CNC Router Systems from Techno Inc.
Richard Foster - Time For Sports

16-Year-Old Entrepreneur Builds
Successful Woodworking Business
with CNC Router.

(Wood & Wood Products Magazine | December 2005)

Like millions of Americans, Richard Foster dreamed of establishing his independence and financial security by developing his own business based on doing what he loves to do, which is woodworking. But, because he is only 16 years old, Foster faced a series of challenges that his older entrepreneurial peers would probably have a great deal of difficulty imagining.

Foster was just starting elementary school when he began asking for tools as presents so he could make gifts for teachers, friends, and relatives. He became so good at it that people began offering to pay him to make additional pieces. When Foster was only 5, his mother remembers, he asked for a cash register to keep track of the money he was making.

Richard Foster Time for Sports

[above] Hockey Clock Production: Richard Foster cutting hockey clocks on the router. [photo: by Kirk Condyles.]

A breakthrough at 13 years of age
Foster continued making, giving, and selling a wide range of creations that he made with power tools such as a table saw, drill press, and power router. But his real breakthrough came when he was 13-years old and Foster made a clock modeled as a tennis racquet for his tennis coach. The clock consisted of a hand-carved tennis racquet approximately one foot in diameter with a motor on the back side to drive the hands on the front through a hole in the center.

The tennis racquet clock was his most popular product ever. Many people at the club placed orders for the clocks. Foster was limited in the number that he could produce because each one took approximately 4 to 5 hours to carve out with hand and power tools. Other people at the club asked him to make golf clocks and soon he found that all of his free time was occupied with making the clocks, which he sold at $80 each.

Making clocks more efficiently with CNC
"I found that more and more people wanted to buy the clocks but with school and all, there wasn't enough time in the day to make them," Foster said. "I liked to read woodworking publications and so I was aware of computerized numerical control machines that are used in the larger woodworking shops. I also knew that the better machines cost at least $30,000 to $50,000, which would have taken a long time to save up on my allowance. I had seen some less expensive machines also, but I didn't think they had the precision or speed to meet my needs for the long term."

Then Foster read an article about Techno's new low-cost LC series computerized numerical control (CNC) routing system. This machine provides a number of critical features that allow it to deliver accuracy to a level that has previously only been available from machines 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 Techno router seemed to have all the features that I was looking for," said Foster. "Best of all, Techno builds their routers in New Hyde Park, New York, about a mile and a half from where I live." The proximity to the router manufacturer made it easy for Foster to buy the machine. The router came fully assembled with Rhinoceros computer-aided design software and Visual Mill computer aided manufacturing software for about $15,000. Foster set up the router in his family's garage.

An automated factory in his garage
The new router made it possible for Foster to make a much larger number of his clocks in a fraction of time. "I started by defining the geometry for my clocks with the Rhinoceros software," Foster said. "This process in and of itself had advantages because it required me to fully define the design and, once I had done that, ensured that every clock I produced was identical. Then I imported the geometry into Visual Mill where I defined the motions of the router required to cut out the clock. Finally, I downloaded the resulting G-code program to the CNC router."

Richard Foster Time for Sports

[above] Rich-200 Tennis Clocks: Richard Foster, seen with Tennis Clocks produced on the router.
[photo: by Bonnie D. Graham.]
Foster then loads four 1"x12" pine boards onto the router, turns the machine on, and goes back to doing his homework or playing tennis with his friends. The router cuts out one side of 12 tennis clocks in an hour. Richard turns over the board and the router cuts out the other half of the clocks in another hour. Each clock is produced exactly like Foster's original computer model. The accuracy of the clocks is far better than even an experienced woodworker with 12 years experience like Foster is able to achieve. Foster then sands, paints and assembles the clocks and they are ready to ship out to customers.

"The new router has drastically reduced the amount of time required to make each clock," Foster said. "This made it possible to cut the price of each clock in half to $40 and also gave me the time to design five new clocks: baseball, soccer, football, hockey, and basketball", giving him a total of seven. Foster established a company called Time for Sports and began looking for new avenues to expand the business. This is quite a challenge for someone who is not yet old enough to acquire his own credit card or drive to any business appointments.

Becoming a sponsor of the Nasdaq-100 Open
Foster's next major move was to obtain a sponsorship at the Nasdaq-100 Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, Florida. He was now alongside sponsors such as Mercedes Benz and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. He made 570 clocks to sell at a booth at the event. Because he is too young to sign a binding contract, his mother (Bonnie Foster) co-signed for the sponsorship. Because he doesn't have a driver's license, she came with him and acted as his chauffeur. Foster's sales broke previous company records and established an important new marketing channel for his company. He later became a sponsor for the Pilot Pen Tournament in New Haven, Ct.

Richard's early success as an entrepreneur has also helped him achieve a substantial amount of media exposure. He has made guest appearances on television shows such as "Warehouse Warriors", "Something to Talk About", and "Senior Moments." Feature articles about his company have appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, The Great Neck Record, and New Hyde Park Illustrated. All of this exposure has helped to drive sales from his Web site:

Richard Foster Time for Sports

[above] Computer CNC: Programming the router.
[photo: by Bonnie D. Graham.]

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 is available in five sizes, with work envelopes of 30 by 24 inches, 48 by 48 inches, 48 by 96 inches, 59 by 120, and 78 by 120. Each of these models provides a repeatability of 0.001 inches and a maximum speed of 900 inches per minute. A wide range of optional equipment is offered including a laser scanning module, variety of spindle options, vacuum table / pumps, and 4th-axis rotary table to name a few.

"The low cost of the CNC router makes it possible to produce sports clocks very efficiently," Foster concluded. "The new router has played a major role in helping my company achieve a significant level of sales and profits without any employees. Its productive capacity and ability to operate on its own provide the potential for our company to introduce new products without any additional capital investment. And it sure does produce a beautiful clock."

*This article has been reproduced for the Techno CNC Router Systems Web site with permission from:

Vance Publishing, Wood and Wood Products

Techno CNC Routers