This is a sort of sequel to the compressor post I did a few weeks back. Only this time there’s one big difference – this post is all positive as my new Tippmann Clicker 1500 Die Cutting Press arrived last week and it’s nothing but awesome! 🙂
I’ll talk more about what this machine is and what it can do a bit later on, but for now I want to share some valuable tips on shipping & transporting such heavy machines from the US.
Shipping Heavy Machinery
First off, this machine was manufactured and shipped from the US. As it’s a heavy piece of equipment (the total shipment weight was 340 kg), I was considering using sea freight to get it delivered BUT as I needed it quite urgently, I decided to go with air freight in the end, and it only took seven days to arrive.
Now, here’s a hot tip – if you need to import anything like this from the USA, shop around for prices!!! And don’t only compare quotes you get online/over the phone but bargain as well – and I mean bargain HARD!
In the end, it was a fight between TNT and DHL to deliver this to me and they basically placed counter offers to each other. DHL won (by some £30 or so) and the final price was almost 45% less than my initial quote. So with such large/expensive air freight shipments, it’s always worth it to negotiate the best possible rate DIRECTLY with the manager.
As this machine is so heavy, I knew that I’d need at least 4 men to move it around and place it on the special desk it came with. In such situations, you should always make sure you have arranged people to help you beforehand as courier company drivers are usually not very willing to help with any moving (they’re not really supposed to) plus in this case it wouldn’t have been enough anyway due to the extreme weight.
The machine itself was packaged very securely with metal straps on the pallet and there was also a wooden box (crate) around everything for extra protection. This is the typical packaging when you buy any kind of machines/equipment from China as well.
The set-up procedure was very straightforward with clear instructions and everything was installed and ready to go in less than one hour.
Now here is a picture of the famous compressor I was talking about in my previous post. It’s a giant compressor with 3 motors, a 100l reservoir and an output of 150 litres per minute. It weighs 100 kg, so it also required a 2 man team for lifting:
My 3 yr old son, Oliver, was used in the image just to show you the size of the compressor.
DO NOT LET CHILDREN come even close to this equipment!!!
The compressor’s specs are actually nothing to brag about – you can get a much smaller compressor with similar power BUT the key difference is that this is an ULTRA QUIET compressor with an operating sound level of just 43 decibels. To put that into context, 43 decibels is equivalent to a quiet conversation between two people. A normal air compressor’s sound level is around 70 decibels and anyone who owns a simple compressor will know how loud they are outdoors, never mind if used inside.
As we’re using this machine in our office/workshop/warehouse (same building, same floor), I really couldn’t use a standard compressor as the noise would be just unbearable.
The low noise feature comes at a price though – this compressor sells for £1000 while you could get the normal/loud version for around £200 – £300. Another “minus” is that you can’t run this compressor all the time as it would over-heat and basically switch off. It needs to be run 50/50 so half on half off to ensure it doesn’t overheat. This means – running it for 15 minutes and then leaving it off for 15 minutes to cool down. Or say 50 seconds on, 50 seconds off.
This isn’t really a problem for my use as the press can’t be operated fast enough that we’d need the compressor on all the time anyway. I can do 7-8 presses with the machine and only then compressor switches on for about 30-45 seconds to increase pressure back to 8 BAR level.
Okay, now before we go into detail on what this machine is all about AND more importantly, what YOU can take/learn from this, let me quickly touch on one very cool marketing strategy the company I bought this press from uses.
How to convert customers with FREE demo videos!
In the compressor buying article I already mentioned that UK companies could learn a LOT from US rivals in terms of marketing and customer service. I’m still waiting for those replies from the compressor companies I contacted but it’s not only about answering customer requests in a timely manner.
Many US based companies use LIVE CHAT on their websites! And as a customer, I simply LOVE when I can chat with a customer rep live, right on their website – especially when you’re dealing with an international seller as it wouldn’t be easy to call them.
So I don’t understand why so few UK companies offer this? And I mean companies who have PHONE support in place already! If you have people to take phone calls, why can’t they also attend to live chat requests? It’s beyond my understanding.
But I digress, as this is not actually what I wanted to talk about.
Although it is true that in a niche like this, the website design isn’t the most important factor, as these are highly technical products and the vast majority of customers will be businesses.
So discounting that, what really caught my attention was the FREE demo videos this company does for potential customers. The way it works is that you can send them your material and/or “die” (more on that later), and they will do a live video demonstration on how the machine works with your material and post it on YouTube:
And this is super powerful with a product like this! Not only does it resolve any uncertainty in customers’ minds about whether or not it will work, it also provides CONTENT that promotes the product and business on YouTube and Google. Think of all the traffic this will generate, simply by spending 2-3 minutes to get a video done.
If you check Tippmann’s YouTube channel you’ll see hundreds upon hundreds of videos! This is a massive traffic generator for them and the perfect marketing tool.
This strategy obviously won’t apply to every product but still, there are potentially many niches and products that could use the same or a similar strategy. Really any kind of product that is custom made, or uses different set-ups, would be perfect for this. Things like cutters, printing, painting etc. are ideal. It doesn’t have to be a pre-sale demonstration either, you can simply show the process used to make a custom product or show a product in use and use that for marketing.
I’ve always said how powerful video is (if a picture says a thousand words, then a video says a million) and I’ve always said how important it is to demonstrate a product, instead of just listing hundreds of boring specs.
This is really a perfect combination of that idea and will work in pretty much any niche.
E.g., if you sell a meat grinder and you know that a lot of customers ask whether or not it can be used on bones – make a video demonstrating that!
