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    Default Job Shop with low production

    So I have a job shop and do regular work for a number of customers. Lately I have been asked to do small runs of production type work. I am talking 50 or so items, I know I know, nothing like the production of 1,000 or 100,000 but for a job shop 50 can be a lot.

    Where are job shops with production and when do you look at making that leap into different equipment.

    Last few jobs have had quick turn around time lines with a significant amount of machining, doable, but not "desirable" with current manual machining.

    The biggest help I have are a K&T horizontal mill and a Cincinnati Toolmaster with vertical and universal horizontal head. Both have been great in machining multiple pieces at once and having the ability to set up concave milling operation easily and accurately. I also have a B-port, Tree 2UVR and three manual lathes.

    Materials being machined are both steel and aluminum with extensive milling, drilling and tapping with use of heli-coil for the alum pieces. Also use of a rotary table with some jobs.

    Tolerances are pretty loose, does it work and look like the print. I do work on getting each one within .001 but allow myself .005 tolerance. Customers don't check or worry as long as it works as intended.

    I have out-sourced a few jobs to a local fab shop with a plasma cutter. I don't have an issue with that and don't mind since I don't have to invest in equipment and time. Get a request in, drop it off, pick up and deliver. Can't get easier than that.

    Back to the question, when do you make the leap into different equipment that supports low-production? And what type of equipment supports low-production that doesn't cost? All my equip is paid for and I would like to keep it that way.

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    Maybe a used prototrack C.N.C. bed mill ?

    I see them from $9k-$15k

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    Sounds to me like you need to pull the trigger on a VMC. How large depends on the parts you need to run.

    I'm a one-man job shop, my runs go from 20 to 1000 pcs. Typical is the 50-100 quantities. I have 3 VMC's and a barfeed chucker lathe, those are what pay the bills.

    I run certain parts on each machine- my small parts go on the Sharp mini-mill, the extrusions go on the VF2 or the 4020, depending on how long they are. Each mill is setup with 2 vises that almost never get moved, and I have a manual indexing head that I can use for indexing round parts on the mills.

    I hold most stuff in soft jaws, so switchovers are as quick as changing jaws and setting the tools and zeros, call up the program and let'er rip. I keep a job box for every part that has the required cutters, jaws, etc. So when I need to make that part, I grab the box and go. Everything I need to make that part is in the box.

    If it's a 2 vise setup, there is a partially completed part in the job box that I use to set the tools lengths and zeros for the second vise. At then end of the run the part in vise #1 goes into the job box as the setup part for vise #2 next time.

    I keep a log of the work offsets, so when I do a setup I can enter the G54-G59 numbers and my work locations are set.

    It's all about quick turnarounds for me. Get that spindle turning as quick as possible. My setup times vary from about 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending on the complexity.

    I have a BP and a couple manual lathes for pickup jobs and second ops that I don't want to setup the CNC for.

    I can't imagine making a go of it without CNC's. Just the drilling and tapping would take forever without them.

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    How have you managed to stay in business 40 years behind your competition?

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    My personal opinion is that every shop needs a Bridgeport to serve as the glorified drill-press, quick fly-cut, and quick slot-type machine. Everything else should get made on a CNC mill.

    A shop should also have a manual lathe, for re-chasing threads/thread-filing, polishing diameters, and face/centering parts that are too big for the CNC lathe. Everything else should get run on the CNC lathe.


    50-100 parts just seems like mental suicide with manual machines, unless your talking about a turret lathe of some sorts. And even then - where's the fun in that?


    50-100 shouldn't be a lot for a job-shop. That's a nice quantity really - gives you a little recovery room if the setup goes bumpy, yet still gives you a little room to shave-off time too, and doesn't put everyone in a boring "auto-pilot" mode where you start running the risk of absent-mindedness causing mistakes.



    Get a VMC & learn how to run it. You already know how to make parts, so you've got that part whipped. If you know how to use an edge-finder to touch-off on a part & zero-the hand-wheels, then all that translates too on a CNC is pushing the "Make this position ritch-heeere my X-zero" instead of zeroing a hand-wheel. If you know how to touch off your tool on the part, same thing - just tell the machine where the tool is relative to the part. It's not hard, and you'll soon fall in love.

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    When you have the $, demand, and can't really afford not to have it anymore, and have the space to put it, and are just tired of cranking handles 100hrs a week and never having a break.

    I started my little shop 13yrs ago or so, bought a CNC VMC about 6-7yrs ago, it doesn't run a lot but when it does its very helpful, and bought my first CNC lathe/turning center just 2 months ago.

