I usually don't have a lot of time to write posts especially long detailed articles.
I started out on this adventure while I was still in Iraq. Bought my first pro machine 6 months before I went home. Had the software sent to me in the middle east and taught myself how to draw 2D CAD.
I went home and opened up a small CNC plasma cutting shop. I mainly cut structural steel and signs. It was OK, not great money. Then bout 2 years later circumstances changed and I had a lot of competition. So I had to totally up my game and re-invent my business.
I started out working with someone else whom I thought had the necessary skills. However after 5 months and a lot of fail, I kicked him out. I then restarted from near zero. All my savings gone. It was very difficult. My electricity at my house was turned off for 4 months while I kept the shop lights on and rent paid there. I managed to scratch and crawl my way back up out of the hole I was in.
I learned how to do 3d CAD, designed and built a bunch of working 3D printers and basically spent 12-15 hours a day on this. Let me tell you, you gain a lot of experience working that many hours every day.
Earlier this year, I had my big professional printer finally done. Prototypes were working, and production documentation was complete. It was the first time I ever took a raw design all the way to a sellable commercial product.
However life threw me a monkey wrench. The first batch of production parts from the machinist took 3 months to arrive. 3 months of worry and watching my finances drain away.
In a fit of frustration, I took some of my meager funds and built my first CNC mill. I posted the pictures. It looks like crap, but it only cost me $300. It takes a lot of constant adjustment to make it work properly but it does work and is fairly accurate. I used that machine to prototype and make other machines including printers and mills.
I do have access to CNC lasers, CNC benders and other full machine shop equipment, however just to prototype an idea means a ton of travel time so I use those machines for final parts only.
I did use the plywood mill to make a better mill, and then I made an even better machine. Now I am making some fairly nice stuff, although I am always striving to make it better.
Next month I open a store front to sell CNC routers and CNC plasma cutters. I have made a few already and they work.
I also will be carrying the steel frame mills made by my Chinese buddy for the local market.
I am pretty excited bout it. Considering how bad things got last year, I have come a long way and learned a lot of lessons about bootstrapping from hard experience.
Eventually I would like to build more heavy duty machines as my skill level grows.
My new shop opening next month will have a CNC laser cutter, CNC plasma table (for demo and production work), a router for production and a couple demo machines along with my printers.
I will keep you informed of my adventures.