7 Ways to Reduce CNC Machining Costs

Learn how to reduce CNC machining costs without sacrificing your part's quality.
CNC machining is an invaluable manufacturing process for creating precise and complex parts. One of the main benefits is that this technology can be very cost-efficient, especially when the right strategies are deployed to keep those costs down. This article will show how to reduce costs while fulfilling your part’s functional requirements. At MakerVerse, we work with companies of all sizes to help them reliably source CNC machined parts. These insights come from extensive cooperation with our customers and long experience in manufacturing. Let’s get started with the different ways to reduce CNC machining costs.

1. Standardize Whenever Possible

Using widely available materials and off-the-shelf parts gives you the benefits of mass production, even in small-batch production.
  • Some of the other benefits of using standard components include:
  • Simplified inventory management
  • Easier purchasing
  • Avoiding tooling and equipment investments
  • Faster manufacturing cycles

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2. Simplify Product Designs

When ordering several similar items, having identical sides and parts with multiple uses will be the least expensive. Standardizing designs will provide economies of scale for production, simplify manufacturing processes, and reduce the investment needed for tooling and equipment.

3. Design for the Most Cost-Effective Manufacturing Process

Each manufacturing technology has its advantages and disadvantages. During the design phase, you can utilize these advantages to reduce costs. Smart designers will learn the unique characteristics of each manufacturing process and then take advantage of them. Choose the most cost-effective option if your design is manufacturable via multiple technologies. The different CNC technologies, from most cost-effective to least, are:
  • Laser cutting
  • Turning
  • Milling 3-Axis
  • Turn-milling
  • Milling 5-Axis
The expected production level is an essential consideration in the design, as specific manufacturing processes are better suited for small-batch or large-scale production. 3D printing, for example, is usually best for low batch sizes (<10), while injection molding can be best for large batch sizes (>1,000).

4. Be Liberal with Tolerances

The extra costs associated with too-tight tolerances are well documented but worth repeating. The higher costs of tight tolerances stem from:
  • Extra operations, such as grinding or polishing after primary machining operations
  • Higher tooling costs stemming from the greater precision needed when making tools, plus more frequent maintenance needs as they wear
  • Longer operating cycles
  • Higher scrap and rework costs (See below chart)
  • The need for more skilled and highly trained workers
  • Higher materials costs
  • More sizable investments are needed for precision equipment

5. Choose the Right Material

The MakerVerse platform offers over 100 CNC machining materials, including various polymers and metals. Each material has its uses, so it’s crucial to select the best material that delivers performance with cost. There’s no single material that’s best for saving money. In the long run, the most economical material that meets the part’s specifications while offering the lowest combined cost of materials, processing, and service costs over the product’s lifespan.

6. Avoid Secondary Operations

The different operations associated with CNC machining can drive up costs. That’s why it’s always best to design your part to avoid secondary operations as much as possible. Things like deburring, inspection, plating, painting, heat treating, material handling, and others can add up to more than the main manufacturing cost. Therefore, these processes should always be considered in the design phase.

7. Work with the Right Manufacturing Team

Teamwork is essential in any line of work, and that’s especially true for manufacturing. Work with the manufacturer and ask if you have any doubts about the design. After all, getting the design wrong adds to costs. Similarly, let the manufacturing team focus on what they do best. On drawings, specify only the final characteristics needed; do not specify the process. Allow manufacturing engineers as much latitude as possible in choosing a process that produces the required dimensions, surface finish, or other required characteristics. With MakerVerse, our design and engineering experts check the manufacturability of your design. After, a fully-vetted supply chain ensures you get the high-quality parts you need. For sophisticated production orders, experts will work with you to develop, align, and supervise a manufacturing and quality plan from start to finish – keeping you updated at every step.