Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 40

Thread: Making a few bucks with the CNC

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Escondido, CA
    Posts
    5,172

    Making a few bucks with the CNC

    Rather than have Leo's most valuable information on this topic get lost in another thread, I started this one. So far I have distilled this out of his recent posts:

    Leo's YouTubes: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ2...HOh9PNg/videos and https://www.youtube.com/user/arcticfox46/videos

    Place to start with software: F-Cam, CamBam, SheetCam and draftsight are all free. Silo or Hexagon is low cost. Leo is favorable to Vector products and participates on their forum as time affords.

    Viable affordable machines include the Instructables machines that Bill and Dan are building, or the homemade machine that Darren built. I am certain there are others. Also look into Shapeoko.

    Possible ROI is ~$5000 per year for a parttime business. Usual business skills will apply. Maybe Rob will chime in with some thoughts here.

    Leo suggests studying some of the sign experts, like Dan Sawatsky, Sandy Baird, Melissa Jones, and Roger Mann. Goggle as needed. And attend trade shows as are applicable and available.

    He also suggests setting up an account at a sign materials supply and trying stuff. All will not be solid wood.

    For ideas, begin a drawing journal and a digital photo collection. Also, may I suggest here fiverr.com. For very little money you can have a graphic artist design for you. I had logos and other graphic art done for my retreat ministry. And for a few bucks more, I own the copywrites, as well. And they are in multiple file formats.

    Thus far, my start-up budget for the first year is $5000. I broke it down this way: CNC $1000, software $1000 (if we're going to be serious here), cutters $500, accessories $500, marketing budget $1000, business set-up costs $500 and the learning process costs $500. Budget means prepare to spend this much. Adjust in the second year.

    The good news is I have all the attendant other tools to make this work; vacuum systems, hand tools, clamps, other portable tools for pre-processing and post-processing, work tables, shelf storage, etc. I also have some experience with this and with being in business.

    I do not expect to make money the first year. I do expect to recover my costs in the second year. From the third year on, I expect to be solidly and consistently in the black. Make enough money to go see Toni in Spain!

    The motivation is to raise the rest of the money for the house and to have some fun. Love this stuff!

    Let the comments and suggestions begin!
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Escondido, CA
    Posts
    5,172
    Some questions to help sort out the software. Am I right in that there are three software considerations; design/drawing software, tool path generation software, and machine milling software? Tell me how the various packages already mentioned fit into this scheme and what else ought we to know. I hand coded my ShopBot after hand measuring a hand made prototype. That was 15 years ago. There has to be an easier way now.

    Maybe a family visit to Jason ought to be part of my research.....
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Sacramento, CA
    Posts
    1,367
    You're right in the software categories - the industry refers to them as follows:

    CAD - Computer Aided Drafting - This is where you model what you want to make. Literally the final dimensions of the parts you want. There are lots of CAD apps out there. Some are strictly just 2D vector-based. Some are 2.5D, some are full 3D.

    CAM - Computer Aided Manufacturing - This takes CAD drawings (usually vectors) and your cut recipe (cutter, speed, feeds, ramping, plunge methods, etc) and turns them into toolpaths that will achieve the part designed in CAD

    Control - This is what takes the toolpaths (usually as gcode) and calculates whatever electronic and mechanical needs your CNC machine requires. In most cases, that's pulses to drive steppers or servos.


    What's Free?
    CAD - Sketchup, FreeCAD, Blender, Inkscape, DraftSight, and many many more.
    CAM - F-engrave (i think this is what leo meant to say, i don't know of F-cam), MakerCAM (http://makercam.com/), SketchUCAM (for sketchup) and i'm sure more
    Control - All i know of is EMC2 for linux - i played with it a little bit early on


    What Costs?
    CAD - AutoCAD, TurboCAD, Bob CAD/CAM, Solidworks, etc
    CAM - Vectric's Products, Artcam's products, Bob CAD/CAM, CamBam, etc.
    Control - Mach3, Mach4 and a host of proprietary stuff.


