Intro

If you want to make the most out of your upcoming fabrication project, you need a good machine shop in your corner. The machine shop you choose should be an ally and help you through the process while hitting your specs and delivering on time.

To help you find the right machine shop, we put together this guide. We’ll go over 9 different considerations to make while picking the perfect machine shop for your needs.

Understand Their Throughput

The biggest thing to find out is if the machine shop can meet your demands when it comes to quantities. There’s nothing wrong with picking a smaller, local machine shop — however, you should only pick them if they can keep up.

If they have a history of delivering late or underdelivering, then that will hurt you in the future. The last thing you want is your project to be railroaded by a slow manufacturer.

Their Machining Capabilities

Screen Shot 2022 10 28 At 10.30.17 AmEach machine shop will be made up of a number of different machines. It can range from traditional mills to 3D printers and injection molding machines. Each of these machines will allow the shop to offer a certain service, and the combination of all their services makes up their “capabilities”.

If you need your part to be 3D printed, then you need a machine shop that has 3D printers on the floor. If they don’t, then they’ll subcontract the project to another machine shop and you’ll spend even more and wait longer.

Instead, you should find out what capabilities a shop has either by calling them or checking their website.

Check Their Online Functionality

It might seem odd, but you should look at a prospective machine shop’s site. A good number of machine shops are stuck in the past, and they might not even have a functioning website. The lack of technology on their site might translate into a lack of technology in their shop.

Some machine shops allow you to get an automatic quote or learn more about their capabilities without even picking up the phone. Be wary in this instance as the supplier quote will likely be without DFM information and typically shops using online quoting software charge huge margins as a means to cover risk.

How They Do Inspection

After manufacturing, the shop should always do an inspection of the parts. They will check the physical part against the model you provided in order to ensure the dimensions and features are correct.

With primitive inspection, you might get parts that are out of spec, don’t fit your assembly, and fail to work in your operation. To correct this, you’ll need to get in touch with the shop, have them remake everything, then re-send another batch. This could destroy your schedule.

Instead, choose a shop that has advanced inspection and does a good job of checking all the dimensions of the finished part.

Available Materials

Some shops only offer certain materials that they work with. If they don’t have the right material, then you’ll need to make big sacrifices and your part might not even work. 

A high-quality shop sources a variety of metals, plastics, and resins to achieve what you’re looking for. The right material will make a huge difference in the functionality of your part.

Reviews From Previous Customers

Word of mouth is a great weapon when it comes to picking the right machine shop. It’s always helpful to see what previous customers have to say about the shop. If people have a bad experience with a shop, they won’t hesitate to post their reviews all over the place.

A high-quality shop might have some disgruntled customers, but it’s all about what the majority of previous customers say. As long as the reviews are generally positive, then that’s a good sign.

Looking at Their Previous Projects

Another key indicator of a shop’s work ethic is pictures of their previous projects. NDAs might restrict some shops, but they should certainly have projects to highlight and share with you.

Looking at a part that a shop previously made can show you how good their fabricator, welder, 3D printer, and quality control are. If you know what you’re looking for, any mistakes will jump out at you.

Can They Scale with You?

Our guess is that you don’t want to stay static and keep production at the same rate, you probably want to grow. As you grow, you need a shop that can grow with you and keep up with your demands.

A high-quality shop will be able to provide low-run products for start-ups and full-scale production for Fortune 500 companies. Otherwise, you’ll be shopping for a new machine shop every time your business grows.

Their Responsiveness

Nothing is more annoying than a machine shop that won’t answer the phone, doesn’t reply to emails, and ignores your requests. 

It’s true that a machine shop’s main job is to deliver parts to you, but they should be available and responsive. What happens if you need to call with a last-minute change? If they don’t get back to you, then they’ll waste everyone’s time and money as they continue making incorrect parts.

Conclusion

Picking a great machine shop can make all of your manufacturing woes go away. We hope that these 9 tips help guide you, and that you use them to find a perfect shop for your needs.

If you want to get started with a high-quality machine shop that has a lot of capabilities, then you should consider Rapid Axis. Our expert machinists are here to answer your questions, and you can get a free quote today to get started with us. Our team focuses on keeping quality high, turnarounds quick, and prices affordable.