Helps Arsenal Products Start a Precision Machining Business

The Business Challenge

Chris Swaim founded Arsenal Products, based in Austin, Texas, several years ago as a medical device consulting firm. Using his background in mechanical engineering, he assisted research and development (R&D) teams in early-stage device development, often taking responsibility for a specific component. He would send his designs to outside machine shops for manufacture, but soon saw this step as a business opportunity for his one-person company. He could create a new revenue stream by doing the machining himself. At first, he leased machine time at a local shop to manufacture the components he designed. The venture proved personally satisfying and demonstrated precision machining was a good source of additional revenue for the firm. Chris wanted to expand the precision machine shop side of his business.

The Solution

The machine shop manager where Chris leased machine time told him about, an online manufacturing marketplace that brings buyers and suppliers together. Chris reviewed the website and opened an account in February 2016. After training by’s customer support group, he started using the platform to bring in CNC machining work.

The Results

Chris found that offered a large array of job opportunities, and he successfully bid on many. Satisfied buyers sent him follow-on work. The resultant revenue enabled him to buy his own machine, open a machine shop on his firm’s premises and hire his first employee – all within six months.

Today, Arsenal Products offers precision CNC machined components using all types of standard and exotic materials. He offers machining services using five different vertical CNC mills and two CNC lathes. The shop offers TIG welding as well. Arsenal’s business philosophy centers on quick quotes, rapid turnaround times, fair prices and high-quality components and services. Arsenal is noted for its “concept to reality” approach to manufacturing, offering services ranging from early-stage concept development and prototype testing to tooling, automation development and component inspection and refinement.

Chris credits’s customer support group and the platform’s tool – ShopIQ – with his success. He relates, “I don’t think I would have ever won a job on if it wasn’t for ShopIQ. The shop hourly rate I was bidding was much higher than the rate successful bidders were offering. Having this kind of feedback helped me figure out a competitive shop rate for Arsenal Products. While it was difficult to do work at this reduced rate initially, it helped me win jobs and establish a reputation with buyers in the marketplace. Without ShopIQ, I always would have been overbidding and never known it.”

“When it comes to overseas suppliers, I know I can’t even come close,” says Chris. “I may pay $12 just for the material per part, and they quote $10 per part. So, I also use the ShopIQ data to see where a buyer is awarding work. If most work goes to Asian suppliers, there is no room for me to compete. So, I save time and increase my chances for success by being selective in the quotes I prepare and submit.”

Chris is very pleased with and supports the innovations launched recently such as ShopIQ, supplier location verification and buyer reputation scorecards. Collectively, these improvements have added transparency and boosted confidence in the platform. When asked if he would turn to again for business startup and growth, his answer was a resounding yes: “It helped me start a successful American manufacturing business in six months. I think that says it all.”


"[] helped me start a successful American manufacturing business in six months. I think that says it all."

Chris Swaim
Aresenal Products


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