    As always, sometimes there's crossover in some packages. Vectric's Aspire and vCarve both allow for modelling (CAD) as well as toolpathing (CAM) - and I would almost argue that you can probably do 99% of what you'd want in those apps alone once you got used to them. There are times, for me anyway, where I like to draw things up in SketchUp - full assemblies - then take those parts and cut 'em on the CNC (my Overly Complex Sandpaper Storage project is one of those). When Vectric started directly importing SketchUp files, I was in high heaven because I nearly always model up everything in SKP first, and it was sometimes painful to get it from SKP in into VCP to cut on the CNC. They've made it MUCH easier now.

    You can get pretty far with just free stuff - there's a guy Leo and I know, Dan, who built a CNC out of 2x4s and drawer slides and uses lots of free or low-cost software to get his projects cut and he has fantastic results. You're only limited by your ingenuity and Dan's living proof of that.

    My workflow is as follows:

    1. Project Idea comes in (either you think of it, or customer comes along)
    2. Assess the operations needed and if you have the capacity (v-carving? pockets? inlays? 3D sculpting?)
    3. Assess how you'll get the parts modeled (do you need someone to draw it, can you rely on existing clipart, etc)
    4. Reconcile what's needed and how they'll be modeled with the software you have and outsource or acquire as necessary
    5. Estimate costs (materials, steps 2, 3 and 4, prep/setup, cutters, finishing, processing/shipping)
    6. Present quick sketch mockups/representations along with estimate and Get approval (in writing!)
    7. Collect Up-front deposit if applicable (i usually require 1/3 up front if i have to do the modelling)
    7. Start modelling.
    8. Present final models and get final approval
    9. Collect Milestone $$ (I usually get another 3rd here)
    10. Source materials (if necessary)
    11. Process materials into blanks for machining (break down sheet goods to fit, joint/plane/glue up panels, apply sealer coat, mask, etc)
    12. Mount blank and run CNC operations
    13. Repeat as needed (11 and 12)
    14. Final processing of parts and finish
    15. Package and Delivery
    16. Collect final 3rd of payment

    It's not set in stone, but those are the basic steps usually needed to account for. Sometimes I only do 50% up front and 50% at the end with check-in communications throughout the process. Depending on the size of the job, I may also need to offer samples which I try to avoid because almost all of the work has to be done to make the sample as does the actual part so you have to kinda balance when a sample is worthwhile.

    Doing 5k a year in revenue would be easy with even the least little bit of marketing, I've found. My first year after my machine was built, I didn't really advertise, I just goofed around on my own projects and people kinda came out of the woodwork and asked if I could cut something for 'em. Without even trying, I recouped all of my software costs in the first year (about a grand). That's with absolutely no intentional marketing at all. Just talkin' to friends who followed me build my machine. 3 years in, and my machine is still running reliably (tho i need to tune out some backlash I've developed) and it's almost completely paid for (hardware and software) with work it's generated.

    I think if you really did put 1k into marketing your first year, you'd likely have no trouble turning a profit the first year. The real hurdle is education - people still think CNC is just a magic robot you push a button and out pops their part - they underestimate the modelling needs and the effort it takes to draw up their parts.

    I turn a lot of work away because the prospect thinks in terms of the object alone, not the "ramp up" to get them the object they want. It usually goes something like "Well if you wanted more than one, it would probably be worth it - but for one-off, the time drawing it will far outstrip the time to make it. The first one's always expensive - the ones after that are a mere fraction of the initial one." I've gotten faster at drawing stuff up quickly now, and a lot of that has to do with your tools and is the reason I gladly ponied up for vCarvePro.

    I could spend 4 hours trying to get sketchup to do what I want, then juggle it around with free CAM programs and have to run tests and ensure all worked well ... or I could draw it in VCP in 15 minutes, maybe run a test if it's an operation i've never done before, and be ready to go. That can be the difference between getting the job and not, so it was easy math. And I just do this as a hobby - i'm not in business, really. It's still very much my toy and not something I put much demand on most of the time. The projects I take on have to interest me in some way - I have no desire to be pumping out parts constantly.

