Starting a Machine Shop #2: Buying The Machine

Hello machinists! It has been a few months since the last update. Several things have happened, so now we actually have content to blog about! This post is going to be about buying the machine.

If you watched the video on our youtube channel for Starting a Machine Shop, you’ll know that we decided to buy a Tormach 770MX as our first machine. We turned in all the papers on it in October and received it mid-November. Well, we received most of it. The lift bar for assembly got here in December as well as the coolant system. So for anything besides basic cutting, we had a 1000lb paperweight sitting in the garage. Let’s start out through each part of the process!

Paperwork and the Numbers

Buying the machine itself was actually a fairly painless process. We purchased the Tormach 770MX with most add-ons such as the touch probe, automatic tool setter, automatic tool changer, a 4-inch vise, some basic tooling/fixturing. Grand total for all that is around $30,000. The machine is financed through Geneva Capital with a 3 year lease owing 10% value to buy the machine at the end of the term. It was a $2,600 down payment then around $1,100 a month which includes insurance on the machine. Geneva Capital was super helpful, giving us several different options for payment and walking us through the whole process. We plan on using them again for our next Tormach as well!

Receiving and Assembling the Machine

This is where things started getting a bit hectic. We received the machine in 2-3 weeks after locking down financing. We purchased the lift bar which was kind of moot since it arrived a few weeks after the machine and I had already assembled the machine, managing without the lift bar. The date for the coolant system kept getting pushed out by Tormach, which in Covid times is completely understandable. Only annoying point on that is it wasn’t a proactive update from Tormach about the delays, I reached out every time to get an update. The first order I had lined up was out of stainless steel so I was itching to get that coolant system in. I worked with Tormach to get a MQL in quickly at least so I could have some sort of cooling system. Kudos for helping me out with that! All in all, I was able to have the machine running by Christmas after ordering it in October. At that point, I was 2 payments in after my initial down payment. $4,800 deep and not a dollar made yet.

Assembling the machine took about 2-3 weekends to complete. Nothing was overly difficult besides the small workspace I’m in to begin with. Make sure you’re problem solving skills are ready, there was several parts of the manual that did not match the equipment on the MX series of machine as well as having to buy some additional hardware that was not included with the machine. And have your wrist ready for a lot of tight spot allen wrench use!

Once the machine was together, the first cuts made were to make some custom T-Nuts to bolt the tool setter down to the table. That was my first experience with conversational programming on Path Pilot, and I must say, I love this controller! Very simple and straightforward, the touch controls are very nice and having a full keyboard is handy as well.

The First Job

For our first job, we managed to make a small batch of some basic car parts for a family relative. Ran in 2 ops with OP1 being in the vise and OP2 on a custom fixture. Finally about to bring in some money nearly 3 months in! After buying some tooling, basic inspection equipment and covering website stuff, we are about $6,000 in at this point.

Running our first job was definitely a learning experience on the Tormach. Don’t come into it thinking you can just back off a little bit from what you do on the big machines and get by. This machine is very capable of cutting aggressively, but it is very particular about how it’s done. I’m still sorting out some ideal feeds/speeds for it. Tormach teams up with a company called ProvenCut to give out some recipes for the machine. I haven’t used that yet, but G-Wizard by CNC Cookbook has definitely been helpful. I’ve put in the machine specs and it gives me some good numbers to start with as I hone in my programs. Starting out with my own cut recipes, definitely bogged down the spindle a couple times.

Our first job on a larger machine would have been around a 15 minute cycle time with a conservative program, on the Tormach is was around 25 minutes. But that was also a very conservative program using a 0.500 endmill. I think this machine actually cuts faster with a 0.375 endmill. But we ran the job over a weekend, and shipped them out the following week! This would have been in mid-December using the MQL coolant.

What is next?

At this point, the machine is here, assembled, and ready for work! How do we get our name out more? Where do we find more work? We are going to dive into that in the next segment that will be out in a week. Until then, let us know if you have any thoughts or questions! We’re new to this and am sure a lot of you are as well!

