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Thread: Want to start new Shopbot-based business, but would like advice/ guidance...

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Hobby-Tronics, Chiloquin Oregon
    Posts
    1,171

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    Vectric has some killer tutorials. I made a small index of the ones I've watched so when I need a refresher I can go right to the right one. The hardest thing I had to learn was terminology. Just 'cause' ya' know woodworking and programming, doesn't mean ya' know CNC! I also have a notebook next to my control computer because almost every job is different in some way. CNC-ing wood has all kinds of 'interesting' 'features' like grain, moisture, speeds, feeds, bits, etc, etc, etc. I've been in computers since the 60's and have had my Bot for 9 years, and I learn something 'new' everyday! What ever you 'think' you are going to do with your machine, forget it, you will end doing all kinds of fun stuff! Way more than I ever thought I would ever do! Russ
    AKA: The Train Guy

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Miller Marine Products, Ridgefield Washington
    Posts
    840

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    I think you will be a natural at this with your past experience. I am going to just cheer you on as some of the guys who posted before me gave all the right answers and are very good at this stuff.

    Mike
    WWW.MillerMarineProducts.com
    Proto Trak DPM CNC Bed Mill
    Brand X Industrial router

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Timmins, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,807

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    I was also an experienced woodworker (have been running our cabinet and furniture shop since the mid 1990’s) when I decided to add a Shopbot CNC router to the shop in early 2012.

    Having just some CAD & CNC experience back in the early 90’s in college, I was very worried about learning the software. I decided (and purchased) to get Aspire a few months before my machine was built and shipped to me. Following the videos and trying to do some practice work with the software at least a little bit 5 of 7 days a week, I was ready to cut my first projects (both 2D and 3D) literally the day after I had my machine set up. I did have an electrician come and wire everything in ready for its arrival.

    If you want to do it, and put in the time, you will do it. But, as previously said, it it a matter of how bad you want to do it.

    I would have to say, learning to properly and effectively work hold is almost harder than using the machine. For me, clamps, T tracks, screws, Raptor nails and finally my fully equipped vacuum table were all ways to do it - with the universal vacuum being the real game changer the past 3 1/2 years. I’d be lost without it now.

    As far as cutters and breaking bits go - it is in essence just a router. If you have used wood cutting tools before, you should have a good handle on cutting wood with the CNC. Experiment with feeds, depths, rpm etc and find out what works best. But I didn’t break any bits for the first several years I used my machine and in fact I have only broken them when trying to cut some crazy tough G10 phenolic, or when attempting a too deep, too aggressive cut in some hardwood. Don’t be scared, but be a bit cautious at the get go.

    The machine is just another tool in th shed so to speak - bits one which can do things none other can. I still find it cool to see the machine in action, and I am a few months away from my 5th anniversary with the machine.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Wilson, NC
    Posts
    62

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    In terms of the learning curve, most of your time will be spent learning the product design software. It does not take nearly as long to learn to operate the machine and the SB control software.

    Start simple. Cut a circle. Once you can go from a circle that is in your head to a circle in your hand via Shopbot, you will have learned a surprising amount.

    You will know a lot after a few weeks, after six months, you will probably be basically competent enough to do the basics and initiate more difficult projects.

    Also, don’t spend time initially learning EVERYTHING about the design software. Think of a project and learn how to do that project. You will be able to keep a much higher interest level and your learning will stick. Getting good instruction from videos and tutorials is great, but it will be the DOING of projects that accelerates your learning.

    Maybe one guy can whip out a set of kitchen cabinets on the SB, another can do an elaborate multi sided 3d carving, but maybe they don’t know how to cut G10 or hardened steel (not recommended, but you would be surprised) or use the 3d probe. Explore new techniques by building projects around them. I learned to cut G10 to build quadcopter frames. I learned to cut hardened steel and engrave for a metalworking project. I learned to probe scan for a pistol grip project. You get the the idea.

    I took SB classes, read manuals and the forum posts, watched videos, and prepped as best I could, but when the day to start cutting with MY machine came, it was as if I had forgotten everything I just spent weeks learning. However, I knew where to go look for the hints and reminders I needed to get going.

