With the rising popularity of CNC machines, many people are looking for additional ways to use their latest additions. Naturally, one of the most-asked questions is, “How do I make money with my CNC router?”
Making money with a CNC router is an excellent option as long as you have some great ideas you can implement. In this article we’ll take a closer look at:
- What is a CNC machine?
- How does a CNC machine help make money?
- Profitable projects that you can tackle with your CNC machine
- Potential outlets for selling your CNC projects
What is a CNC Machine?
A CNC, or computerized numerical control, machine is a mechanized device that turns electronic signals into physical designs by cutting, routing, or some other similar process. You can create a complete design, program the mechanical aspects, and allow the machine to do the work.
Some types of CNC machines include:
- Laser cutters
- Milling machines
- Plasma cutters
However, in this article, while we’re taking a look at making money with a CNC machine, we’ll focus mainly on the CNC router.
Can You Make Money with a CNC Machine?
Yes, you can make money with a CNC machine! There are many different ways that you can use this machine to make money.
Why are CNC Machines Useful for Making Money?
Why is making money with a CNC router so easy? There are several reasons, but the main one is that these machines make manufacturing processes more effective.
Because your CNC router allows you to do simple projects more quickly and complex projects with less effort, they greatly improve your profitability.
Additionally, CNC routers help improve your profitability by:
- Cutting down on your workforce requirements
- Minimizing the number of machines you need to complete a project
- Improving the speed and efficacy of your production lines
An Easy Way to Make Money with a CNC: Machine Rental
When thinking about how to make money with a CNC machine, there is one extremely simple option worth considering. If you have a CNC router that you only use for specific projects, or at specific times, consider renting out your device.
You can rent the use of the device to trained machinists so they can do projects without having to buy or build their own CNC. You can also rent out the machine with a machinist to help amateurs achieve their fledgling dreams. Naturally, this option would be worth considerably more than just the use of the machine.
Of course, there are some risks involved whenever you allow someone else to use your machine. If you decide to go this route, you want a list of dos and don’ts that renters need to adhere to. By getting each renter to sign an agreement, you’re less likely to see machine damage. You can also hold customers accountable if they damage the machine through negligence.
Making Money With a CNC if You’re an Adept Machinist - Training Courses
Once you’ve attended a couple of courses, and have gained a fair bit of experience, you can consider offering classes for novices. Not only is this an excellent way to make money, but you’ll be able to help other budding creators avoid the mistakes you made.
This is a business avenue with plenty of potential for the enterprising individual. You can choose to offer a comprehensive, but basic, course for beginners. Or, you could decide to do more complex modular courses.
For example, a modular course could cover:
- Elements of a CNC could cover basic topics in-depth, such as:
Types of bits and cutting tools and when to use them
- The importance of feed rates and spindle speeds, when working with different materials
- How to attach materials to your worktable so that they remain secure
- The importance of CNC spoilboards, and how to make them
- How to choose the correct material for the project you’re planning
- The ins and outs of CNC software, including but not limited to:
- Introduction to some of the most versatile software options
- How best to use CAD software to create designs
- How to program toolpaths, cutting depths, and other manufacturing aspects on CAM
- How to process aluminum with a CNC, including:
- The best cutting tools to use (materials, shape, etc.)
- How to set up the feeds and speeds so that aluminum pieces don’t weld to your cutting tools or the workpiece
- Lubrication options and setting up misting systems
- How to set up blowing or vacuuming systems to help keep your workpiece clean
- Advanced CNC principles, like:
- Advanced joinery and cutting techniques
- Complex calculations when you need high degrees of accuracy
- Making the most out of your CNC router (creative techniques to stretch your machine’s limits)
In truth, the only limit to this type of modular course is what you’re capable of. As long as you’re willing to learn new things regularly, you’ll always have something new to teach others.
If you find that you particularly enjoy teaching CNC techniques, you can even consider creating video-based teaching content. People can pay for either the full course or just the modules they want.
Not only does this allow you an additional income source, but you get to expand your customer base many times over. You can demonstrate every technique and principle using your machine, and teach people anywhere in the world.
Training others to do wonderful things is a truly excellent way to make money with a CNC machine.
Profitable Projects You Can do With your CNC Router
If we’re being honest, most people aren’t thinking of training or machine rental when they ask how to make money with a CNC router.
People are generally more interested in making money with CNC projects. If that describes you as well, we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at some of the most profitable projects for CNC owners.