Starting a Machine Shop #1: What is the Vision?

If everybody is doing it the same way, there must be a better way.

-Anthony Melchiorri

A lot of machine shops out there, when they got started they just went out and bought a machine. No plan, no direction. Just using the idea, if you buy it, the work will come. While that may have some truth to it, this makes growth happen by accident and makes it difficult to really explain why you are a better choice than any other shop. If you want to differentiate yourself from every other machine shop out there, you need to have a vision.

There are all kinds of resources out there discussing vision, what it is and how to find yours, I will give a small snippet of what I think it it then describe what the vision is for BetterCNC.

When you think of vision, you should be thinking of what is it you want your shop to be. What does your shop look like, what are you doing in it? Is it just you and a couple manual machines building replacement parts for farm equipment? Are you having meetings with Boeing and Lockheed which your super high tech shop just moved into its new building? Whatever it is, you should know it. There is no such thing as a vision too big or too small, as long as it is yours. Your vision is what gives you a sense of direction. It helps you think, “to get to my ideal shop, what should I be doing right now? What should things look like?”

At BetterCNC, our vision is to have the best experience for our customers. Not just to always deliver quality parts on-time etcetera, everyone does that or at least tries. We are driven to provide the absolute best customer service. We want our customers to remember, those guys at BetterCNC are really on top of it.

Working with machine shops has always been a fairly static experience, send over a drawing, get a quote, send a PO, receive parts. And with the industry going digital in everyway, that is becoming even more so. While that may get the job done, soon enough, that is going to become the baseline. For BetterCNC, our vision is to actively build a more personal connection with our customers while keeping the same convenience of the digital age. We feel that still personal touch you often get with a smaller machine shop will keep BetterCNC at the top of customers minds when they need anything built. Small shop feel, big shop benefits.

That being said regarding our vision, we are keeping that thought in everything we do starting out. That is why we have our website and social media pages built already so we are easy to find. We’ve kept our company name short and easy to remember. We chose the simple yellow B as an emblem because it’s versatile and yellow incites a feeling of happiness and optimism. Every little detail matters.

So when you are out there, thinking about starting a machine shop, don’t just think about buying a machine and making parts. Think further than that. Build the machine shop in your head before you try and build it in real life. What does it look like? How does it feel from a customers point of view? What are you doing in it? Before taking any step into the endeavor of starting your own company, you should be able to answer those questions.

Starting a new CNC Machine Shop Series

With the plethora of resources out there to help machine shops get more business, learn new machining techniques and just about every aspect there is to owning a machine shop, there are virtually no resources out there going over building a machine shop from day zero. There is not very much information out there from when you make the decision to start a machine shop to getting your first machine and those critical days of planning and getting setup initially.

Having said that, with BetterCNC being in it’s initial days, there could not be a better time to share the experiences and challenges of starting a machine shop. Via blog and a video series on youtube, we will record our journey of starting a new business from the absolute ground up.

Make sure to subscribe to our blog down below and follow us on your favorite social networks!

You heard right, another machine shop. But Better!

BetterCNC is a brand new CNC machine shop, founded in late 2020. But, BetterCNC isn’t just your run of the mill CNC machine shop. We are the shop that does things differently, we are the shop that does things better.

If you have ever dealt with a manufacturing company from any angle, you most likely have had the same issues over and over again. Slow responses to quotes, no updates on the project, quantity is too low, lead time is too long, and the list goes on and on. This unfortunately has become the reputation for much of the manufacturing industry.

With BetterCNC, as a brand new company, it is in our DNA to not be one of those shops. As we are growing and structuring our company, every detail put in place is aimed at our ultimate goal of customer satisfaction across the board. From customer service to quality of goods. From the moment of first contact with BetterCNC through shipping and beyond, We want you to have a better experience with your manufacturer.

Most machine shops generically say they want to be the best, the number one, the greatest at what they do. But that leaves no room for improvement. At BetterCNC, we don’t want to be the best, we want to be better.