    The speed that you learn will be based on the amount and variety of production you engage in. I do not use my SB as often as many here, so even though I have had one many years, my total knowledge of the machine is somewhat limited vs. someone using it all day everyday. On the other hand, I have been designing for 3D printing every day for years, built several CNC machines from scratch, used CAD for decades, have a strong background in wood and metalworking, so I can get the job done.

    You can do it. Especially with help from this forum. There is an insane wealth of knowledge here and if you want to figure something out, you will get the help you need.
    Last edited by willnewton; 11-30-2017 at 09:04 AM.

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Lenox High School, Lenox MA
    Posts
    750

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    I bought a Shopbot when I retired 10 years ago. I wasn't out to make a living. I enjoy woodworking, taught high school woodworking for 35 years, I am very good at it. Over time I came up with a number of items that I thought would sell. I went to craft fairs, created a web page read up on marketing. Nothing worked, I was barely able to cover the entry fee for the events. I still enjoy woodworking, I make a few signs for people who know me, my grandkids get some cool gifts.
    My point is, as has already been pointed out, the CNC tool is just a tool not a money making machine. You have to have a product that can be made more efficiently with the tool you are purchasing. Also, if you do not have experience with a CNC router it will take a while to learn how to make best use of it.

    I wish you well,

    Phil

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Tulsa Oklahoma
    Posts
    1,237

    Default One more two cent comment..

    Quote Originally Posted by texasvinny View Post
    ... and spent many years as a software programmer...
    Hello Tex. For the last few years I have stopped posting on here, just read when I get a chance. That note about being in the software business before caught my attention and I though it worth comment on. As my background is Electrical Engineering/Software/Mathmatics. If you worked in software, probably your understanding of the computer is way above average already. In CNC it really pays! That will shorten your learning curve when it comes to understanding how the various programs use files, where they are stored and how you can manipulate them to your advantage. I certainly do. What I found is the quality of the Vectric products makes the quality of the Shopbot products shine. It gets you most anything you want done easily and quickly. (After the learning curve that has been mentioned many times already.) But having my background, I wanted more than what Vectric offered. This may happen, if you know woodworking, software, and math. (You didnt mention math, so Im guessing there) But I have found writing my own tool path generators is something that has provided great improvements to my own results. Creating SBP files from your own programs is a great way to create much scrap and create a friendly relationship with your bit supplier for a while. But for me it was well worth it. There are many toolpath options I wanted that no commercial CAM program generated. 4d with a rotary axis, for instance. I have written toolpathing programs that consider the direction of the grain in the stock. The paths automatically avoid tearout. Vectric products have no consideration of such an important aspect of the material. (Why?) If you know software, you can have all those features and others as you see the need for them. I have, and have created about a dozen toolpath types for my own use that work perfectly for my needs. When I am going to make hundreds of something, its worth the trouble to do custom toolpath design. If I am making onsies of something, Vectric is the only way to go! Having both options is like owning a buldozer. You can go anywhere you want, but be careful because not all destinations are without consequence. Fun? CNC will be very fun, at any level. But if you go for the deep design as I have, expect it to be thrilling. And that learning curve? Im not done learning yet. +++ To all my old readers on here- hello! I have been enjoying reading your posts.. I may even post again in a year or two! Who knows? Tex- good luck and best wishes with whatever path you take. My best advice is stop paralysis by analysis: Buy what you can afford and start learning. Sell things and see how well they sell. What ever makes you the most money, make more of em. You will only regret not starting sooner. That is my only regret. D
    "The best thing about building something new is either you succeed or learn something. Its a win-win situation."

    --Greg Westbrook

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Posts
    19

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    Welcome!

    I have many more questions than answers, as I am a new ShopBot owner with hopes of making a living through a combination of CNC and traditional woodworking. It has only been a few weeks since my PRS Standard 96-48 has been up and running, but it has been an eventful few weeks and I will share some thoughts:

    1. This is a high cost venture -- both in terms of money and time/energy. Learning VCarve Pro, which is the quickest route to bring a design to life, is absolutely critical. I am finding that it comes relatively quickly, but I wouldn't say it has been "fast."

