A CNC router typically costs thousands of dollars to acquire, so it is natural to want to recoup some of your investment or perhaps build a business based on it. But is it really possible to make money with a CNC router?
Make a name for yourself locally. Find some things that are selling in your area and make your own version of them. Sell it at fairs and local events. Milling furniture, woodworking, instrument design, and decorative hardware production are just some of the ways to make money using a CNC router.
The rest of the article will go into more detail on these various methods of making money with the router. Watch out for important tips to keep in mind if you are looking to start a CNC-router-related business.
What Is a CNC Router?
A CNC router stands for a Computer Numerical Control router. As the name implies, it’s a computer-driven machine used in a wide range of applications, including cutting and designing hardware seamlessly. The machine increases productivity by increasing the number of items that can be produced per time while ensuring minimal waste of materials.
How Does a CNC Router Work?
A CNC router is controlled by software, usually CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing). The cutting and design instructions for a piece of hardware are keyed into the machine using this software on a computer, and the CNC router then proceeds to act on the dimensions entered with optimal precision.
The CNC router is, therefore, trusted when it comes to creating highly intricate shapes and contours. The level of precision it allows leads to little or no cutting or design mistakes and reduces the number of redos needed to complete a project.
If you can come up with designs you can carve into wooden, plastic, or bronze signs; you can make money with your CNC router. This is a popular suggestion, so you might feel the niche is saturated. Is it? That will depend on your region.
However, one certainty is that the market for signs is huge. All you need to do is to devise a means of grabbing a fraction of the market. The type of signs you can make include bathroom signs, bar signs, welcome signs, commercial 3D signs, door hangers, and more. Just focus on the scalability and marketability of the micro niches you choose to go with.
There is no limit to the type of furniture you can mill with CNC routers. You can help to create countertops, shelves, cabinet boxes, tables, and more. Just take the time to make a list of products you’d like to make based on their marketability.
This is a fairly competitive niche, so you should be ready to do some research to find an untapped area. Is there a specific style or design that is popular elsewhere, but not yet popular in your region? Can you replicate or improve on the style?
You can specialize in creating architectural designs of wood, such as creating toys, intricate wood designs, game pieces, architectural pieces, and more. You can go into partnerships with smaller woodcraft stores that don’t have CNC routers and offer to automate their designs for a flat fee or for a percentage of the sale.
Custom Hardware Designs
Wood is one material, but here we are looking at other types that typically won’t come to your mind when you’re considering making money from CNC routers. Have you ever wondered who helps property developers to create those intricately designed switch covers and light fixtures? How about the designs on some musical equipment?
These designs can be done with a CNC router. The software gives you unlimited control of the designs that can be created, and the machine itself can cut the design into most materials used in the fabrication of these items.
You can produce parts or whole of such hardware either upfront (if you have a market in mind), or get commissioned to produce them. Regardless of the uniqueness of your chosen designs, a CNC router will ensure precision.
Other such hardware you can work on includes motorcycle parts, cabinet hardware, camera equipment, and more. Some of these will, however, require more cash injection than the original cost of your CNC router.
Theatrical Sets Production
If you’ve been on a stage or a movie set, you’ll find many intricately designed structures. Most of them are made of wood and plastic that have been redesigned and reshaped to meet the demands of the set managers. You can make a list of such sets in your locality and pay them a visit to see what designs they need and where you can come in.
3D Foam Cutting
3D foam cutting is another specialization you can go into with your CNC router. Finding demand for the service may be a bit harder than some others on this list, but it is another revenue opportunity. You can start by creating cuts for small art businesses and hobbyists and grow from there.
Tips to Keep in Mind for a CNC Router Business
- Start where you’re most comfortable. Your knowledge of the materials and the specific requirements of the niche are two main factors that will increase your value to clients. It will increase your efficiency as you’ll know all there is to know about the materials you’re working with, where to find vendors, etc.
- Don’t go full time too quickly. By maintaining your day job long enough until your business is ready to pay the bills, you’ll increase your chances of success. You should treat the business as just an extra source of income until you have a client list that can replace your typical monthly income.
- Learn how to sell your services. It doesn’t matter what niche you decide to settle in; you won’t make money if people can’t find you. Basic digital marketing starting with a social media page is the first step to selling your CNC router business. Get a website as soon as you can, and run a few paid ad campaigns. Most importantly, leverage your new and existing offline connections to get more clients.
- Learn your unique selling points. Depending on what niche you choose to go with, you may find a lot of competition. Having unique selling points is what will set you apart in the market. Are you providing the cheapest service? Are you offering the fastest turnaround times? Make the points front and center of your marketing campaigns.
- Take on extra services where possible. A client will prefer having one person complete design, fabrication, and finishing instead of having to pay different people for each of these services. Combining more services can give you an extra advantage over the competition.
- Stick to what your machine can do. While most routers can work on wood and plastic, you could be overloading your machine by trying to work on titanium. Doing this can lead to a loss of your investment.
- Take thorough notes. Noting the details of each project will help you recall all of the details and you will spend less time figuring out the steps in the future. There may be times when you will not revisit a design for months and during that time, you may need to recall your process.
Making money with a CNC router is as simple as finding niche markets that fit your talent and capability and then focusing on them. As you have seen above, there are so many niches you can choose from. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Find one or two things that you are good at and focus on selling them. In time you may be able to expand your product line but start out well within your means to deliver.
It all comes down to what you can do, and where there is a reasonable demand. The profitability of each of these suggestions will vary from place to place. If you can find consistent demand for your CNC router cuts and designs, you could be well on your way to building a business.
This article is offered only as advice and not a guarantee of your success.