CNC (computer numerically controlled) machining is a digital manufacturing process used to produce high precision parts from a CAD file. CNC machining is one of the most cost-effective methods of on-demand manufacturing to produce accurate parts, particularly various types of metal parts, with excellent physical properties. Although this method of part production has been around for a while, advancements in technology have reduced CNC machining costs to become further accessible to manufacturers.
CNC Machining Cost Considerations
When designing parts, manufacturing engineers should understand the various CNC machining cost considerations. Knowing the most important factors that impact prices and optimizing the part design accordingly can help significantly reduce CNC machining costs. CNC machine shops base production costs on the following considerations:
- Part Features
- Part Finish
Machines used in CNC machine shops include mills and lathes; as 3-axis and 5-axis milling machines allow for tight tolerance and complex geometries. CNC machining costs depend on the type of machine required and the number of hours projected for production or machine time. Machine time on a 5-axis machine will be more than a 3-axis machine, and a CNC lathe is typically less than that. Machine time rate does not include labor.
CNC machines run automatically once set up with little intervention required, although an experienced CNC machinist will need to set up the machine, cut and load tools. The cost of labor includes programming, machinist time, quality control and any post-processing labor such as surface finish procedures and assembly. A CNC programmer will also work to convert the CAD file to a CAM file, with AutoCAM technology helping to design the workpath of the machine.
CNC machining labor costs can be more expensive up front with programming and set up, although these expenses are often offset with high-volume production and developments in CAD/CAM software.
The material used will be a major factor to determining CNC machining costs. The type of material chosen will depend on the part function, design and machinability. The most common materials used for CNC machining include stainless steel and aluminum, although sometimes plastics can be machined as well. Stainless steel is often the most costliest material, as it can provide greater durability and corrosion resistance. Aluminum can also be a good choice to check geometries on prototype parts before moving to steel for production, or for parts that do not require the durability of stainless steel.
Various grades of aluminum can range from about $1.50-$2.65/lb, while stainless steel may run closer to $1.60-$1.75/lb. Plastics like ABS can be less expensive at around $1.35-$1.55/lb, while Nylon 6 can be double the price, nearing $2.50-$2.80/lb. Commodity prices are expected to fluctuate at their current market rates.
Parts with complex geometries require time to program, set up and more machine run time as they may require multiple setups and specialized tools. The complexity of a part can also increase final CNC machining costs. A good CNC machine shop with experience in complex part production can offer the best price when it comes to tight tolerance parts.
Part surface finishes provide a smoother outer surface, wear resistance, and remove roughness or tool marks. Creating various finishes can be achieved with bead blasting or anodizing, although can add to the final cost of the manufactured part. An experienced machine shop will help you determine the optimal surface finish for parts based on part function.
Precision CNC Machining in Dallas, Texas
QT Manufacturing is your one stop for domestic part manufacturing with turnkey solutions to take your part production to the next level. Our CNC machine shop offers part design, quick prototyping and full volume production. We offer extensive experience in producing tight tolerance, complex parts to meet all machining requirements. Our capabilities include the latest in CAD/CAM software, 3- to 5- axis CNC machines with 24-hour production capabilities, expert engineers, and tight quality control procedures. Post production surface finish options and light assembly is also provided as your valued-added partner.
QT Manufacturing is a leading domestic manufacturer with CNC precision machining, plastic injection molding, and mold making capabilities. We are ISO:9001 and AS9100 rev D certified, serving a wide range of industries. Contact us to learn more about our production capabilities and for the best available CNC machining costs in Dallas, TX.