    The new CNC lathe just happened to be a good deal, I wasn't really planning to buy one this year anymore but timing worked out. I needed the tax deduction and I happened to have a random high qty easy plastic parts job show up to quote on with about 2 months lead time. I didn't have time to run it manual and didn't really want to either so it was either that or no-quote(which would have been fine too...). Almost ended up running them manual but thankfully got the new machine running and solved a few other issues(one really bad...) but got it done with 2 days to spare and a lot of hair pulling and stress, mind you the other 90% of what I billed that month was all done manual, my regular work that paid for that new cnc... Now working on moving a bit more of it to cnc, some steps anyway to help with roughing, that 2nd spindle that can mostly run by itself while I do manual work. To me cnc is support, not the main money earner, not yet anyway... some parts I have no intentions to move to cnc, but if it can reduce some stress on me, and maybe earn me a few days out of the shop once in a while, that'll be great.

    All my manual machines were bought new, all tooled up to run as fast as manual machines can, DRO, quick change everything, good tooling, and knowing how to use it.

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    Sounds like you have the work to support it, so if you can swing it, Id go for a smaller vmc with a tool changer. That way you could at least walk a way for a while and do something else. If your doing 50 part runs, the drilling and tapping alone would save a bunch of time. I think once you got it, and used it for a while you would ask yourself" why didnt I do this sooner?" I have both manual and cnc, but even on one off jobs, alot of the time Ill find myself at the cnc. I try to keep a group of simple programs for things like, spot, drill, tap/ mill bore/ thread mill/ key way/face etc that way I can just change the needed values,tools, etc and go. That said, on repair work, I do find it easier alot of the time to do it manually .

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    Quote Originally Posted by digger doug View Post
    Maybe a used prototrack C.N.C. bed mill ?

    I see them from $9k-$15k
    If you waste that much on a converted knee mill type thing all you did is waste money. Iím looking at several VMcs for under 15k right now. Like a Mazak 16b and a haas vf3. These are real machines although some may not consider the haas as such but thatís besides the point.

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    I bought my first CNC in 1992, when I still had ideas of being a prototype shop

    My friend and former coworker told me the [nineteen ninety twoooooo] that they really didn't do prints, they sent CAD files out.

    I still have that machine and use it for various things, but everything is on a VMC now.

    A VMC is a big difference from a knee mill and can be a big culture change

    But if you don't get a CNC you will either be working for 20 bucks an hour or your work will go to people who hve them

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    Thanks for all the replies, good positive information. I have nothing against cnc, just preferred manual as it has really paid off for the type of work I do.

    I'll start looking for a VMC. My only concern is getting into small - large part runs. I prefer the one-off type work. Yes there is less of it, but in my area I get all the work I need and a little more. I have done splines, gears, shafting, keyways, boring, repairs (tons of repairs)and the list goes on. I also deal with Alum, steel- various types to include tool-steel, and plastic. I enjoy the change and not knowing what is going to come in the door today or tomorrow.

    The other issue I would like to avoid is making payments. I prefer to buy outright and not have the stress of wondering if I made enough to pay off a bill. I have cash on hand, but realize sometimes its better to spend other peoples money.

    Suggestions of what to get and how much I need to spend would be helpful. Production type parts are usually small, talking around 20" x 5" and 1 1/2" thick and smaller. Most production is mill work vs lathe. Lathe I can usually crank them out without an issue. Milling is what takes me the most time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ianagos View Post
    If you waste that much on a converted knee mill type thing all you did is waste money. I’m looking at several VMcs for under 15k right now. Like a Mazak 16b and a haas vf3. These are real machines although some may not consider the haas as such but that’s besides the point.
    I agree. Knee type mills with CNC are strictly light work and barely adequate for that. Sort of the worst of both worlds.

    Bill

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    Default Job Shop with low production

    Quote Originally Posted by drom68 View Post
    Thanks for all the replies, good positive information. I have nothing against cnc, just preferred manual as it has really paid off for the type of work I do.

    I'll start looking for a VMC. My only concern is getting into small - large part runs. I prefer the one-off type work. Yes there is less of it, but in my area I get all the work I need and a little more. I have done splines, gears, shafting, keyways, boring, repairs (tons of repairs)and the list goes on. I also deal with Alum, steel- various types to include tool-steel, and plastic. I enjoy the change and not knowing what is going to come in the door today or tomorrow.

    The other issue I would like to avoid is making payments. I prefer to buy outright and not have the stress of wondering if I made enough to pay off a bill. I have cash on hand, but realize sometimes its better to spend other peoples money.

