Home 9 CNC Machining 9 How Much Does CNC Milling Costs? Tips To Optimize Expense

How Much Does CNC Milling Costs? Tips To Optimize Expense

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

“CNC millings are standard tools that precisely carve, cut, and drill materials as per design requirements. It helps many industries, from aerospace to automotive, create parts for functional prototypes and interior to exterior part components.”

Computerized numerical control (CNC) milling has become the standard in the metalworking industry.  These machines are known to provide ease of machining different high-strength materials. CNC mills give more control over tooling to design parts with exact specifications. Even if your parts need tight tolerances down to 0.005, these machines are indispensable tools to achieve such demanding tolerances. 

Specific determinants need to be considered regarding CNC milling prices. These include part designs, machine size, material type, overhead costs, surface finishing requirements, and hourly costs. On average, standard CNC mills cost about $75 – $150. This article guides you through potential costs related to CNC milling and emphasizes tactics to reduce upfront costs by eliminating extras. 


What is CNC Milling?

CNC Milling

CNC milling is a convenient machine that operates automatically. These machines are relatively fast and produce parts with high repeatability. In the process, predetermined part geometry is virtually configured on AutoCAD and Solidworks software. These machines have subtractive manufacturing techniques appropriate for symmetrical shapes, thin walls, cylindrical, shaped, angled, curved, and contours parts. Moreover, It can precisely machine around every material, from plastic polymers to exotic metals. Compared to 3D printing and injection molding, parts can be made with fast turnaround with relative ease through CNC milling. These machines have versatile benefits. For example, it accommodates users in several ways including; low-cost machining, fast assembly, parts created with zero defects, and low energy on parts manufacturing. 

A survey was conducted in 2021. According to some resources, 70% of people worldwide use CNC milling to customize products like ornaments, tools, and instruments. 


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How much does CNC Milling Cost?

These machines use path tools to rotate along the axis of the part being machined. CNC millings are meticulous in designing 3D objects. This method is appropriate for flat metal sheets. It accommodates several processes, including CNC laser cutting, plasma cutting, waterjet cutting, and EDM machining. Usually, CNC cutting services globally costs around $60 to $125 per hour. However, the associated costs depend upon various factors. For instance, the material used, CNC programming, part geometry, and tool. Usually, cemented-coated carbide tools are used in part creation, which costs more than standard steel tools. The cost per hour is different from place to region. Generally, the average CNC milling price per hour in the UK ranges between £40 and £60. 


How Does Material Choice Impact the Cost of CNC Milling?

The choice of raw materials significantly impacts the price of CNC machining. These upfront costs can not be compromised but can be optimized in several ways. For instance, a better CAD design and tighter tolerance geometries for part manufacturing can significantly reduce the machining cost.  

Besides these, material machinability also significantly influences cost. Metals like titanium, stainless steel, and aluminum cost more due to their strength and ease of machining. In contrast, plastic materials are great for scale economy. These materials usually come in the form of sheets and blocks of sizes about 6″ x 6″ x 1″.

Table: Costs per block/sheets of metals & Plastics

Metals Costs/block Plastics Costs/block
Stainless Steel 304 $90 ABS $17
Aluminum 7075 $80 Derlin or acetal $27
Aluminum 6061 $25 Nylon 6 $30


How Does the Type of CNC Milling Machine Affect the Cost?

5-axis CNC machine

CNC Milling machines facilitate various types of axes machines to carve parts into desired shapes. 3-axis, 4-axis, and 5-axis machines are commonly used per parts specification requirements. The simpler design parts can be machined through 3-axis or 4-axis machines. Meanwhile, more delicate feature parts are machined using 5-axis CNC milling machines. More axes and complexities in design add more time to process, thus increasing CNC machining costs. Let’s analyze costs per hour for these aforementioned techniques.

Table: Approx. Costs per hour of CNC milling machines

Machine Type Costs/hr
3-axis or 4-axis CNC machining $80, including labor salary
5-axis CNC machining $200, including labor salary


How Does Part Geometry Influences The CNC Milling Price?

The dimensions of parts also impact the CNC Machining Price. It’s a simple rule of thumb: complex shape parts require more tooling and time to machine, hence adding an extra cost on machining because of more energy utilization. Further, it acquires more skilled operators to shape parts with dimensional stability, thus increasing per-hour wage. On the other hand, parts having simple designs can be brought to market in less time, and at an affordable budget. Therefore, try eliminating extra features from predetermined designs to make workflow more cost-effective and efficient.


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What are the Additional Factors Contributing to the Cost of CNC Milling?

