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CNC Machining Cost Optimizing Strategies

Published on: 2024-05-06
Categories: CNC Machining

“CNC machining is a core process in every plastic fabrication, from metals to plastic materials. From using raw materials to manufacturing end-use products, it’s crucial to understand the financial implications of the process deeply.”

Before commencing a CNC machining project, facilities must have complete familiarization with all financial implications associated. Usually, three factors directly influence the overall budget: part specifications, the material used, and production volume. Product manufacturers must closely monitor the final price of CNC machining projects for reliable customer and supplier relations. The intentional CNC machining prices may vary from country to country. For example, the hourly wage in China is approx. Around $10 – $20, while in the US, the cost increases to approximately $30. 

This post helps you reduce and trim unnecessary CNC machining prices. Moreover, it enables you to reduce complexities and make financial and logistical decisions that fit your manufacturing budget.


An Overview Of CNC Machining

Precision CNC machining

Accuracy and precision are popular features of a CNC machine. It helps design many industrial tools, parts, and prototypes for functionality testing. CNC Machining has multiple variations, including milling, drilling, lathes, routers, plasma, and laser cutters. In addition, advanced techniques like CNC Swiss and grinding machines are utilized for specialized projects. 

It removes material flawlessly and converts virtually curated 2D & 3D prints to intended geometrical shapes. Moreover, without impacting their chemical states, it can machine exotic materials like metals, plastics, composites, thermosets, and ceramics. However, the upfront CNC machining prices are challenging to define in one way, as specific determinants come this way. It may be around $100 or even more than $1000, depending on the shape, part complexity, surface finishing, and more. Around every industry, from automotive to aerospace, exploits in on-demanding, precision projects. Further, automation has revolutionized CNC machining for precise control over motor speed, rotation axis, and direction. 

Standard CNC machining comes in various types, such as 3, 4, and 5-axis for more complex design configurations. It helps subtract material to shape parts according to a predesigned configuration guided through CAD-designed g-codes.


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How To Calculate The Costs of CNC Machining?

There are various factors to consider when correctly analyzing CNC machining costs. These upfront cost factors include material costs, the required volume, hourly labor wage, CNC machining type, precision acquired, automation setup, tool changeover, and maintenance of machines. On an hourly basis, the average price per hour labor cost in Europe is around $35 to $150 depending upon the material to part intricacies. The automatic machines, impeded with G-codes and M-codes, cost around 100$ for prototype manufacturing. 

Therefore, there is no specific rule for calculating the actual costs. However, manufacturing companies calculate CNC machining prices by adding raw material costs + machining costs + post-processing cost + overhead cost by adding the total sum to the profit margin. This formula determines the potential for project loss and gain. 


Factors Affecting The Costs of CNC Machining

There are multiple factors contributing to CNC machining prices. Some of the commonest determinants in costing analysis include ;

1. CNC Programming

CNC Machining Programming

All agendas for CNC machining prices start with CNC programming. Some companies prefer to hire programmers per project, while other companies hire on a monthly wage. The design complexity primarily decides the salary of a CNC programmer. A CNC programmer’s average salary ranges between $27 and $30 per hour. The CAD professionals usually charge about $60,000 to $70,000, an average annual income. 

2. CNC Machining & Equipment Costs

CNC Machining Tool

The actual CNC Machining Price varies from type to type. Typically, CNC machining deploys multiple techniques, for instance, generally deployed by CNC lathes and CNC mills. The cost-per-hour analysis is described below;

  • 3-axis CNC milling prices and drilling costs about $30 to $200 per hour, including labor costs; CNC milling is typically more expensive than CNC drilling; further, the cost of 3-axis turning, in general, is around $20 because of its more straightforward operation. The more-axis machines, for instance, 4—and 5-axis machines, pose more cost due to handling and complicated machining. Due to part intricacies, the typical price ranges from $45 to $50 or even higher. 
  • CNC lathe machines generally cost around $15 per hour. Because they have fewer moving parts, lathes are more straightforward to machine. 
  • CNC routers come in three main variations. First, entry-level CNC routers cost as low as $1000 to $3000. Second, desktop CNC routers are typically priced from $1000 to $10,000. The third one is a high-end CNC router, usually costing $150,000.

For more straightforward design specifications, manufacturers mostly employ 3-axis and 4-axis machines for their economic viability or affordable CNC mill. Further, parts with more detailed features can be shaped by 5-axis machines. The time needed to machine the intended parts also significantly impacts the cost. More complex shapes require more time to machine; simpler designs require minimum time. Moreover, the selection of tooling also affects the price. For instance, coated cemented carbide tools are far more expensive than steel tools, thus adding more costs. 