Furniture is probably one of the first things most CNC owners delve into to make a profit with their CNC.
With the current price of furniture, if you can create nice-looking, affordable furniture to sell online or at local markets, you’ll almost definitely earn an income.
- Basic furniture like bar stools and armchairs is incredibly easy to produce. You probably won’t even need to create a design. Many makers produce free-to-use designs for basic furniture, and some of it is even free for commercial use.
- Modern furniture with a strong geometric bent may take more work. If you don’t want to pay for this type of design, you’ll probably have to spend time making the calculations and creating it. However, this style of furniture is incredibly popular, and you’re bound to find a market for it.
- Outdoor furniture tends to be less dainty, and more rugged, than indoor furniture. You can easily use your CNC router to cut wood to size, then build beautiful, rustic furniture like picnic tables and benches.
Why is it easier to make furniture with a CNC machine?
- A CNC router allows you to program all of the joinery you need to build solid wooden furniture. From half-lap joints to simple mortises and tenons, your router can create flawless joinery which you simply need to slot together.
- Your router can cut each component to the appropriate size, without using extra machinery.
- You can design and create wonderfully shaped legs, feet, and other decorative elements. The CNC’s unique abilities allow you to turn simple structural elements into works of art.
People love framing pictures of the people and things they love. This means that photo frames are always an excellent thing to sell.
But why make them with a CNC router? When trying to decide how to make money with a CNC router, why choose photo frames?
Your CNC router can make these projects easier in a myriad of ways, such as:
- Allowing you to use diverse materials. With your CNC router, you can easily make frames out of wood, foam, and soft metals like aluminum.
- Being an all-in-one device for cutting main components and joinery. If you need to cut glass to size, you can do that with the right bits and appropriate lubrication. If you need to cut the main framework, it does that too. You can even cut the slots, tabs, or other appropriate joinery to put the framework together.
- Cutting down on the time spent on each frame, as well as the number of people required to put them together. You basically need one person to run the machine, and a few individuals to assemble the finished components.
- Offering easy scalability. Once you’ve created the designs for your frames, you can easily scale them up and down. You don’t need to redesign the frame each time. Simply duplicate your original design and scale the original dimensions and cutting depths up or down.
From locket-sized frames to monstrous wall frames, you can easily create any type of frame your customers desire. You can also make your designs as ornate or simple as you wish.
Trinkets and Souvenirs
Many people can’t help themselves. We all love to have things that reflect our personalities or remind us of places we’ve been and experiences we’ve had.
If you live in a tourist destination, you can easily tap into the tourism industry by making souvenirs to remind people of their visit. In other cases, you can make trinkets with fun witticisms.
Just a few of the things you can make along this vein include:
- Ornaments to hang on rearview mirrors
Truly, the only limit is what you can think of doing. Anything cute and fun is likely to attract attention at markets.
Jewelry is a subcategory of this area that might be worth considering. You can easily use your CNC machine to create beautifully crafted beads out of wood, foam, or even aluminum.
From beaded necklaces to bracelets, the options are almost limitless. Consider:
- Making a variety of lucky charms for charm bracelets
- Creating unique and individualistic beads to make bracelets and necklaces from
- Creating lockets, cameos, and other highly personal items of jewelry
- In tourist applications, creating necklaces, charms, and bracelets themed around the place tourists come to or the thing they come to experience.
Believe it or not, CNC routers even find applications in the clothing industry. If you’ve ever dreamt of being a fashion designer, this is your chance to live your dreams.
But how can you make money with a CNC machine by making clothing? What application could a router possibly have in the fashion industry? It can:
- Create beautiful, unique buttons out of various materials
- Cut material to the exact shape and size required by the pattern
- Create perfect hangers for hanging and storing clothing
The first and the third applications are relatively obvious, but why use a CNC to cut material? Why not stick to the traditional ways of cutting materials to size? Here’s why:
- CNC routers can cut materials to the exact size you require. When you’re not cutting manually, you don’t have to add extra materials to compensate for a margin of error. Accordingly, you can make more items of clothing out of the same amount of material.
- CNC machines can cut the materials more accurately and efficiently, cutting down on the number of people required to prepare a single pattern for creation.
- Since you don’t need a physical copy of the pattern to create the materials, you save on time and energy investment. Simply create the design once, and use it over and over again.
- You can efficiently upscale or downscale the same patterns by simply editing your initial design.
