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  1. #1
    ktc's Avatar
    Lives in Thanet, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 11-08-2015 Has been a member for 5-6 years. Has a total post count of 6.
    ... to find someone who is willing to do small scale production at a reasonable cost?

    Last year, I designed a simple product and had a few prototypes built. It's made from 6mm MDF and consists of 7 flat cut pieces, the biggest measuring just 350mm x 450mm. I provided the CAD files and after weeks of hunting, I had 25 prototypes laser cut (at a local workshop) at a cost of 18 each. I wanted them done by CNC as they have some half depth cuts inside 2 of the panels but couldn't find a single CNC equipped workshop locally who was willing to do the job so I had to modify the design to be done with the laser. I wanted it done locally as I didn't want to ship MDF around the country.

    The prototypes were great, so great that I managed to sell 20 of them (just by word of mouth) whilst keeping 5 for myself. I have another 20 requests that are waiting to be fulfilled. Now I have moved through the design process, tweaked things and have ended up with version 3 of the product ready to go into small scale production, maybe 20-30 units per month. Can I find a single CNC equipped workshop near me that is willing to do the job? Nope, not a single one.

    It's such a shame as I have several other designs that are ready for prototyping but can't find anywhere to do them for a realistic cost. I had one quote for a simple project cut from 6mm MDF (12 identical strips 400mm x 40mm and 2 triangular pieces 400mm x 350mm) that came in at 200 set up fee plus 32 each with a minimum order of 100 pieces! The items would be sold at around 25 on the open market which makes it an impossible project! I would have to commit to tens of thousands of units to get the pricing per unit below that according to that quote.

    All of my designs can be cut from single small pieces of 6mm MDF or can be nested together and cut from a large 8x4 sheet for minimum wastage.

    Am I alone in trying to find a good, small scale facility? Should I just bite the bullet and invest in a small desktop CNC machine and start prototyping myself?


  2. #2
    I am sure that I could cut these for you, but you have identified the problem yourself - locality. It would seem to me that your best solution may indeed be to "bite the bullet". CNC is infectious and once bitten I am sure you will wonder how you managed before.Good luck with your project. G.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by ktc View Post
    Am I alone in trying to find a good, small scale facility? Should I just bite the bullet and invest in a small desktop CNC machine and start prototyping myself?
    It'll get old very quick if you buy a small cnc mention your design has been nested for 8 x 4 sheets ....that's the way to go. In your shoes - if I didn't have the space for a large cnc machine capable of accepting 8 x 4 sheets - then I'd be inclined to cast the net further & give the work to someone who can then hire a van to go & collect the parts in bulk.

  4. #4
    ktc's Avatar
    Lives in Thanet, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 11-08-2015 Has been a member for 5-6 years. Has a total post count of 6.
    Thanks both.

    I do have the space for a large machine (unused garage with power) and would love one as I also build boats as a hobby and it would be great for cutting panels but I don't want to spend large sums of cash buying one just yet. I was looking at something like a 6040 to start with if I went that route.

    I sell the finished product for 11.99 (yes, I made a loss with the first batch) so really need to get the production costs down to the 4-5 mark which *should* be achievable.

    I have looked over the whole of Kent and just can't seem to find anyone who has a CNC and is willing to do small batches.

  5. #5
    Its the way of the world mate and why many of us end up here or some other cnc site.
    Theres a few sign forums on the net,might be worth looking at with it being mdf/sheet materials.
    Last edited by deisel; 11-08-2013 at 10:02 AM.

  6. #6
    Hi Matt.

    Firstly, I am someone who is in your neck of the woods (ish) and may be interested if it works out to be cost effective.

    This may give you some insight to why you are having difficulty:

    You may be looking at the wrong types of company, rather than engineering companies you needs to look for ones that are either pattern makers or cnc pattern orientated and there are several in the area near my location. Very few of those companies will have a bed size of 8 x 4 to do big nesting work. To the next point.

    You may be missing the fact that industrial equipment is a world away from the home DIY CNC, being hugely more expensive and very large initial outlay. I would think nearly all the people you contacted will have the much more costly industrial variant and probably will not have a small z height gantry machine as they are very limited in work cube they can take. Co's in industry will generally go for a much bigger machine so they can cater much larger work cube, these cost mega bucks! The next issue is when they can earn 50 to 70 quid an hour on one of these machines why would the want a job that that will earn them 30 quid an hour.

    The guys in engineering proper as in machine shop will most likely not want to put MDF on there machines. The machines they use will be used with cutting coolants all day long, this means machines get caked up and sticky you then put MDF on the machine you create anything from a soup to dry powder and everything in between, this will ruin the coolants and the machine long term, MDF is abrasive. A lot of people will not put things like MDF along with cast Iron on their machines.. If they do it means a big clean down if the machine to prevent the MDF getting into the side ways, its damage limitation. This brings is the next point.

    Extraction. MDF is recognised as carcinogenic, a such this gives co's headaches unless they are geared to work with it with extraction. This means the HSE etc etc and all that old bull, so from that point of along with what's written above its a lot more hassle than is worth. For them to do it will be reflected in the costs you have been given.

    As always there are is a lot of info in between the information above but I hope it gives you a skeletal outline of why you may well had problems. Ihave worked along side pattern making companies for many years, so i hope yuo find this info helpful.

    As I mentioned. I do have a machine which is new to me and has a work cube of 800 x 500x 550 In the X,Y and Z respectively. I Also have extraction which needs to be set up. I am looking for new work for this machine to make it earn its keep. it is also industrial based machine which is highly ridged compared to gantry stye machine allowing bigger cuts.

    You are welcome at the least to have a chat even if its to point you in the right direction.

    My kind regards,


  7. #7
    ktc's Avatar
    Lives in Thanet, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 11-08-2015 Has been a member for 5-6 years. Has a total post count of 6.
    Thanks for such a comprehensive reply Scott. That explains why the companies I find are not interested!

    It's a shame that there is no directory for small workshops that could take on this sort of work.

    The laser workshop I use is in Medway and they were good but I need to go down the cnc route with the product now. I lived in Medway up until 10 months ago.


  8. #8
    Hi Matt,

    The answers are always there, It's a matter of if we can discover what they are. As always, all it needs is that person with that sort of knowledge to give the answers. Fortunately my working life has crossed the boundaries of different manufacturing sectors to know such generally useless information :)

    I agree a directory of us small guys would be a mass bonus. Maybe the forum could set up a section for the guys like me (and the others I see here) who are in Engineering orientated business, but very small. In the forumi often see guys who really need a business rather than a homer to do work due to factors, scale, quantity, knowledge, time scale etc. It would help out both parties in making a small forum section.

    Who did you use for the cutting Matt? Again there are several of them in this area.

    Kind regards,


  9. #9
    ktc's Avatar
    Lives in Thanet, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 11-08-2015 Has been a member for 5-6 years. Has a total post count of 6.
    I used Campbell.

    Great, friendly guys who were willing to do small job runs.

  10. #10
    Ah Adrian, I know him well from previous years. I don't deal with him much these days but yes, he is one of the good guys.

    Kind regards,


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