Featured Image

Manufacturing Startup Stays Agile to Meet Market Needs

Vulcan Machine Co. (Vulcan), a new manufacturing start-up founded by recent James Madison University (JMU) graduates, has successfully pivoted twice to take advantage of market opportunities. Company founders were originally developing large-format...
by AMT
Jul 23, 2020

Vulcan Machine Co. (Vulcan), a new manufacturing start-up founded by recent James Madison University (JMU) graduates, has successfully pivoted twice to take advantage of market opportunities. Company founders were originally developing large-format, industrial 3D printers in JMU X-Labs after graduating from JMU three years ago. However, they discovered a major opportunity in the CNC milling market and pivoted to meet this market need. 

Through customer discovery and market research, they learned that many small manufacturers, makers, and startups often need increased production capabilities, but do not have the startup capital nor floorspace to purchase robust, industrial-strength milling machines for prototyping and small-batch production.

Specifically, there are large functionality and price gaps between high-end hobby and entry-level industrial milling machines. Too many companies buy low-end equipment because that is all they can afford, but soon find they need to retrofit their mills with upgrades or accessories to get the functional capabilities required. These companies felt they were adding deluxe options to those basic machines, and ended up spending just as much in the long run.

Vulcan has developed a compact, cast iron, precision CNC mill for micro-fabricators and small businesses that need to create professional-level parts in-house affordably. Their mill has many industrial capabilities that one would expect to see on more expensive machines, such as through-spindle-coolant, automatic tool changer, probing, rigid tapping, and conversational programming all coming standard on every mill.  While the rigid cast iron frame brings this machine to a massive 3,000 lbs., it’s designed to fit through a doorway, and plug into a standard 220v dryer outlet. The mill comes fully assembled, ready to go right out of the crate-- lowering the barrier to entry for manufacturing.

In December 2019, Vulcan curated a group of ten beta users with different work environments, use cases, and skill levels that Vulcan could test and validate. In January 2020, they ordered the first set of castings for the mill. These castings were scheduled to arrive at their production facility in Virginia mid-February, where they would undergo final assembly, quality, and performance testing, before shipping machines out into the field.

That’s when coronavirus hit. As fate would have it, the foundry Vulcan selected was located in Wuhan,  China, the virus epicenter. The castings were poured and set in the factory yard to cool, but were stuck there for the next two months while Wuhan was on lock-down. 

“We were familiar with seasonal viruses originating in Asia before, so we initially thought this wouldn’t be a huge deal for us,” said Chris Ashley, co-founder, Vulcan Machine Co. “As the virus spread globally, locking down supply chains, we realized that we were definitely caught in the middle of this unprecedented pandemic and were essentially stuck. We communicated with our beta users to keep them informed, and used the time to further flesh out our go-to-market strategy and begin thinking of ways to help aid the response to coronavirus.” 

While waiting for their castings to arrive, the Vulcan team uncovered and pursued another major opportunity—sourcing PPE for front line workers-- which ultimately led them to start a new, independent company manufacturing facemasks in Virginia. Between launching their new CNC mill and becoming part of the U.S. supply chain for PPE, the Vulcan team is hard at work bringing manufacturing back to the U.S.

Read more about how Vulcan Machine Co successfully addressed the national need for PPE while launching their CNC milling machine in the September / October print issue of AMT News. 

Recent technology News
Digital twins steering innovation. Robot-Built homes. Pour some out... Welding metal foam with induction. AM personalities of 2023
With the spotlight on best picture nominee, “Oppenheimer,” in the run up to the Golden Globes, we took a closer look at how defense manufacturing is portrayed in the film.
We can make it greener! While it may be difficult to make big changes all at once, even just a few smarter choices can have worthwhile environmental benefits. In honor of Earth Day, here are some ways manufacturers can reduce their carbon footprint.
AMT member Hardinge Inc., a global provider of high-precision, computer-controlled machine tool and workholding solutions, will be reshoring its General Precision Turning and Milling production line from its Taiwan facility to Elmira, New York over the...
As you drive around town, you’ve probably noticed an increase in the number of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) on the road. Chances are you own one yourself. What is it about HEVs that is making them increasingly popular?
Similar News
By AMT | Jan 05, 2021

If you missed it, check out the IMTS spark interview with Jim King, President and COO, Okuma America Corp. He talked about a number of subjects, including the growth of transformative technologies, his expectations for rebuilding supply chains...

3 min
By Edward Christopher | Dec 15, 2020

Everyone reading this is all too aware of the challenges and required business adjustments that 2020, with its global pandemic, presented. Supply chains choked; travel restrictions limited customer sales and service visits; trade shows were canceled...

5 min
Featured Image
By Douglas K. Woods | Dec 15, 2020

Season’s greetings, and warm wishes to your family from ours at AMT! As we approach the full height of the holiday season, I want to express our gratitude and appreciation to you, our members. This year has shown the importance of community and...

2 min