    You're more than welcome to swing by sometime - maybe we could get Brent and Sharon to coast down the hill for a spell, even!
    Jason Beam
    Sacramento, CA

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Sacramento, CA
    Posts
    1,367
    Oh, i was gonna make one more note about $$$ ... you said $1000 for your machine. Be cautious here because rigidity and reliability come at a price. I haven't been keeping up with the current machines lately but I'm a little dubious about how much machine $1k will get you.

    I'm amazed my machine is still holding together and I've got about $1600 in materials into it. It's not quite as rigid as I'd like but so far it's been reliable. My machine has a 28x60 cutting surface and a 3" overhang on one end so i can machine the ends of boards up to 40" long. I wouldn't count my time in building it at 100%, though, because I was also fabricating as I went, too - using my limited capabilities and whatnot. With my current machine making parts, I could easily build a copy of this thing in half the time.

    I don't mean to rain on the parade with the financial side of things. But if you're gonna rely on the machine for business, I would look at higher quality machines and I don't believe many are offered at that price point. The quality of the vital components (linear guides, drive system, spindle) are going to directly affect the reliability of the machine. If you want a machine that can do at least 24" square, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a solid performer that's up to the task of running for 6-8 hours a day several days a week and I would urge you to consider at least $2k for your machine if you aren't building it yourself.
    Jason Beam
    Sacramento, CA

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Escondido, CA
    Posts
    5,172
    Budget adjusted for the machine. Now I will try to internalized everything else you said. I really love your list. Thanks for that. I am not interested in building my own machine. I remember watching your build videos and remember thinking this is way beyond my abilities. Not on the mechanical side but on the electronic side.

    So anyone with suggestions for $2000 CNC machines? The most useful cutting area for me would be 24"x48" but I am willing to start smaller and upgrade to larger in the future. I have some product ideas that would allow a 12"x24" work area. Might be a good starting point. Space at this point is an issue, but once the house is done, the shop area right now is designed at ~1,000 sf.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    East Freeetown, Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,020
    A couple of points to ponder.

    I have evolved in my use of materials. You may notice in some of my videos that I do not just talk about wood - but I reference materials.

    The real sign makers rarely use wood. Wood is not a great sign material, for a myriad of reasons. It's GREAT to have a Cherry Plaque for a wall hanging inside the house - but not for outside.

    House numbers will sell - don't make them out of wood.

    OK - so materials - HDU - High Density Urethane is by far the most popular sign material for dimensional signs. I use it, and I have grown to really appreciate it. It cuts like butter, does NOT absorb water - at all, does not warp, twist bow. It does not shrink or contract. Paint stays on it ant does not peal. It is light weight and easy to handle. It is a GREAT sign material.

    HDU will cost $12 - $20 dollars per board foot. So - Get over it - the sooner you get over that the better off you will be.
    Sell a sign made out of HDU and you will have some left over. Sell a sign for $350 (easy) and have 3/4 of a sheet left over, plus some profit.

    I talk about HDU in my Carousel animals video

    There are also substrates - Alubond. There is a thin aluminum on each side with PVC core. It is strong and easy to work with normal woodworking tools. Usually one side is gloss and the other side satin. It's a great material for the base of a sign. Less money than HDU but mode money than wood.

    PVC - like the stuff you can get at borg for trim boards. You can buy it in 4x8 sheets. Good durable material particularly to make letters out of. Prime and paint then glue on to a substrate. The PVC sheet can also be a substrate.

    LORD adhesives. TRUST ME - this brand makes a difference. I glued a piece of PVC to Alubond. I schffed up the surface and cleaned with DNA. There was no possible way my hands could break the bond. I wedged a screwdriver under with a hammer and pried with a LOT of force and it broke the PVC.

    PANTING - Look at Dan Sawatsky's Imagination Corporation - he uses a spray gun for nothing - he brushes everything. There is a LOT of learning for painting. Dan and the Oxenhams have taught me the technique of glazing.

