Any good cheap Dallas Machine Shops?

Hey guys,
As you can tell by my last post, our team has a product that will hopefully be on the FRC market later next month, and were wondering if any of you knew some nice, cheap machine shops in the Dallas area. We have a machine shop sponsor for the team that we love and will probably use, but we wanted to compare pricing.

What is the hourly price is for laser cut or 5 axis milling machine for the shop?

Do they do free quotes?

What is their preferred CAD format to be sent?

If the price per good goes down as the number of products increases, what might be an expected rate of decreasing cost to myself?

Generally speaking, laser cut parts are going to be vastly less expensive than 5-axis milling. If you need 5-axis milling, you’d better have a really good product. I’m afraid to ask what on earth you’re planning that would need 5-axis milling. I mean, I’m pretty sure AndyMark’s entire inventory is done without resorting to a 5-axis mill. I’d strongly encourage you to stick to laser cutting and maybe 3-axis milling as your machining operations.

At this point, I’d really suggest you talk to Andy Baker, as he has all sorts of experience taking product from design to profitability.

Cheap and 5-axis work are two thoughts that probably don’t belong in the same sentence.

Gotta agree with Kevin, if your product is targeting FRC consumers and requires a 5 axis mill to make it’s either poorly designed for manufacturing or far too complex.

Hourly price is also a worthless number unless you know how many hours the shop will quote. I could charge $40/hr and use a manual mill and lathe and take 40 hours to make one part, whereas someone else could charge $150/hour and take 5 hours to make the part with advanced CNC machinery.

I’m obviously pulling those numbers out of thin air, but you get the point.

One other thing. You’ll see a much bigger multi-part discount on any CNC mill work than you will on lasercut parts. The reason is setup costs. To setup to run lasercut parts, you load in material, load up a 2D DXF of the part(s) and maybe tweak the nesting of the parts. Not that much time to run different parts, especially if they’re all the same material.

To setup to run a CNC’d part, you have to load a 3D model in a CAM package, define all the different machining operations on all the machined surfaces, test run the part in the CAM program, export to G-Code, and THEN load material and make the actual part. There’s significant time programming each different part. If you’re only running a single part, all that programming time goes into the cost of that single part. Spreading it out over multiple parts reduces the programming cost per part.

CNC mill work is still going to be more expensive per part, per hour, per whatever than lasercutting, but it will get cheaper if you’re ordering, say 10-100 parts.

Someone mentioned Andymark in your other thread. Since you’re looking for the work to be done near Dallas and laser cutting is a possibility, perhaps you could contact IFI? They are based in Greenville (50 miles outside Dallas), and they already do all kinds of robotics related products. You might be able to work out a marketing deal with them, or at the very least get the fabrication done there for a reasonable price, given your purpose. Just an idea.

It seems like you don’t want to let us know what you plan to have made, but I can’t see how you could possibly substitute a laser cutter for a 5 axis mill, unless you’re referring to a 4 or 5 axis laser cutter (though I doubt that). If you’d care to post more information, I’m sure some of the folks around here might be able to give you some more useful advice.

One of our sponsors is a company called Special Products Manufacturing in Rockwall. If your product can be laser cut, they are one of the premier shops in the DFW area.