    Moreover, your time and materials costs add up quickly. There's a reason anything not mass produced in a factory costs so much. Especially as you are learning the software and the tool, prototyping your ideas is a must, and prototyping is expensive and time consuming. Last week, inspired by a photo I saw online, I designed/tried to reverse engineer a chair, and I wanted to be able to cut it from one sheet of 3/4" plywood. My first cut-ready prototype took 5+ hours of design time on VCarve. I am probably 3-4 iterations from being ready to make something commercially viable. That investment of time and money is ultimately small IF I can eventually sell a bunch of chairs. Otherwise, it's a fun and expensive way to learn new skills. The point is that it's going to cost a lot of money -- and take probably a good year -- for me to achieve a level of proficiency that is required to have a chance at commercial success.

    Similarly, holding down material is tricky, except for vacuum tables -- which are lovely but expensive. Everyone on the forum tells me I will eventually cave and get a vacuum table....If they're correct and the same holds for you, well, the venture just got even more expensive.

    And finally, if you like a clean(ish) shop, an oversized DC system like the 3HP Gorilla Pro from Oneida will pay dividends. My CNC runs almost entirely dust free, which justifies the extra cost in my mind. Even surfacing the MDF spoilboard produced essentially no airborne dust, which amazed me.

    2. Use forums and YouTube extensively, but also double and triple check ideas. I simply could not have gotten this venture off the ground without forums and YouTube. This forum has many excellent members who are generous with their time and wisdom. The Vectric forum is good too.

    3. Unless you're happy as a hobbyist, none of this really matters unless you are fully committed to branding, marketing, pounding the pavement, networking, etc. There are a lot of really talented woodworkers, CNC operators, etc out there who can make some amazing stuff but don't/can't market and sell their creations.

    I was a hobbyist woodworker with a decent shop and decided to leave my career in education back in June to pursue this dream. Then I spent the summer generating business ideas, researching, watching YouTubes, and reading forums. Through that process, I came up with around 8 different revenue streams that I thought I would enjoy. Now that my shop is up and running, I am in the process of rapid prototyping of those ideas, and hopefully this process will illuminate which ideas have real promise, which ones are duds, and which ones require further inquiry before making any decisions.

    Although I am not "retired," thanks to my wife's steady job, I am fortunate to have the ability to spend money while earning nothing for an initial 1-2 year start-up period. Otherwise, I can't imagine how anyone could do this unless that person (1) was retired with some financial flexibility (you?), or (2) started very slowly as a hobby while maintaining another real job, gradually allowing the hobby to flourish and turn into a going concern.

    Best of luck, and keep posting!
    Brian

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Diamond Lake, WA
    Posts
    1,481

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    Quote Originally Posted by bking1836 View Post
    Welcome!


    1. This is a high cost venture -- both in terms of money and time/energy. Learning VCarve Pro, which is the quickest route to bring a design to life, is absolutely critical. I am finding that it comes relatively quickly, but I wouldn't say it has been "fast."

    Moreover, your time and materials costs add up quickly. There's a reason anything not mass produced in a factory costs so much. Especially as you are learning the software and the tool, prototyping your ideas is a must, and prototyping is expensive and time consuming. Last week, inspired by a photo I saw online, I designed/tried to reverse engineer a chair, and I wanted to be able to cut it from one sheet of 3/4" plywood. My first cut-ready prototype took 5+ hours of design time on VCarve. I am probably 3-4 iterations from being ready to make something commercially viable. That investment of time and money is ultimately small IF I can eventually sell a bunch of chairs. Otherwise, it's a fun and expensive way to learn new skills. The point is that it's going to cost a lot of money -- and take probably a good year -- for me to achieve a level of proficiency that is required to have a chance at commercial success.
    Brian
    When people ask me how much to make a part, that they want to order in small quantities, but get China pricing, I tell them, the first one will cost $50,000. Each one after that will cost $1.25. They always choke on that because they don't understand what goes into making "just one part" and then "mass producing" in quantities of 5 to 10 per order. They seem to think that they can get China container pricing when they order 5 or 10 at a time. It is a big education effort, which takes time and adds to the overall cost.

