At Tormach, our mission is and has always been to ‘empower people who make things’. We are dedicated to providing exceptionally engineered compact CNC machines, tooling, and related products with best-in-industry technical support and customer service. Our focus is to help our customers turn their concepts into reality by providing the tools and information that help them be successful with CNC. Our flagship products are our PCNC, or Personal CNC, series of machine tools. Tormach mills, lathes and routers have become the CNC machine of choice for inventors, small/boutique manufacturers, garage entrepreneurs, product developers, hobbyists, educators, and people who make things around the world.
The Personal CNC Story
Our company has grown quite a bit from modest beginnings. Like many of the businesses that use our CNC machines, Tormach was started in a garage – not too far from our current shop near Madison, WI. Back in 2001, two friends had a series of casual conversations, basically maligning how there were no good small CNC machines available for inventors, R&D professionals, or small manufacturers. Both had expertise in manufacturing automation: one of the two owned a specialty tool company, and the other was general manager of a technology research company. Both agreed they could really make use of an affordable small CNC machine – whether for prototyping products or for specialty manufacturing – if only such a machine existed. They came up with the concept of Personal CNC – paying homage to some of the same ideas that spawned the personal computer revolution in the late 1970s, and began to put together a list of design criteria for a PCNC. These included:
- Capability to meet/exceed typical machined part tolerances: a PCNC Mill should not sacrifice the end result part quality. Machine frame rigidity and position resolution are critical; if needed, compromises can be made in spindle power, and maximum motion speed –which affect program time, but not product quality
- Affordable, to justify occasional, as needed use: a PCNC mill must not need to be constantly producing to pay its own carrying costs. It is not designed as a replacement for a production capability, but rather as a CNC tool to assist with R&D, product development, and light production
- Open-source, user serviceable architecture: PCNC mills should be based on simple and robust machine architecture for minimal maintenance and repairs. PCNC mills should not require specially-trained service personnel, and repair components must be easily obtainable and affordable.
- Expandable, modular design: a PCNC mill should minimize upfront investment with options that could be added on an as-needed basis – 4th axis, Automatic Tool Changer, Coolant Kit, etc. Components such as tooling, etc. should be sold on an a la carte basis to allow customers to pick and choose exactly what they need.
- Minimized delivery charges – hidden delivery/installation fees can be over 25% of the sales price of a conventional CNC machine. Tormach CNC machines are designed to minimize acquisition fees – even to residential addresses.
Not long after, the 2001-2002 recession hit hard on technology companies. When investment pulled out, the research company shut its doors. About that time, the tool company owner called up the former research manager and reminded him about those first conversations concerning the Personal CNC Machine and that the time might be right to do something more than just talk about it.
That was the start of Tormach. Fast forward to 2020 and tens of thousands of CNC machines sold. Tormach has seen much success – with a staff of experienced engineering and manufacturing professionals, dedicated to creating unsurpassed value in CNC machines – and grown significantly because of it. Now, the company is 100% employee-owned and due to this face, all employees have a vested interest in the success of every Tormach customer. This ownership keeps Tormach on its already successful trajectory while allowing the employees to take greater leadership in the organization.
What Makes Tormach Different? Our business model is different than your traditional CNC machine companies – that’s by design.
Geeks With Tools
Tormach has a significant technical staff. This may explain some of our preoccupation with testing, design, and documentation.
One job description that you won’t find at Tormach is Salesperson. We strongly believe that the key to selling our products is thoughtful design, sound engineering, attention to detail, and dedication to pre- and post-sales support – not slick sales pitches and exaggerated claims. We know this puts us in the minority, but we at Tormach choose to operate without commissioned salespeople. Our Technical Support team is made up of machinists and former tool & die makers. They double as our pre-sales team ensuring customers get what they need, but not overkill. This helps us keep our prices low, and that makes CNC more accessible to everyone.
Tormach is dedicated to helping people enter the world of CNC manufacturing, by providing affordable compact CNC machines and related products. But that is only a part of what is needed to accomplish that. Through our website, dedicated YouTube channel, documentation, manuals, training, software, tooling, and engineered accessories, we work hard to make CNC machining easy to learn and productivity quick to achieve. There is a learning curve, but it is not a brick wall, and Tormach makes the process easier!
