Clickspring for showing what you can do with basic tools, Robin Rinzetti for showing his shop and ridiculous levels of precision.
 

implmex

Titanium
Joined
Jun 23, 2002
Location
Vancouver BC Canada
Hi Pistonring12:
Increasingly, you need business and finance knowledge to run such a capital intensive business successfully.
Be prepared to hire the expertise you will need to actually run the machines.
Be prepared also to have a few practical guys with experience in your inner circle to advise you on and relieve you of things like quoting, procurement, capital acquisition, resource management etc etc.
None of this needs to be formally set up with department heads and underlings and all that complicated and expensive stuff. but it increasingly all needs to be covered...initially by you and maybe one hire, but eventually by enough guys to be good enough that nothing important gets ignored.

I say all this because, in my opinion, the days of making a good living with a couple of machines in your garage are waning.
I won't say they are over, but they are definitely getting harder and harder to capitalize on, and the margin for survival in the face of major mis-steps is shrinking.

Back in the 1970's a well equipped toolroom had a manual lathe, a manual mill a manual surface grinder and all the bits and bobs to make it run.
A $50,000.00 investment (in the days of $10.00 per hour toolmaker salaries) would make you competitive with anyone except the big shops, and your skill as a maker could allow you to stand out and attract business.
It took ten weeks for pretty much everyone to build a basic mold back then...now your customers demand a 3 or 4 week turnaround, and there are lots of shops who can deliver, but they have amassed ten million in gear and twenty guys to do it.

So now, in the same business you cannot get away with such basic equipment, and you cannot compensate adequately with your personal skill (except in very limited domains), so you have to be prepared to spend a lot to get competitive capability, and that needs a different set of skills to succeed. (like business and financial skills)
If you look at the ratio of capital budget to salary in the toolroom example above, it was about 5:1 back then.
If you call an average toolmaker salary $50.00 per hour nowadays, that would imply a shop budget of around a quarter million in today's money.
You can't even get in the game for that anymore.

How good you were with the turntable on the manual mill could once define your place in a way it simply cannot anymore...almost anyone can buy a machine and a CADCAM setup and make stuff that used to take a lot of skill and experience to pull off.
Little CNC shops are everywhere, and increasingly, they are racing to the bottom if they have nothing more than a couple of toys and a hard worker slaving in the back on them.
They can all make the cool stuff, and purchasing agents know that, so the price and delivery squeeze has become relentless.

I have done this for decades: I deliver a special expertise to my customers and they claim to love me, but increasingly they are still flocking to China and getting OK stuff back in 2 weeks for not much more than I can buy the material for.
I now mostly fix the fuckups.
I'd never survive if I still had machine payments.

So the numbers increasingly do not add up to a comfortable living with that old school, simplistic business model.
You have to find a way to deflect the inherent risk of the big capital budget away from yourself, and increasingly your business has to perform to a high standard, to retain your customers.
That takes planning of a kind you do not learn when you take the CADCAM course or the "how to run my Haas" course.

Cheers

Marcus
www.implant-mechanix.com
www.vancouverwireedm.com
 
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DouglasJRizzo

Titanium
Joined
Jun 7, 2011
Location
Ramsey, NJ.
As of right now I’m a high school student finishing my final year. I plan to start my own CNC job shop as my future source of income. I have chosen to write this thread in this forum, as I hope some of you who have lengthy experience in the industry could advise me in what program I should pursue in college or somewhere else in order to acquire CNC theory/hands-on knowledge. From my personal research I have discovered one program known as “Mechatronics” which seems to target some of what I wish to learn, but that’s all I know a the moment. If anyone knows what program I should look into and where I should go to pursue it, please let me know asap. FYI Im located near Toronto Ontario, Canada Thanks!
As someone who has been in the machine shop business since childhood (dad owned the shop) I can tell you that this is NOT a business that you go into fresh out of school.
It takes a lot of doing and TIME.
I think it's GREAT that you want your own shop! I have mine and it was a goal all my life.

If you want to do this, and do it right.
Get a job. Working in a shop. Learn all you can.
When you plateau, go somewhere else.
Learn all you can there as well.
Schooling is good. Certainly won't hurt.
But this is a business that is heavily dependent on experience.
It's going to take some time.
Don't rush - the journey there is the best part.
 

Mtndew

Diamond
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Location
Michigan
That's pretty ambitious of you. But I would advise to get a job in a shop for a few years first and soak up every bit of knowledge like a sponge while saving up a lot of money for your initial investment. Take a business course at the local community/junior college while working your day job.
Then when your bank account is big enough start looking for buildings that are for sale/rent and machines.
Right out of high school this is a fantasy unless you have a rich uncle or an inheritance.
 

Karl_T

Cast Iron
Joined
Jun 13, 2008
Location
Dassel,MN,USA
Today, the best money is making a product and direct selling it. There literally 1000s of little widgets you can market on the 'net. This lets you start small in a garage while still working a real job.

making parts for someone else's product will always have stiff competetion - too many suppliers.
 

Kingbob

Hot Rolled
Joined
Dec 1, 2009
Location
Louisiana
once you are all trained and credentialed up I suggest going to work for a smallish business in the industry you'd like your shop to serve (medical, aerospace, energy etc.). After you learn how to make the parts learn from the business owners that are doing well in the field you want to be in. Industry is the real finishing school. You got your head on straight, don't get discouraged and you will do well.
 

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
I never really had the goal of being a machinist or owning a job shop/machine shop. I wanted to make and sell my own products. I was able to get up and going pretty quickly with that, but doing "job work" and being a real machinist took a long time to learn what I needed for that and accumulate all the stuff required.

I would recommend working for others doing as many varied jobs as possible while saving money throughout all or most of your 20's.

And I don't want to be a downer, but it should be said, I've met alot of people who think machining is neat and want to own their own shop someday. Most of those people I've met shouldn't be doing it. They think it's neat, but they aren't actually cut out for it. Working for others is a good way to find out what your made of and see if it's really what you think it is and also if you're as smart as you think you are.

Job shopping is a rough thing to get going. Make sure it's what you actually want to do and you are actually good at it before you jump in with both feet. It'll eat you alive if you aren't.
 








 
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