The Changing Landscape of Making Things


Garage Manufacturing Grows Up

For much of history, manufacturing has been the work of artisans, craftspeople, and trades workers. The products created were made by hand in short runs, and often with customized elements.

As the Industrial Revolution set in, machine manufacturing (albeit simple machines to start) took over, and mass production emerged as the route to profitable business. Designs were focused on hitting the largest group within a potential market, and machines were developed to create as many of the same item as possible. Assembly lines and automation only further increased the motivation to engineer identical products that the masses could consume.


The era of mass manufacturing gave words like artisan and customized an expensive ring, while DIY was synonymous with a strong potential for failure, or even danger. There have always been DIYers, but projects associated with the do-it-yourself terminology (without going to a professional manufacturer) were often orphaned as back-of-the-garage prototypes and failed entrepreneurial endeavors. Without corporate backing, inventors and tinkerers were relegated to being simply hobbyists, while at the same time testing the patience of spouses.

Today, the maker movement is in full swing. People are launching boutique manufacturing businesses from their garages with 3D printers, CNC routers, laser cutters, and of course, Tormach PCNC Mills and Lathes. The availability of this equipment and the products coming from these at-home shops are changing the way the public views manufacturing. Producing quality goods is no longer just a game for those who can afford massive machines and expensive warehouses. Instead, a professional marketing campaign starts with a slickly-produced Kickstarter video and can quickly develop into a thriving business.


At trade shows and various company outings we find attendees overjoyed that a small machine can produce such high-quality parts. This gives those with potential patents and groundbreaking inventions on their hands more freedom to not only prototype, but even go into production – providing the opportunity for fast iterations of designs or even production-quality artisan items.

We’ve reached a new era of design and manufacturing, where an artist can fit a PCNC 1100 in their garage for projects and luthiers can produce instrument components on-demand. Production is going to a more customizable, artisan standard, and Tormach machines have already helped many inventors and business owners emerge from the shadow of mass production cost. Similarly, Tormach machinists and engineers are toiling away in our prototyping lab (BadgerWorks), and are looking to continue helping makers, inventors, and educators make things.

Are you a maker or inventor? How has/would a Tormach help your production?

Chris Fox

Chris comes from a publishing background with years of experience in science, technology, and engineering publications. Previously an editor with Product Design and Development and Gizmag, he has a keen eye on the maker community and the changing landscape of the world of prototyping, product development, and small-scale manufacturing. Chris has been working with clients to create Tormach's customer success stories since 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheChris_Fox

Chris Fox

2 thoughts on “The Changing Landscape of Making Things

  • Avatar
    04/10/2015 at 10:54 am

    My PCNC 1100 will be 4 years old in July of this year and while I am not an inventor, I do run it like a job shop machine.

    I am the former owner of a real CNC machine shop where I had a FADAL 3016 and a Haas TM1, and I can do ANYTHING on my Tormach that I could do on those machines. It just takes a little longer.

    I bid work for my Tormach as if I were going to do it on a 20 HP machine. I bid it at $75.00 per hour and if I can make $35.00 I’m happy. I have no overhead, and I work for something to do, not to make a living.

    I have learned techniques to remove huge amounts of material when pocketing without the cutter pulling out of the spindle. I have learned to tap holes without using a reversing tapping head. I can cut internal and external threads on my Tormach. And I ONLY cut aluminum and plastic. (NO STEEL)

    I always limit my production to no more than 25 pieces. I get really bored after that. I took a job once that was 75 pieces, but I was able to break it ip into 3 runs, 25 pieces each.

  • Avatar
    04/11/2015 at 8:19 am

    I think you hit the nail on the head.The garage machinist or small business is making a comeback. I think Tormach has contributed to this and also helped many compete with larger job shops. I originally bought my PCNC 1100 to use as a hobby. But it has helped me win quite a few contract jobs that were originally ran in local job shops. This trend is going to be competition to the job shops as I see it. The low overhead and quick turn around helps keep me compete with them. With no employees and no rent to pay, I can keep prices down. That is appealing to some requesting a machining source. Thanks Tormach for enabling my ideas.

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