Robust New Product Development
Tormach’s original flagship product, the PCNC 1100 mill, was hugely successful with its launch in 2003, and has gained a large following of independent makers throughout the country. The popularity of this mill led us to develop numerous additional products over the years, including the smallest PCNC 440, 770M/1100M and the servo-driven, BT30 models 770MX/1100MX CNC mills, all driven by our easy-to-use, easy-to-learn PathPilot control software. With a full line of routers, lathes, and other machinery including the AF50 autofeed bandsaw, now priced at just $3,995, many more exciting products will be coming soon. All of these products were designed and built with the same company philosophy of creating affordable, high-quality machinery, and backing the machinery up with legendary, second-to-none customer and technical support.
If we seem to know what you want, it is probably because we have been in your shoes. We’re a company of engineers, machinists, and “tool guys and gals”, just like our customers. Many of our employees started out as Tormach customers who wanted affordable and approachable CNC equipment to enable their own ideas.
At Tormach, we feel that the best method for sustaining and developing the manufacturing base of a nation is through a widespread understanding of manufacturing processes. Trade barriers and factory subsidies pale in comparison to the potential of thousands of entrepreneurs with ideas, ambition, and smaller scale machinery to bring their ideas to life. Tormach applauds the innovators and dreamers among us and is dedicated to providing the affordable compact CNC machines and other tools needed to support their ambitions.
A Commitment to Education
Today’s CNC students are tomorrow’s problem solvers. Tormach has always supported education in the USA. We’ve worked hard to place our machines in elementary & high schools, and technical colleges around the country so up and coming machinists can see how easy and fun it can be to learn CNC machining. With a low barrier to entry, the recently released xsTECH Router is a very affordable desktop CNC ($3,495) that is ready to run out of the box. Not only are we developing new products ideal for education, we are ardent supporters of numerous robotics and machining competitions including FIRST Robotics, where Tormach provides machines and on-site technical support for the teams of students who are learning and revising product designs on the fly. The combination of affordability, ease of use and strong technical support have always made Tormach a natural fit for the next generation of USA machinists.
In addition, we have strong brand ambassadors who share our values and commitment to education, who help us spread the word about Tormach machine tools and their ease of use. Two of our ambassadors are Titan Gilroy of TITANS of CNC: Academy, and John Saunders of NYC CNC / Saunders Machine Works. These two are responsible for the education of thousands of machinists and students alike on the benefits and possibilities of machining, and Tormach is proud to have them utilizing our equipment.
Combining Quality with Value
Prior to the release of our compact CNC milling machines, there were no suitable options for affordable small CNC machinery. Companies associated with low cost CNC machine tools were essentially resellers of existing, globally-sourced machinery. They may select the color and a few options, but unlike Tormach, they do not have an engineering staff that truly controls the design of their CNC machines and tooling. The cost is low and quality is variable.
In contrast, CNC machine tools, such as those from Hardinge, Okuma, Mori Seiki, and others, are highly engineered products, designed and manufactured by companies in the USA, Germany, or Japan. This provides high quality but at a steep cost.
In creating Tormach compact CNC mills and other equipment, we pioneered a new way, working closely with factory partners around the world to provide the best value in CNC machines to our customers at an affordable entry point. Our experienced USA-based engineering team guides every detail of product design and development, while our independent overseas QA team inspects every product prior to shipment. This combination provides quality and value that is unmatched anywhere.
A Final Word
The year 2020 has been and continues to be a challenging one in the USA and around the world, as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the health and livelihood of many. It dramatically affected the global economy; unemployment levels have been at record highs in the USA and many people who are still working are working remotely from home.
This combination of factors has actually led to an increase in people using their new-found downtime to research and learn CNC machining practices. Even though our employees were working remotely, the Tormach team has been very busy during this lockdown helping customers determine the best machines for their needs. We even implemented special economic recovery pricing, for a period of time, to make our affordable machines even more affordable. In addition, we held an Instagram quarantine contest (#lockdownwithtormach) and gave away an xsTECH Router to reward a machinist for their best CNC project during quarantine. Our goal was to further enable makers to create viable products to support their families and expand their dreams.
Like everyone, we anxiously await an end to the virus and a return to ‘normal’ social and business conditions. In the meantime, we are here for our customers and will continue to do our part to contribute to the growth of machining education and technology.