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  • Went on a tour of local machine shop.

    My buddy works at a local cnc machine shop and took me on a tour of the shop. Right now they are working on slides for 9mm's for S&W and fuel nozzles for aerospace stuff.

    When he was telling me about the shop I had in my mind a few cnc mills, a few cnc lathes and a few guys standing around watching machines. What an eye opener! I lost count of cnc machines. I counted no less than 40 inspection plates on the floor! They have an entire room of just cnc inspection probe machines. I believe it was around 20 cnc mills in one line all just running gun slides. And clean! The shop is spotless from one end to the other, even the machines themselves were clean inside and out.

    They have a deburing room bigger than my whole shop.

    The scrap room was equally impressive. Semi size dumpsters, one all stainless chips from the gun slides. My buddy tells me they fill it and have it emptied every week! 55 gallon barrels full of carbide tooling to be scrapped. That made me sad, I picked up a few carbide endmills out of the pile to look at and the most they have a slight slight chip out of one flute some not even visible! I asked but we weren't allowed to take any. They have one guy hired to just change out tooling. If a tool gets damaged the operator would exchange the tool and holder out for a new one and keep running and put the spent tool on a rack. This other guy would come around and collect all the spent tooling and take them back to his room where he would set in new endmills (or what have you) using an array of machines to make sure the new endmill was set to an exact depth in the holder. It was them labeled and put back in a tool elevator to be used again. One entire elevator was just shell mills. The one next to it was all endmills. There were elevators it seemed every 50 feet.

    I was thoroughly impressed! The over all size and amount of just everything was mind boggling. I know there are places like that in the world but I would have never guessed in my own town!

    Here is their website if any are interested in looking. http://pointeprecision.com/

    Sorry no photos were allowed on the floor.
    Andy

  • #2
    Looks like a nice shop. I've been in many shops over the years, from small 1 stall strip malls, to huge multi complex campus'. I still geek out when I get to go on a "shop tour" at a customers. Opportunity's aren't as available as they once were due to a changing job role, but when I get a chance I love it. It's always nice to see how other people do things. Just walking by somebodies workstation might be an opportunity to learn something.

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    • #3
      One thing to bear in mind. Those mega shops don't even want the small, one off, and custom prototype jobs. It would just slow them down. There are still plenty of jobs for custom specialty shops, one off shops, and small production.

      Some years ago my brother in law was in charge of a shop making jet engine parts. They had machines that wouldn't even fit inside my shop. My shop is 50x60' with a 16' eve height. Although he was impressed by my little Taig that can make precision parts for just a few thousand dollars. He didn't believe such a thing existed until I showed him. Anyway, I called him once because a major maquiladora I've done other work for needed somebody to make certain types of parts. They are a big name you would all recognize here in the USA. He wasn't at all interested and seemed annoyed that I had even asked him about such a small job. Now what they wanted another source to have made was not a huge portion of their components, but they aren't a tiny company. I've visited their plant in Mexico, and when I was working on some systems in their warehouse in the USA I saw semi loads of parts going to Mexico and semi loads of completed parts coming back everyday.

      I have a one man hobby shop myself now. Its turned into a small business. I have 3 tiny CNC machines and by comparison to the plant my brother in law used to manage one slightly less tiny machine in operation. If I want to work that hard I can keep them all running everyday making parts. I just take as much work as I can do by myself without killing myself, and I keep my prices at a level that holds that level. I still occasionally take work away from Chinese plants once in a while. I usually have from 6-8 weeks backlog at any given time and have as much as 12 a couple times a year so far. I tell people upfront what the wait time is and if they insist I tell them the price for line jumping is a hundred billion dollars plus the price of the part. I have some people who get annoyed and go elsewhere, but my customers tend to be happy that I treat everybody the same and am consistent with them. That I tell them honest lead times upfront instead of just getting their money and making them wait until I get around to it.

      I don't even think I am all that good at what I do. Don't get me wrong I make decent parts. I spent ten years teaching myself how part time while running my contracting company full time. I just don't have an MBA or an engineering degree or 30 years experience as an apprentice blacksmith before I started my thirty years apprenticeship as a machinist. LOL.

      Anyway, my point is there is still room for small shops with ideas and owners who are willing to empty trashcans, sweep chips, and work on small jobs. I won't ever get rich at it, but it pays its own bills and at the end of the month I still make my boat payment and my truck payment.

      ... and I'm still not at the point where I feel I could handle the work from that maquiladora I mentioned earlier.