Naturally, you’ll either need to buy machines and hire people to sew the garments or team up with an existing clothing company. However, this can still be an extremely profitable way of making money with a CNC machine.
CNC routers can be exceptionally useful when it comes to creating custom kitchen sets.
Some of the ways that these machines facilitate the process include:
- Cutting countertops to size, and creating slots required by:
- Pop-up plugs
- Sinks and basins
- Built-in appliances and kitchen items
- Creating custom-sized built-in cupboards, drawer stacks, and shelving
- Customizing cabinets, cabinet doors, kitchen islands, and other structural items
If you decide to go this route, the versatility of a CNC machine will be extremely useful. It can do anything from cutting materials to size to creating joinery, and even rounding and polishing.
Other Ways to Make Money with a CNC Router
There are about a million other projects that you can do that will help you make money with a CNC. Depending on how creative you are, you can take standard items that find uses in the industry every day, and turn them into something special.
A few of the projects you could consider include:
- Premade legs for tables and chairs, especially with decorative elements
- Different types of floating shelves, bookshelves, and other shelving options. They can range from simple shelving for pantries and storage to complex decorative elements for bedrooms and other common rooms.
- Doorknobs, drawer handles, cupboard handles, and other opening knobs.
- Doors, window frames, and other structural items used in construction
- Crates, storage boxes, and other containers for storing items
In the end, you can make money in a myriad of ways, as long as you makeprojects that are:
- In demand
- Professionally executed
For an even more comprehensive list of projects you can use to make money with your CNC, check out our article ‘8 Types of Profitable CNC Projects to Use in 2022.’
Where to Sell your CNC Projects
If you want to make money with a CNC machine, you need an outlet for all the different projects you’ve created.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the places where your fellow creatives sell their goods:
- A personal/business website - If you want to pay minimal fees and commissions to sell your goods, then having a site for your business is a great idea. However, if you’re not tech-savvy and need to hire someone to design and maintain the site, this may be less cost-effective than you’d imagine. Even so, a simple website system like WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix can make it easy for even the technically challenged to set up a digital storefront at a low cost.
- Etsy - This online store is possibly one of the most-used platforms by makers. The website is easy to use, and you need very little tech skills to sign up and start selling. As you may expect, there are certain fees involved when using this platform. As of the first of December 2022, the following fees apply:
- Listing fees - $0.20 for every item that you list on your store
- Transaction fees - 6.5% of the listed sales price, plus your listed fee for delivery and gift wrapping
- Additional fees - If you decide to opt-in for any of the optional extras, you will be billed for these as well.
- Shopify - Shopify is another well-known Etsy alternative used by makers the world over. It too is relatively easy to use, making it ideal for even the most technologically challenged sellers. Unlike Etsy, Shopify demands a monthly payment as well as transaction fees. The cheapest plan on their list costs around $29 a month.
- eBay - Of course, no list of potential outlets would be complete without this site. Most Americans already have an account for this store, and using it is pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, due to a small criminal element, this store isn’t always considered the safest place to purchase.
- When you’re starting, and selling a few things here and there, eBay is great. But, we’d recommend something more personalized when you start cranking up production. eBay charges a transaction fee for every order, which varies according to the category you’re listing in, and the value of the item.
- Local markets - Depending on what you’re creating, small local markets can be an excellent place to sell your goods. Flea markets, crafter’s markets, and even farmer’s markets will be happy to rent you a stall. If you decide to go this route, bear in mind that personality plays a huge role. You need someone with charisma and sales technique to man the stall if you want to turn a profit.
- Also, these markets almost always charge a fee to rent you a stall. You’ll likely also need to bring your own table, gazebo or tent, and other necessities. These things aren’t problems, but you may have to put in a fair bit of time and effort before your stall starts earning well. Local markets often mean that you have to build a relationship before you find customers.
We hope that this article has helped you to learn many new and exciting things about how to make money with a CNC router.
If you use it wisely, a CNC router can be an excellent investment. There are many different ways to make money with a CNC machine that we haven’t even listed here.
If you’re willing to work hard, be creative, and consistently try new things, there’s no limit to what you can achieve with this device.
Do you have a unique or unusual idea that can help others make money with their CNCs? Perhaps you’ve learned some lessons that can help others. If so, please feel free to drop a comment below, we’d love to hear about your experiences.
If you’re still in the market for a CNC, but haven’t quite made up your mind about what to buy, feel free to contact us. We’d love to hear what you’re looking for, and help you construct a package that will meet your business's unique needs.