    When customers ask why things from China are so cheap I tell them that first it takes a long term, high volume commitment on their part to even get a manufacturing organization to even talk to you. Second, you have to order at least half container loads at a time, second, it takes 60 to 90 days to get the order, and if anything is wrong with the order, to bad, you get to start the 60 to 90 day lead order time all over again and eat the bad product. If the mistake is your fault (wasn't what you expected, but initially designed), they will charge you to fix the design and all the processes that go into the production. They also don't understand the time it takes to design the product, design the manufacturing process, design the material flow process, design the product packaging, design the shipping process, do prototypes, arrange for raw materials in bulk, and then refine all the above processes to make it a viable venture. That is mass production. It takes time and Chinese manufacturers are not willing to embark on a venture that nets them 5 or 10 per order. So if that is the business model someone is aiming for, good luck getting China container pricing. It just ain't gonna happen. It takes big $$$ investments to get volume pricing.
    Don
    Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks, LLC
    www.dlwoodworks.com
    ***********************************
    Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece; But to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, bank accounts empty, credit cards maxed out, defiantly shouting "Geronimo"!

    If you make something idiot proof, all they do is create a better idiot.

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    iBILD Solutions - Southern NJ
    Posts
    7,513

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    Brian/Don
    Quote Originally Posted by bking1836 View Post
    My first cut-ready prototype took 5+ hours of design time on VCarve. I am probably 3-4 iterations from being ready to make something commercially viable. That investment of time and money is ultimately small IF I can eventually sell a bunch of chairs. Otherwise, it's a fun and expensive way to learn new skills. The point is that it's going to cost a lot of money -- and take probably a good year -- for me to achieve a level of proficiency that is required to have a chance at commercial success.
    Yeah...that (and the China mentality) for sure are challenging. I think that the downfall began with dollar stores. Just cheap fodder nobody really thought about because the junk was literally disposable. This sort of thing has migrated into every aspect of manufacturing - and the knock offs have gotten quite specific. (E.G. - I was looking for one of those long ball mills that FrogMill sells and I got web results showing knock-off CNC machines from China, same color combo and everything)

    Another problem is society and the fact that few people are producers; as a matter of fact, it's generational with many families not even related to anyone who does any kind of manufacturing - they are so far removed from grassroots that I wonder what a lot of people do for a living...unless they are just on the dole. Don't get me started. I guess the hipster maker movement or whatever may show a small glimmer of hope in terms of youngins understanding the trials and tribulations of even small scale manufacturing via CNC routers and 3d printers. We can only hope...

    Don't think you're alone when it comes to the time-consuming task of creating a viable product. Few truly understand that the end product has actually been created at least several times before it was given the stamp of approval. First, there's the vision - in your mind - and all its iterations before you even sit down and sketch it out. Many times there are a number of paper sketches. Then there's all the different versions that you created in CAD - both before and after you have tried to machine/make one of them. This dance is no different whether you are new to CNC/CAD etc or have been doing it for years. Aesthetics and good design isn't even mentioned and that's a big part of things on the front end too...

    I sometimes wish I could be the person my dog thinks I am...although, some days I wish I could be the guy that 'just pushes a button' and the customer's dream part comes out perfectly with zero effort. I mean, that is ALL WE DO, right? RIGHT??!!

    -B
    High Definition 3D Laser Scanning Services - Advanced ShopBot CNC Training and Consultation - IBILD.com

  10. #20
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    ny
    Posts
    681

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    I have posted this information before, since the subject of holding parts has come up a few times I put some links to my pneumatic system for holding parts suitable for production.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j3e6WJxbWs

    And an old thread http://www.talkshopbot.com/forum/sho...-for-dovetails

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