CNC machining is simpler than ever, but the costs associated with it prevent many part makers from choosing it for their production.
Truth be told, keeping machining costs low with all the equipment, machinery, and setup processes involved is increasingly difficult, but not necessarily impossible.
Below, we’ll share some useful tips on how to optimize your CNC production and make more economical choices that help cut project costs (without sacrificing quality in any aspect).
1. Choose Your Materials Wisely
This is one of the easiest ways to reduce your CNC machining production costs. When choosing which materials to buy, consider the nature of the project. Are you designing a crucial automotive part? If so, you will most likely require expensive materials like aluminum or polycarbonate. But if it’s a part of a less critical project, cheaper materials such as PVC plastic should work just fine.
You’ll also want to consider the machinability of parts—some plastics and metals require the operator to cut slower to avoid damage to the machine or the part itself. Other materials like polyurethane or wood are much easier—and cheaper—for CNC machines to work with.
Moreover, the availability of materials will influence whether they’re cheap or expensive to source. If they’re difficult to manufacture or require custom design, your material costs will rise.
2. Select the Right CNC Machine
The CNC machine you choose will have a major impact on your overall cost. For the more complex multi-axis machine varieties, you can expect to foot a hefty bill. On the other hand, three-axis CNC milling machines cost less and can handle most projects. Three-axis models are also easier to program, meaning you’ll also save time programming the device for milling.
Turning machines or CNC lathes can even be cheaper than three-axis varieties, but you’ll want to steer clear of these if your goal is to cut with precision and accuracy. Squickmon’s CNC cutting machines offer the best value in terms of saving users the hassle and costs associated with lower-quality equipment. Remember that cheaper alternatives lead to more replacement parts and repairs that will cost you far more down the road.
3. Reduce Design Complexity
As a rule of thumb, the more complex a design is, the more expensive the part machining process will be. Complex designs also require multiple setups, closer inceptions, and increased resources.
Design features that typically increase CNC machining costs include:
- Sharp internal corners
- Thin walls
- Non-standard hold geometries
- Deep cavities
See if you can avoid using these parts, as eliminating them can save time and money. Many such parts require fragile, specialized tools that can deteriorate during the milling process (as the tools have a limited cutting depth).
4. Manufacture in Bulk
Producing larger quantities is key to end-to-end cost savings. You can buy materials from wholesalers to reduce costs, as well as carry out nesting (where you cut several parts from the same raw materials). Plus, making multiples of the same part saves you from creating a new design each time. The cost of complicated features can also be slashed with multiple orders.
However, this doesn’t imply that you can’t achieve cost-efficient results with one-off projects. Even if you’re producing a single part, the versatility of CNC plasmas and machines will ensure your costs don’t spiral out of control. When manufacturing larger quantities, just a few more pieces are enough to reduce your per unit cost–no need to make thousands of the same part just to save money.
5. Consider Finishes and Treatments
CNC machines can produce much smoother surfaces than other manufacturing equipment. However, any appearance-altering or smoothing finishes will cost extra. So if the part is purely functional, you can reduce costs by accepting a component with a machined finish.
Deburring metal parts is a common practice in the CNC industry, but plastic CNC machined parts are generally used as is. It’s also worth mentioning that product designs for machined parts are drawn with corner radii in place and all corners chamfered—this helps to make the part smoother but often increases costs and machining time.
Treatments can also raise the cost of CNC production—chem film, anodizing and blacking all require additional processing that requires an investment. Here, operators should consider whether an alternative material can provide a more affordable solution when combined with the machining time.
Get the best bang for your buck with Squickmon’s
You now know where you can save money in CNC production—but never compromise on the quality of the core equipment. At Squickmon’s, we offer the best plasma CNC machines at the best price for everyone from designers and manufacturers to weekend warriors and garage shops. Call us today to learn more about your options—we even offer financing to qualified customers.
Even though CNC machining is easier than ever, many manufacturers of parts don’t use it because of the high expenses. Since there is so much gear, equipment, and setup work required, it is getting harder but not necessarily impossible to keep machining costs low. In this section, we’ll provide some helpful advice on how to improve your CNC production and make more cost-effective decisions that lower project expenses.