3. Material Type & Machinability

Standard CNC machines accommodate various materials in machining, from metals and plastics to composites. Typically, brass, copper, cast iron, stainless steel, and aluminum alloys are used in parts making. Aluminum and steel are popular choices for manufacturing sophisticated prototypes. The CNC prototyping costs depend on their specifications and geometrical layout. These materials possess exceptional machinability. Therefore, a minimum type of design is required for prototypes or mass-produced parts. 

Alongside, various plastics include ABS, Delrin, Nylon, and Polypropylene. These materials come in the form of sheets and blocks, respectively. Metal sheet blocks about 6 X 6 X 1 are generally utilized for parts machining. The approximation costs per block of metal to machine through CNC machining are given below;

  • Aluminum grade 6061: 25$
  • Aluminum 7075: 85$ per block of sheet
  • Stainless steel grade 304: 90$ to 100$

Plastic CNC machining costs between $5 and $10 per hour. From a time perspective, plastics usually take less machining time than high-strength metals. The optimal choice of plastic materials depends on several variants: the billet size, quality, and required strength. Here’s an analysis of some plastics’ costs per block to machine through CNC machining.

  • ABS, the typical cost rate per block is about $17.
  • Derlin or acetal blocks cost around $27.
  • Nylon 6 per block cost is 30$. 

4. Part Complexity & Specifications

Prototype CNC Machining

The most critical aspect of CNC machining prices is meeting exact part specifications. You can not machine all parts using the same approach. Delicate feature parts require more time to machine instead of simpler ones. Ultimately adds more costs to the process. Further, complex designs require multiple machining approaches to obtain exacting features. Further, prototype design for medical, aerospace, and automotive parts needs more attention to detail, thus adding an extra cost to CNC machining. 

Moreover, required tooling, assembly lines, fixtures, and scrap management also affect the CNC machining price. More complex feature parts require more operator expertise to achieve the desired outcome. 

5. Production Volume

The volume of production is another facet of scale economy and logistics. The impact is inverse. The larger the volume of parts, the smaller the amortized costs to the machine per part. Conversely, for minor order costs, the part per expense is higher. Therefore, CNC machining shops must strike the right balance to optimize financial outlay for an economical production volume. 

6. Surface Finishing Operations

Parts created through different CNC machinings require a smooth finish for end use. This is why manufacturers employ machined or bead blasting to get a high-quality finished product. These operations often require consumables and expert personnel to carry out. Therefore, they add extra time to machining, impacting the overall CNC machining price. 


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Choose Prolean For Cost Optimization For Your CNC Machining Project

At ProLean, we provide the best in-house CNC Machining Services at an affordable budget. Our facility offers great flexibility in material selection and machining operation. From large-volume parts manufacturing to low-volume prototypes, we will provide best-in-class manufacturing services. Here, our professional engineers analyze your design to address the initial uncertainties and help you optimize your project for cost-efficient production. 

Moreover, you will get a straightforward approach to our finishing operations without compromising quality, all while within your budget and shorter time leads.

Contact us now and get your CNC quote!


Summing Up

While CNC machining has become a standard manufacturing process for designing prototypes to produce parts in large volumes, balancing costs is quite crucial.  Various factors must be optimized to control substantial increases in the financial budget. Thereby, manufacturers must count on cost-intensive CNC machining. For instance, ordering multiple parts can benefit around 80% of the scale economy. Moreover, besides machining, considering additional factors like timing, shipping, and optimizing the design of manufacturability can help reduce and optimize CNC machining projects.



Q1. What are the main considerations when deciding on the type of machine?

While various factors must be considered in machining choice, it mainly depends upon the level of precision and the cost per hour. 

Q2. What are some additional costs associated with CNC machining?

The financial outlay depends not only upon machining types but also on additional cost factors that contribute to the overall project budget. These include timing, shipment costs, rigging, tooling lubricants, and consumables. Therefore, it’s critical to define the exact machining costs by only considering a few aspects of the process. 

Q3. What are the tips to reduce the costs of CNC machining?

Here are some general tips to reduce the cost of CNC machining; 

  • Optimizing CAD design by removing unnecessary features
  • Explore more compatible material alternatives
  • Order parts in bulk volumes
  • Avoid multiple finishes 
  • Get an initial analysis from experts
  • Seek valid and certified vendors when outsourcing your CNC machining project.
  • Overall, look at your financial budget 

Q4: Which process is more expensive? CNC machining or 3D printing.

Although both operations are ideal for prototype development and are widely adopted globally, 3D printing is notably cheaper for small-volume parts, while CNC machining is effective for large-volume runs. However, per-unit costs vary slightly.


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