There are various other factors to consider in the CNC milling process. These factors also added some extra expense to the actual budget. Therefore, facilities should be selective. These include;

1. Machine Size

Various variations in CNC milling machine sizes are used to manufacture parts from smaller to large dimensions. For more detailed parts, facilities need to acquire more sophisticated machines, which adds additional charges. 

2. Cutting Tolerance

The more detailed parts with tighter tolerance require top-quality CNC precision machines to obtain desired specifications. Therefore, more detailed components impact the overall financial outlay of the project. 

3. Milling Time

Machines requiring robotic systems to produce parts fastly require more initial investment in setup. However, modern CNC machines have robotic arms to manufacture large volumes in short lead times. Thus, overall, milling time inversely impacts the CNC milling price.

4. Part Quantity

CNC machines are normally considered economical options when utilized for bulk volumes. Although costs around large orders are relatively high, the per-part cost is more reasonable than manufacturing parts in small volumes. 

5. Labor Cost

The primary objective of integrating modern CNC milling machines is to reduce or minimize labor costs on projects. On average, the hourly wage of an operator is about $40 to $50. The upfront cost eventually increases with the part challenging to machine. Because facilities may acquire highly experienced professionals for the job. Companies mostly hire trained personnel for each project. While some companies usually have experienced machinists on a monthly salary. 

6. Custom CNC Milling

As the name implies, custom manufacturing parts require particular or non-standard tools and materials. Because of their personalized needs, these projects are prized more than standard product development projects.


What are the Tips to Reduce CNC Milling Costs?

However, several variables must be considered for the successful implementation of a CNC milling project. In light of that, here are some useful tips for optimizing your CNC milling price. 

  • Try to avoid deep pockets during part manufacturing. These pockets cause various problems, such as faster tool wear, deflection, chip retrieval, etc.
  • Unnecessary tolerances in design lead to additional costs on the budget. Therefore, if design allows, try to widen it to the possible machining tolerance requirement.
  • In CNC milling, the post-processes greatly impact the project’s intended budget. More product finishes require more process steps and labor. Therefore, minimizing after-production processes is essential for scale-economy production.
  • Not every CNC machining (milling) facility deploys on-site machining. In this aspect, outsourcing your CNC project can be a convenient option to eliminate overhead costs on projects.
  • Using cheaper materials in product development is advantageous. Generally, a single block of stainless steel 304 costs $90, while an engineered plastic ABS costs $17 per block. Therefore, shifting to cheaper material options can result in more economical part manufacturing. 


Consult Pro Lean For Optimizing Your CNC Milling Budget

Our in-house facility is equipped with advanced technology. Our engineers help customers from the design phase to the final production. Our technical experts with more than a decade of experience help you make convenient material choices to avoid any unnecessary implications on your budget.  We provide top-quality CNC machining services from a wide range of materials. Whether you need metals or plastic for your manufacturing project, we are a one-stop solution to meet all your requirements within your constrained budget. Contact us now and get your obligatory CNC quote!


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Summing Up

CNC milling machines have become indispensable for manufacturing many industrial tools and equipment. However, multiple determinants influence the machining costs. For instance, part complexity, material used, machining type, and additional processes like machining size and quantity required. These factors combined decide the financial outlay of upfront CNC milling prices. Manufacturing facilities must strike a balance to avoid unnecessary expenses impacting the financial budget. Moreover, this article provides key information on factors influencing CNC milling prices and their counterparts to optimize them for an economical production of parts manufacturing. 



Q1. CNC Milling Vs. CNC drilling: Which one is more expensive?

Typically, CNC mills are frequently expensive because of their more moving parts. Moreover, initial setup and maintenance costs are higher than standard lathes, and drilling machines.

Q2. How much does a standard milling machine cost?

A standard milling machine comes in two variants.; such as more straightforward and complex CNC milling machines. For simple designs, the cost typically ranges from $50 to $100. More intricate parts machines are made through modern machining, so costs might range from $100 to $200. 

Q3. What are the common defects in parts caused by CNC milling machines?

These machines can leave dents on the surface of parts after machining. Moreover, surface variations, burn marks, and burrs are the most common issues caused by CNC milling machines.

Q4. Name some tools used in CNC milling operations?

Here are some tools for designing, cutting, and drilling holes in parts. For example; End Mills, fly cutters, face mills, reamers, gears, chamfer mills, and drill bits.

Q5. Can CNC milling machines create prototypes?

CNC milling machines are a subtractive manufacturing technique that helps shape CNC-milled prototypes of varying designs. These prototypes are massively used in testing and product development. Moreover, from automotive to aerospace, they enhance the aesthetics and functional performance of components.


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