If you've gone so far as to purchase or build a cnc router but need a little push in the right direction, this article is for you. CNC Vector Art can help in many of these ways but in reality, you just have to get cutting. Hopefully one of these ideas is in an area of interest for you. They are not in any particular order.
The first proven way to earn money with your cnc router is jewelry. The jewelry market is a $70 billion dollar industry. Plenty of room for more custom charms, rings, necklaces. Custom class rings are made using a cnc mill or router. First the designs are cut into machinable wax, then they are produced using investment casting techniques. Research diy investment casting and you can be ready to go in no time.
The cnc router will also cut the charms or artwork directly. Lets not forget that it will also engrave on the custom items. There are quite a few channels to market your jewelry online. If you put together a good design, hit the social marketing scene, money will come in,
2) Vacuum Formed Parts
Yep, vacuum formed parts. A simple vacuum former can be built for very low cost. With the cnc router at your hands, you can make a limitless number of molds to then be vacuum formed. Candy molds, plant seed trays, masks, soap molds, custom packaging, costumes. Just look around, if it's made of a molded sheet of pvc or thin plastic, it just might have been vacuum formed.
3) Wall Art
Just check out anywhere on the social networks or even just Pinterest alone, wall art is a very popular category. 3 dimensional lettering should almost be in it's own category. The 3D letters can be painted, unpainted, wood, aluminum or even pvc. What's the trick to making money in this category? Just make it. Look what's selling, alter it to fit your taste or even better, your intended customers taste, and blast it onto the social networks.
Wall art can also be 3D scenes, shapes, signs, popular quotes and even plaques. Put together a series of custom plaques for retirees and market them either in online marketplaces or even social networks.
Probably the most popular go to products to produce on a cnc router are signs. Well designed commercial 3D signage can make a noticeable impact on a business's storefront traffic. Which of course means it adds value, which means you have the advantage over your non cnc competitors. Don't forget though, you could also help your local non cnc competitors out by offering to be their go to cnc partner. Cut the signs for them, charge by the hour or project, and move on to the next. If you plan on going the commercial sign route without having a display advertising background, I'd suggest lots of reading. Good commercial signage takes quite a bit of design knowledge, but it is at your fingertips if you want to learn. It's the difference between a pro and a novice.
You don't have to only stick to commercial signage though. Residential signage is a huge market on it's own. Address signs, 3D house numbers, holiday signs, campsite signs, even indoor signs with silly sayings on them are very popular on the social networks. Scour the networks, see what's popular and offer them locally.
5) Carbon Fiber
Carbon fiber parts are a pretty specific market segment, but there's absolutely money there for the making. If you are already in the rc racing scene, you'll know what parts work best in carbon fiber. In a more recent scene, the very popular flying drone fanatics are a definite go to crowd for custom carbon fiber parts. Things may go up nicely but not always down so nicely, hence, the need for stronger lightweight components. Spend a bit of time researching the router or milling bits and the dust collection safety, and you have yourself a very fast growing market. Carbon fiber parts can be milled out of solid blocks of carbon fiber.
If you aren't already in on it, just go online to discover where your potential clients are hanging out at, offer to make replacement parts, oftentimes even improved parts and components, before you know it, you'll have more work than you can handle. The drone market is still skyrocketing in popularity.
CNC routers are a given when it comes to precise nested cuts in sheet goods like plywood or mdf. With the right software, you minimize waste and get precise repeatability that is hard to match by hand. That's just the bread and butter though. You can also do custom carvings on the door panels, custom details on the trim, even cut the countertop if your machine is large enough.
Outside the kitchen, you could do custom built-ins, custom fireplace mantels and let's not forget custom furniture. Custom carved fireplace mantels continue to be extremely popular. Due to the custom measurements and installation, this is one side of cnc routing that's just plain easier to do on the local level. Just build some examples, post high quality photos on local social sites, and get referrals from your more than happy to help customers.
7) Custom Screen Doors and Man Doors
Good old fashioned creativity combined with your cnc router skills can really produce some awesome doors. Even if you only have the equipment to build wood screen doors, there's a market for custom work. You obviously don't need a cnc machine to build them but you can really get a creative boost if you have one. Research online how to build a screen door then take a look at what the custom guys are doing. If you have a cnc router you can do similar types of doors.
High quality photos of your work, as long the work is high quality too, will be a social magnet online. Try to stick within your local scene to avoid having to ship such large pieces.
8) Candy and Soap Molds
Candy and soap molds are extremely popular online. With a cnc router, you can either make the designs for the silicon molds or even wood molds. For candy molds, you can use your cnc router to design the molds for vacuum forming the pvc molds. The market online for these types of products is pretty huge. You could make custom candy or fondant molds locally for craft fairs or parties or even local bakeries and candy stores.
9) Vinyl Graphics
By either building or buying a drag knife for your cnc router, you can open up a whole new market for yourself. Vinyl signs and window art are popular online and locally. Your cnc router fitted with a drag knife will cut as many as you can sell. It takes just a little bit of adjusting and finding your optimum settings, but it's definitely doable. Offer to make some up for your local sports boosters and it will lead to more work. Online, your local social advertising can be a great source for selling window clings and even vinyl wall art.
10) Knife Scales, Gun Grips, Car Badges
A cnc router can come in real handy for carving custom knife scales, gun grips, and even car badges. Try to design some custom knife scales or handles for your knives, take some high quality photos, and hit the online social scene. You'll be surprised the number of people that will react to it. The same goes for custom gun grips. Experiment with different materials and designs, once you've hit onto a good one, people will let you know. Since you're using a cnc router, you can repeat it over and over, at the same time you can be working on your next design.