In addition to the machine cost you also need to calculate operator and tooling costs as well as power, water, etc. For the purposes of our calculations, let's assume that a set of tools for one profile cost $3,000. The life of these tools is approximately 2,500 lineal ft. This translates to a tooling cost of about $2,500 per month. CNC operator rates can vary considerably from state to state. I have seen rates as low as $16.00 per hour and as high as $40.00 per hour or more, plus 20 percent burden for benefits, etc. In addition, you must calculate the labor rate for loading and unloading the machine. This calculates to a range of approximately $3,300 to $8,000 spent on labor per month.
Now, let's total this all up. Your cost to operate the CNC for one month based on 1,900 lineal ft. will range from $10,000 to $15,000 per month. This does not include power and water consumption or the labor involved for computer time, etc. The cost will be higher than this calculation, but it can serve as a guide and a starting point to help you calculate your cost.
This will put a total lineal cost per foot in the range of about $5.30 to $8 or more. If you charge $20 per lineal ft., then you will generate about $37,000 per month.
What I don't know, however, is your overhead, labor rates, etc. This is something you need to sit down with your accountant to discuss and determine if a CNC is worth the investment. Also, keep in mind the setup cost as well as the learning curve.
Don't expect to be up and operating your CNC to full production for at least three months, depending on the type of machine and training as well as your operator.
Do I Have To Hire A Computer Geek To Operate My CNC?
In some cases it is a good idea to hire someone with good computer skills. In other cases computer skills can be learned. The most important prerequisite is that the potential operator be open to new technology and not be afraid of the machine.
Unless you hire someone with prior experience, it is going to take time to get your labor up to speed. I have found that the best operators can be found coming right out of high school or a technical college with a computer background. This is not to say that the average fabricator can't learn, but the right person needs to be chosen.
What To Look For When Purchasing A CNC
There are many CNC manufacturers out there and the number is growing. There are also many options available. You will need to decide which options you will need. Many times some of these options are useless for what you will be using your CNC for.
I have seen dozens of shops using a CNC for sink cutouts only. Set up properly, this can be a big savings because sink cutouts can be a major bottleneck in your shop. On the other hand, it can also cost you more. How you will use your CNC and what type of work you are doing all need to be considered and evaluated before you purchase a CNC.