    Suggestions of what to get and how much I need to spend would be helpful. Production type parts are usually small, talking around 20" x 5" and 1 1/2" thick and smaller. Most production is mill work vs lathe. Lathe I can usually crank them out without an issue. Milling is what takes me the most time.
    Just look on Craigslist near you and see whatís around. I usually just type in cnc and browse. They only machine Iím really weary about is older haas machines as they no longer support them.


    Edit to add I saw this near you

    cnc mill - tools - by owner - sale

    Looks like a good deal with a 4th axis aswell.

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    Without being a wet blanket, I would be careful that the new production business customers pay your invoices on time. Regards, Clark

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    I agree with the others that say get a VMC. You can still do the work that you prefer to do, just walk over to the CNC and load a part every 10 min. or so. It's essentially "free" money.

    It also give you the opportunity to do work you otherwise would not be able to do. Think contours or other funky shapes, interpolating 4" dia holes, etc.

    I still have a bridgeport and engine lathe, but even on 1pc I find it easier (and most times just as fast)to do it on the CNC.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sealark37 View Post
    Without being a wet blanket, I would be careful that the new production business customers pay your invoices on time. Regards, Clark
    Luckily I have great customers that are easy to work with. Two customers have asked me in the past to get the invoice in so they can process it that billing cycle. In other words, get paid in the next two days rather than next two - three weeks.

    But, yes that is a always a concern of mine even in manual machining. My concern are the walk-ins.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ianagos View Post


    cnc mill - tools - by owner - sale

    Looks like a good deal with a 4th axis aswell.

    A few questions, what am I missing on something like this.
    - Tooling
    - power requirements
    - controlled temperature or heating and cooling requirements for the shop
    - space
    - programing

    What are some of the associated cost that is not included in a VMC such as the one listed. Am I being realistic to say I would spend another $10k on making it usable or will it be more?

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    Quote Originally Posted by drom68 View Post
    A few questions, what am I missing on something like this.
    - Tooling
    - power requirements
    - controlled temperature or heating and cooling requirements for the shop
    - space
    - programing

    What are some of the associated cost that is not included in a VMC such as the one listed. Am I being realistic to say I would spend another $10k on making it usable or will it be more?
    I have some sources for tooling if you already have vises you can have enough tooling to get going for 1k. Power requirements are 3phase. Programming is free with fusion 360 Cad and cam. Tempature mine is in an unheated building

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ianagos View Post
    If you waste that much on a converted knee mill type thing all you did is waste money. I’m looking at several VMcs for under 15k right now. Like a Mazak 16b and a haas vf3. These are real machines although some may not consider the haas as such but that’s besides the point.
    Prototrak also makes CNC machines, other than just retrofits, all of which are based around their breed of conversational control. They don't compare to the productivity of a full on VMC, BUT they are easy for a newbie to run which is a plus for anyone who is just getting into the CNC market. Eventually you'll need to upgrade, but it gets you started.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ianagos View Post
    I have some sources for tooling if you already have vises you can have enough tooling to get going for 1k. Power requirements are 3phase. Programming is free with fusion 360 Cad and cam. Tempature mine is in an unheated building

    Thanks! I have 3phase, but it is a 10hp rotary phase for cnc, but I don't what the hp of the listed cnc is. My shop is wired on the outside of the walls based so changing things up isn't that bad. I do have a sizable 3phase paned. My shop has a small window unit for cooling but I do have a good heating system. PA can go from 90deg with high humidity in the summer down to 0deg in the winter.

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    ^^^ That Fadal 4020 is probably 15hp. Someone may correct me on that, I am not a fadal guy.

    I have a 30" Haas VF2, 10hp on a 60 amp disconnect.
    My 20hp 4020 is on a 100 amp, and my 7.5hp Sharp is on a 30 amp.

    All 208V 3-ph.

    I tooled up the 4020 with 2 new Kurt vises and 18 new Techniks dual-contact holders for about $3500.

    Rigging was another $3500 to get the machine in my shop from about 60 miles away, and the electrical was about $1000 for everything to get it all hooked up. That included wiring the 1000 psi Chipblaster that needs it's own 30 amp disconnect.

    I think if you can budget 30K, you can have a circa mid-2000's 40" VMC, ready to make parts on your shop floor. That would be buying the machine from a private party, not a dealer. You might talk to the other shops around you, and let them know you are in the market for a decent used VMC. A lot of shops are putting in new equipment right now, and you can get a better deal if you buy it from someone who wants it out of there to make space for a new machine.


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