      P.S. I still have the Taig. Its my first CNC machine, and I'll probably always have it. It sits on a shelf in the shop, and every time I walk by I tell myself I'm going to put it back together and display it in my office someday.
      Last edited by Bob La Londe; 11-02-2017, 10:54 AM.
      *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

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      • #4
        Another small shop example. I visited a shop not all that long ago that was going out of business. I bought all of his vises, a granite inspection plate, and a small press. The owner had a few employees, and his shop was busy even while he was selling off stuff getting ready to close. He had a couple manual mills, various misc equipment, and about a dozen lathes. He was making production runs of injectors for somebody, and the only reason he was closing his shop was because his doctor told him to quit working or die. Well, maybe not that extreme, but that was the gist of it. He was a hands on guy and he was on the shop floor everyday.
        *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

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        • #5
          Anyway, those big shops are awesome, but if you want to do machine work don't be intimidated by them. They suck up all the big work you couldn't do anyway, and they leave a vacuum for guys who are willing to to do the custom work, the specialty work, and the small production work.

          One more example. I bought one of my CNC mills from a screw machine shop. He was running at what looked like optimum production levels the day I picked up my machine.
          *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

          Comment


          • #6
            I have visited two shops recently. The first place was going out of business. It was a dirty filthy place with some decent machines in it. The owner refused to talk price and was in there to take up your time and wanted to sell the whole shop for 50K. I told him I am a hobbyist and was looking for x items. He wanted 6k for a Bridgeport manual mill, and 7K for a Bridgeport CNC mill that used tape and a typewriter to program......... The machines were in decent shape in all fairness but not worth that much to me. He got all apprehensive when I asked about prices on a couple of items. He was more interested in telling me stories about the shop. Too bad, he had some nice vises and a bunch of grinding wheels I wanted.

            The second shop did a small job for me. Same scenario, dirty filthy place. Machines that were clapped out and the owner looked like a bum that was living out of his office. I needed the job done (Cast iron brazing job) and I paid the guy. One of his guys proceeds to pull the parts into the middle of the shop near the manual mill and start brazing it. Turns out they weld in the middle of the shop and grind right there too. The machines looked like they were so worn from the dust and grit that even as hobby machines they would serve as nothing more than scrap. Talking to the guy on the other hand was eye opening. He was complaining that not much work was coming his way anymore and his old customers has disappeared and the same old sad song.
            12x16" Delta 3d printer (Built from scratch)
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            • #7
              Speaking of judging by appearance....

              I was in a salvage company office one day when a guy walked in wearing dirty caked on grease overalls with no shirt underneath and his skin wasn't much cleaner than his overall. He asked the guy running the office that day how much for a piece of equipment in the yard. The counter guy looked at him and threw out a number he thought would get rid of the guy. $10K. That was back in the late 70s or early 80s. $10K was a fair amount of money then. The guy reach in this giant bulging pocket on his overall and pulled out several bank wrapped bundles of hundred dollar bills, and threw one on the counter.

              It goes further. The owner of the salvage company wouldn't have sold the piece of equipment for less than $50K, and the farmer who came in had $70K in cash on him for negotiating when he walked in the door.

              Two of the best farm mechanics I ever knew looked like that 6 days a week. We used to keep our country stores open late just for them when they came in.
              *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bob La Londe View Post
                Speaking of judging by appearance....

                I was in a salvage company office one day when a guy walked in wearing dirty caked on grease overalls with no shirt underneath and his skin wasn't much cleaner than his overall. He asked the guy running the office that day how much for a piece of equipment in the yard. The counter guy looked at him and threw out a number he thought would get rid of the guy. $10K. That was back in the late 70s or early 80s. $10K was a fair amount of money then. The guy reach in this giant bulging pocket on his overall and pulled out several bank wrapped bundles of hundred dollar bills, and threw one on the counter.

                It goes further. The owner of the salvage company wouldn't have sold the piece of equipment for less than $50K, and the farmer who came in had $70K in cash on him for negotiating when he walked in the door.

                Two of the best farm mechanics I ever knew looked like that 6 days a week. We used to keep our country stores open late just for them when they came in.
                I am not saying that judging these guys from the shop is a fair thing to do. However if your expecting precision from a place, you expect at leas the floors are swept in the last decade and the guys running the machines have a modicum of appreciation of the precision instruments they are using. I still gave them my business but honestly if I had machine work to do I would not trust either one of those places. Would you eat from a restaurant that looks like a junk yard? Do you expect tight tolerances from machined parts? Having someone attacking a chunk of cast iron with an angle grinder mere inches from the ways of a machine is not exactly confidence inspiring.
                12x16" Delta 3d printer (Built from scratch)
                Logan 825 - work in progress
                My Blog - http://engineerd3d.ddns.net/
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                • #9
                  I was thinking of this today and remembered, they aren't cnc mills they are "machine centers" or something like that.

                  I can't imagine the electric bill for a place like that!
                  Andy

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                  • #10
                    I have a S&W M&P 9mm. I wonder if the work is for S&W or a third party making accessory slides. I always thought S&W did all their machining in-house.

                    I don't get too impressed by "Machine Centers". The real work is in the office. You could teach a janitor to load material and push a button. I enjoy watching YouTube videos in the manual shops. That's where you learn to fix problems. Like why my 3" Face Mill is eating inserts like they're made out of graphite pencil lead instead of carbide.

