By Margaret Jackson | Mar 06, 2023
CNC machining services
Since Gatrell went to work for a plastics manufacturing company right out of high school, he's been itching to create things that other people can't figure out how to do.
Over the years, he worked for several companies as he figured out what he liked and didn't like to do. He honed his skills at each company he worked for, but found that they wouldn't listen to his ideas for how to do things differently.
"I started leaning more toward the design of things and how they're made," says Gatrell. "I don't like to be told what to do -- I like to do my own thing -- so I wanted my own saw."
One day on his lunch break, Gatrell bought his own CNC machine off an auction site and shortly after, he started No Limits MFG & Design.
"We're learning it's really hard to run a company," he says. "It's not as easy as it looks."
Today, No Limits has two CNC routers it tries to keep running in its 2,000-square-foot shop. The company operates on a just-in-time manufacturing model, which means it doesn't keep most materials in stock.
No Limits specializes in making products from wood, plastics, and composites with a bit of aluminum sprinkled in. It makes accessories for vape pens, cabinets, guitars, decorative parts, children's furniture, and storefront signs -- "stuff you can design and sell," Gatrell says.
"Many of our customers don't know who to go from the kitchen table to the production floor," Gatrell says. "We'll sit down with them, talk it through and model it. That's one of the biggest hurdles -- how to execute. We offer that help as well."
The company recently started working with a snowboard manufacturer to create the mold to press the boards. It's also made three or four molds for Snurfer, a Utah-based manufacturer of "snow surfer" boards.
No Limits is a lean operation, with Duncan Gatrell focusing on manufacturing and design, and his wife, Annie, handling the books and front-office functions.
Challenges: Shipping large products like those made by No Limits is expensive, so the company has to find local clients who have ideas they want turned into products and brought to market.
"We don't have one product that we make," Gatrell says. "Our product is the CNC service. You're selling people with ideas for the design and manufacturing service."
Opportunities: E-commerce is a big opportunity for No Limits. Gatrell peruses websites like Etsy and Pinterest to find people who may have products he could make for them more efficiently than they can do it themselves.
"That's a fairly good opportunity to expand," he says. "I compare it to the gold rush of the 1800s -- I want to be the guy who sells the shovel, not the gold. I'm trying to find the product and make it for them."
Needs: Gatrell blames President Joe Biden for the high cost of materials and wants to see a new administration bring them back under control. "Since Biden has taken office, the cost of materials has more than doubled. Gas prices have doubled. Everybody is paying more for things," he says. "I can't just add 150 percent to my products. I'm paying more for material and losing in my profit."