CNC Router Systems from Techno Inc.
Ron Gatz

Low-Cost LC CNC Router Helps Create Profitable
After-Hours Business.


Ron Gatz















A low-cost router helps a Rochester, New York man run a profitable woodworking business in the time he has left over after working a 40-hours per week job and running a store evenings and weekends. Ron Gatz has long had a talent for designing and building novelty items from wood. One of his most popular creations, for example, is a cat's head that holds food and water bowls and sells for $12. However, Gatz, who has a fulltime job as a trainer for a Fortune 500 corporation and also owns a small bait and tackle shop, had difficulty finding time to put his talents to work. Previously, he had to cut each item by hand on a pin router so there was never enough time to make enough products to satisfy demand. Then he heard about a new low-cost router that produces wooden and plastic parts up to 4 feet by 8 feet under computer control without requiring a person's attention. At only about $14,000, the router costs about half of what a machine that with similar features would have cost a few years ago. "With the new router, I can produce 20 times as much in the same amount of time," Gatz said.

Gatz exhibits his woodcrafts at upstate New York shows such as the Naples Grape Festival and the Spencerport Canal Show. He makes 150 different items strictly out of pine ranging from a two-inch high tulip to a six-foot wide cabinet. The prices of the items range from 75 cents to $60 but the majority cost between $8 and $15. "A lot of people come to the shows just to buy from me," he said. How does Gatz find time to operate this business in addition to his other activities? He has his woodworking shop in his bait and tackle store which he keeps open in the evenings and weekends when he is not at his job. On the weekends that he travels to crafts shows, his father keeps the bait and tackle shop open. In the past, Gatz built all of his creations with an inverted pin router. This machine has a retracting spindle and a pneumatically retracted guide pin. Gatz first built a template using conventional power tools, then used the template to guide the motion of the router in producing copies of his design. The problem with this approach was that the pin router was slow and following the template required his full attention to avoid an error that would detract from the appearance of his product. With all of his other responsibilities, he only had enough time to produce a fraction of the amount that would have been required to meet demand for his products.

Looking for a machine that could help him expand
Gatz had long been aware of routers that operate under the control of a computer, also called computerized numerical control (CNC). These machines are capable of producing complicated designs to a high level of accuracy without the attention of an operator. The problem was that these machines were more expensive than he could justify for what was, at this point, a very low volume operation. "I saw plenty of machines that could do a beautiful job of producing my products," Gatz said. "These were machines with servo- motors and ball screws that provide high levels of accuracy and also with large tables that make it possible to produce big parts. The problem is that these machines cost $30,000 or more, which was more than I could justify,
especially since I could only use the machine during off hours." But Gatz continued looking and the price of these machines gradually fell. One day he heard about Techno's new low cost LC series CNC routing system. "This router has all of the features that I was looking for at an affordable price," he said. "I also like the fact that it has a vacuum table (purchased feature, not part of the $13995 price), which usually eliminates the need to make fixturing to hold the wood." Techno's LC Series router provides a number of critical features that allow it to deliver accuracy at a level that has previously only been available at a much higher cost. Ball screws are provided on all three axes, offering smooth motion, a high level of accuracy and repeatability, and minimal maintenance. A closed loop servo control system provides constant position feedback, higher power, and smooth continuous motion that eliminates the possibility of losing position in the middle of a part. The LC series router includes a heavy steel ground stress-relieved base and an aluminum T-Slot table that can be easily converted to a vacuum table by installing the Techno vacuum table accessory kit. The router comes fully assembled and includes Techno's Windows®-based CNC G-code interface with free lifetime software upgrades. Best of all, the 4-foot by 8-foot model sells for only $13,995, a fraction of the cost of purchasing this capability just a year ago.

New router helps increase production
Gatz sets the router up in his store. He took a course in computer-aided design (CAD) at Techno free of charge and he now designs all of his parts using AutoCAD. He saves the design as a DXF file and imports it into Enroute, a program that he uses to create the CNC toolpath. He now spends his free time in the store designing new products and setting up the router. Meanwhile, the router is continuously producing parts to a much higher level of accuracy than he was able to achieve with the pin router. When he is ready to make a new part, he puts the wood on the table and actuates the vacuum clamp. Then he selects the proper program in the computer. The Techno router then goes about its job and he goes about his. "I can make 1 copy or 1000 copies of any part that I wish at a speed that is much faster than what I was able to do by hand," Gatz said. "For example, I make an 11-inch diameter soccer ball with octagons for decoration and a dado that serves to support a shelf. It used to take about 15 minutes to produce one of these on the pin router and then another 10 minutes to engrave the octagons. The Techno router cuts and engraves the balls in about 4 minutes each and I can program the router to make as many as I want while I am doing something else. For example, I often put a 1-foot by 8-foot board on the table and the router will cut eight balls out of it with no further attention from me. I can make 24 of these items on the CNC router in about 90 minutes, a job that would have taken a day and a half the old way."

Gatz's best-selling item consists of a board shaped in the face of a cat with two cutouts to hold water and food bowls. "This one used to take 15 minutes to make on the pin router," he said. "With the Techno CNC router, I can put a 4 by 8 foot sheet of medium density fiberboard on the table and cut out 50 of them in 75 minutes. I also have a black Labrador puppy with a bandana and a stand that sits up vertically. It used to take 25 minutes to make one but now I can cut out 73 of them in 43 minutes while I am doing something else. The neat thing about the Techno CNC router is that it frees me up to do other things, such as designing other parts or running my store, while it is cutting. It has given me the ability to increase my production by at least a factor of 20 without spending any extra time on the business. Now that I can actually produce enough to meet and even exceed the existing demand, I finally have the opportunity to start looking for other outlets for my products. I am working right now to find someone who can exhibit my products at additional shows and I am also thinking about setting up an Internet site to sell them. My brother, who lives in Germany, has offered to help set up distribution in that country. The new Techno router has raised my productivity to the point that I can run a profitable business in just a few odd hours."
 

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