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                    • #11
                      That's a cool story about making money with a mini/micro CNC shop. Not trying to pry into anyone's business, but in general, does anyone have an idea of how much money (after expenses) in dollars per hour one can make by doing something like that part time?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by CCWKen View Post
                        I have a S&W M&P 9mm. I wonder if the work is for S&W or a third party making accessory slides. I always thought S&W did all their machining in-house.

                        I don't get too impressed by "Machine Centers". The real work is in the office. You could teach a janitor to load material and push a button. I enjoy watching YouTube videos in the manual shops. That's where you learn to fix problems. Like why my 3" Face Mill is eating inserts like they're made out of graphite pencil lead instead of carbide.
                        I doubt it's that way any more. A lot of gun mfg.'s are probably subbing out parts where they can get the best price. Parts are returned and the final product is assembled. Like anything else in today's world, then they just put their name on it.

                        JL........................

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Machine View Post
                          That's a cool story about making money with a mini/micro CNC shop. Not trying to pry into anyone's business, but in general, does anyone have an idea of how much money (after expenses) in dollars per hour one can make by doing something like that part time?
                          All depends on what your making. If you buy a "CNC" so you can hang a sign out front and offer CNC services, you will most likely make very little. You are competing with a LOT of other shops doing the same (all over the globe). If you have a product you have designed, and would like to produce it yourself, you will likely do a lot better. If you have the #'s to support it, you would probably do even better to sub out that work to higher volume shops who utilize state of the art tooling and machines.

                          In short. a "CNC" is not necessarily a machine to print money, but with the right work, and right market, it can be pretty lucrative.
                          I have no idea what a Micro mill is capable of in terms of $/hr, but a real industrial VMC or Lathe can bill out anywhere from $60-200/hr depending on the work being run. Maybe more. And unfortunately sometimes less if you miss some details on a print......

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                          • #14
                            I think one mini machine is ok to learn and do a few jobs to pay for the machine, but to make money you need to have a mix of your own products and customer products, and run multiple machines. I have three small machines with small high speed spindles in operation, and one bigger machine with a more conventional spindle. I have a steady flow of work, but I spent several years not doing CNC machining as my primary business building it up.

                            I have a very narrow market segment in a niche market, but I have marketed myself world wide. The willingness to deal with the tedious details to mail a $90 part to Australia shows customers that you will follow through and take care of them. I don't just make the part. I know how to design the part. Even when a customer sends me their own design I critique it and point out problems. This turns off some customers, but it creates long lasting relationships with others. Its a choice I made in how I do business that works for me. It may not work for you.

                            If you made a mistake calculating the job and will lose money. Tough. Suck it up. It was your mistake. If the customer added to the job, didn't give you necessary information you couldn't have gotten for yourself, or gave you wrong information make a fair adjustment to the job before you start cutting and give the customer the chance to say no. Its the right thing to do.

                            There is a guy with a really nice Tormach on YouTube who has made two (not one, but two) videos where he stands there smoking and drinking while he tells you how you can't make any money doing home machining. He got a lot of negative feedback for them, but there is a seed of truth to everything he says. Well a lot of it. The thing is you have to find the type of project you have a passion for, develop contacts, network, make stuff to learn, and understand that it may take a long time to make any real money from it.

                            You can't usually just open your doors and start raking in the cash. We can't all be like Bill Gates and sell a license agreement to a product we don't even own. (And I wouldn't want to be.) Don't go into machining to make money. Go into machining because you enjoy it. If you enjoy it and you take the old testament view of being fair to everybody including yourself you will eventually make a few dollars. If you work at it hard enough you will make a few more dollars.

                            When all I had was a my little Taig I did jobs on it at 1.3 million lines of code and 30hrs of execution for one of two parts. The other parts was just as long. I slept on the shop floor next to the machine listening to it run. Not everybody will do that, and to be honest not everybody needs to do that, but I had a drive to get the job done that blocked out most other things for a week solid. I had to recut the job because I screwed it up the first time.
                            Last edited by Bob La Londe; 11-03-2017, 10:50 AM.
                            *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I make a comfortable second income offering 3D printing services, laser cutting and now vinyl-cutting to a handful of niche markets.

                              If I threw my doors open and solicited work from any and everyone I'd starve and my machines would rot. I know my niches and I know how to get work in those niches and who to talk to when I need more work. These days it's almost but not quite self-stoking... I still have to go out at least once a month and bang on doors. 9/10 yield some sort of paying work.

                              That's the way to do it these days. My day job suffers from "where have all the customers gone" syndrome. They used to have the market cornered but then "the economy went bad" 20 years ago. The other guys are surviving and in some cases thriving, but that's because they did what I did... found a niche market and exploited it. I'm trying to get the owner to actually do that, he's listening but I don't know if he understands what I propose. Or if he does, he doesn't know how to exploit it...

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