If you sell a flashing dog collar, shoot a video at night showing how visible it is.
Etc. etc.! Not only will these videos boost conversions, they’ll also attract more customers as well. A real win-win situation.
So what is this machine and how does it work?
It’s an air driven (pneumatic) press with a maximum force of 15 tons. When I say air driven, it means that this machine is powered by an air compressor and doesn’t use any electricity. It’s actually mechanically operated so there are no electric parts at all.
The price for this 15 ton version is $3000 but there’s also a smaller, 7 ton option available at a lower price. I also opted for the optional table on casters and air accumulator which speeds up the cutting process. The total cost to me was around $4000, + shipping of course.
The machine works together with “dies” (for cutting) and embossing tools/folders (for embossing).
The most popular die is called a “steel rule die” and it looks like this:
Basically it’s a custom made metallic cutting board which you put in the press, place your material on, and then this die cuts through the material creating whatever you want. It can be a box layout, specific shapes, round, square – whatever!
There are place that sell pre-made dies, like Accucut, and you can also get custom dies created specifically to your design. Tippmann and many other companies offer custom die service, including many UK based companies.
What kind of materials can you cut? To name a few:
- Thin plywood
- Thin plastics
Basically it should be able to handle any kind of material that is not too thick (hence why the YouTube demo videos are so important – people NEED to know whether or not this machine can cut the material they want).
Apart from cutting, you can also use this press to EMBOSS materials. Embossing means that you’re applying an “image” to material using an impression in the press.
Paper and leather are great examples of materials that can be embossed with many, many different uses! For example, you can manufacture high quality leather dog collars AND emboss the dog’s name on the collar, as an additional custom service. Imagine how good that would look!
Or say you’re manufacturing leather wallets, you would want to emboss your logo right on the wallet.
Or you’re manufacturing custom made cardboard boxes where your customers want to emboss their logos on the boxes.
Another feature/effect you can achieve with this machine is paper SCORING! Scoring (creasing) means that you create the “fold line” to fold the finished product. A good example would be cardboard boxes where you need to add “fold lines” in order to assemble the finished product.
And the good thing is that both the cutting and scoring can be done in one step! Your die will have cutting knifes for cut lines AND scoring blade for fold lines so you simply put the material in your press once and you end up with a completely ready to go, cut and scored box in a flat sheet.
I’ll personally mostly be using this machine to cut and emboss paper/card for my greeting card business but there are countless other business opportunities with something like this.
How to create a business using a machine like this?
This is ALL about manufacturing your own, unique products, ideally with low material costs and a decent final selling price so that you achieve much better margins than if just importing and reselling the same products everyone else does.
Obviously, this approach is more suitable for a “creative” type of person with some practical skills but if you stick with simple products, I believe that anyone can come up with some kind of business plan using this machine. That is if you’re interested in creating a manufacturing business in the first place!
Here are just a few examples of what you can create:
- Greeting cards
- Wedding favours (HUGE opportunities here!)
- Party bags
- Decorative wall clocks
- Leather belts
- Leather and fabric pouches, wallets
- Small hand bags
- Dog collars
- Cupcake wraps
Here’s a great video showing how to create dog collars using this press:
As I mentioned earlier, you could even emboss a name onto the collar as an extra service! As you can purchase embossing tools for the whole alphabet and then simply combine letters to get the word done.
If you have a sewing machine, especially a heavy duty leather sewing machine, leather products are a super big niche! Plus if you position your brand correctly, you can aim for the high-end market and sell your products for a premium price (the quality should support that of course).
Also, if you have a decent full colour laser printer, you can PRINT designs on to the material you cut & emboss:
- Thin plastics
The way this works is that you can have dies made with registration marks! This means that your material is secured and you can cut/score/emboss in the exact place that you want, following your design.
This means even personalised products can be cut with this press, like:
- Photo wall decals
- Phone skins
- Game console skins
- Laptop skins
- Window decals
- Van decals
- Corporate decals
- Full business stationery lines, business cards
- Door hangers
And if this all looks too complicated to you, you can do simpler products like:
- RM large letter cardboard boxes (just buy cardboard in bulk and manufacture these boxes).
- Craft shapes (from felt, fabric, paper)
- Coasters, tableware
- Business cards
- Jewellery boxes
- Leather dog collars
- Leather bracelets
- Decorations – Christmas, Halloween etc.
There are tons of opportunities, you just have to think outside the box for a second!
Really the only two things you have to keep in mind is that some materials can’t be cut with this press (hence why they over a free testing service) and that the cutting size is limited to 30 x 60 cm, so you won’t be able to cut large boxes for example.
Watch Tippmann’s YouTube channel – you can borrow many product ideas from the demo videos there. And you can also head to one of the many craft forums online to learn about all the different uses and opportunities when using a machine like this.
Okay, that’s all I wanted to share with you. I hope you’re enjoying these “off-topic” posts too as it may get a little boring to constantly read about eBay problems or importing from China.
I know that this kind of business concept won’t be suitable for everyone but it simply shows what’s out there and that it really is possible to become your own manufacturer.
And I do these posts for a reason – the majority of people simply don’t think that they can manufacture anything themselves, but that’s far from true! The thing is that such equipment is smaller and more affordable than ever nowadays! You don’t need to go on a course to operate these machines either, as they’re super simple to use.
And with new technology evolving, with 3D printers and laser cuter becoming more mainstream, there are lots of opportunities out there to build a business on eBay and beyond by manufacturing your own products!
I just hope you’re starting to see that.
All the best,