    Joe Crumley of Norman Signs in Oklahoma is a MASTER sign artist - he has a lot of great techniques for sign painting. HE does wood signs - but - not on the level I am even going to ever try.


    CHINA MACHINES -- YES YES YES - definitely explore that market. I am pretty sure my 48x48 machine will come from China.

    BUT - that is all about signs - That is where the money is - and fun to make too.

    We can explore, boxes, scrolls, Corbels, Wreaths, Intarsia, Engraving, picture frames, cabinet engravings, Ohhhh there is such to explore.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Escondido, CA
    Posts
    5,172
    OK. Comment on Chinese machines. Brands, links, etc. Thanks.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Billings Missouri near Springfield Mo
    Posts
    4,552
    A Turn N Time
    Components for John Smith Organs and the Hobby Organ Builder

    Frog Pond Guitars


    Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    East Freeetown, Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,020
    I spend some time on 3Dsign forum, GREAT source of information, great people.

    Dan Hammerstrom is a pretty knowledgeable guy when it comes to machine. He bought one from China custom designed to his specs. He has had GREAT customer support and his machine is a great product. Dan has a few machines from China and a few other people on that forum also bought from the same manufacturer.

    If you dig through this thread there is a bunch of technical information and some pricing.

    Jason and Melissa Jones had a Shop Bot Alpha for several years and they just bought one of the Chinese machines. Melissa said it is a HUGE improvement over the Shop Bot. Melissa Jones of Nice Carvings ( http://www.nicecarvings.com/ ) has created signs all over the world and for the Navy as well as the film industry. They own and operate the 3D sign forum.

    http://www.3dsignforum.com/forum/19-...its-rock-solid

    At the end of 2014 the Chinese company had 2 machines --- 48 x 48 for sale @ $2400. You cannot build one of compatible quality for that price. Of course there is shipping and rigging to contend with (about $1500).

    When I go for a 48 x 48 machine I will be budgeting about $5,000. Of course most of the money is already in the bank - from sales. I will have NO cash outlay.

    I know several people than bought machines "Sale CNC" in China and they are very happy. Again these people are not first time machine buyers - they are seasoned professionals.

    There is a lot of negative hype about Chinese machines and I am sure "some" of it is true. Most bad raps I hear are from people that have never owned a machine at all - but they would "certainly" never buy Chinese. --- OK???

    These are the 2 machines I am most knowledgeable about.

    My friend Rob in Indiana sells I think Roc-Tech. He also just sold his Shop Bot. I don't know a whole lot about the brand but Rob thinks it is really great.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Escondido, CA
    Posts
    5,172
    I sold my ShopBot because I was moving in 2004. Now I think they are overpriced. Four years ago I joined Joe's CNC and have watched builds there. He has a new Titan machine he prototyped and is now testing. Don't know yet whether there will be plans, kits, sub-assemblies or what. Not including controllers, likely ~$4K for a machine ready to assemble.

    My information gathering matrix is getting well populated! Thanks. Lots of research to do, but keep it coming. I am collecting links, resources, suggestions, opinions in every area that pops up.

    Which brings me to the comment you made about signs being the best money-maker. Your thinking? What other markets might pursue? I noted boxes, scrolls, Corbels, Wreaths, Intarsia, Engraving, picture frames, and cabinet engravings.

    I want to decide on products and markets before I decide on the machine.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

Similar Threads

  1. 25 bucks dont buy much anymore
    By allen levine in forum New Tools
    Replies: 13
    Last Post: 06-01-2012, 03:00 AM
  2. I saved almost 200 bucks
    By allen levine in forum General Woodworking Q&A
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 02-25-2012, 04:26 AM
  3. Save yourself a hundred bucks
    By Rich Soby in forum General Woodturning Q&A
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 08-15-2011, 04:49 AM
  4. We all are making gas
    By Chuck Thoits in forum General Woodworking Q&A
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 02-03-2011, 05:37 AM
  5. Powermatic 8 inch jointer. Seattle CL, 200 bucks !
    By Scott Donley in forum Hot Deals
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 02-20-2008, 01:19 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •