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Sep 19,2022
CNC machining remains one of the most cost-effective methods for on-demand production to date despite advancements in technologies like 3D printing. You cannot undermine its usefulness in machining materials like metals. However, a few clients could find CNC machining cost calculation quite difficult due to the involvement of various factors.

Do you belong to the category mentioned above? This article will demystify the factors that machine shops consider before determining the costs. It will also give useful tips on how to reduce these costs to suit your budget. Read on to the end to find out more about these useful tips.

What Determines CNC Machining Cost?
Before you can understand how to reduce your CNC machining cost, you must understand the different factors that contribute to the prices. Below are a few factors machinists consider in their CNC machining cost calculation:

1. Material
This is a very important factor that machinists consider when doing the CNC machining cost calculation. As CNC machining is a subtractive process, it tends to use more material than what will be on the final product. Machinists buy these materials in blocks, and they calculate the prices per block. The two types of materials used mostly in CNC machining are metals and plastics. Let’s take a closer look at both of them:

– Metals
The common types of metals used in CNC machining include Aluminium 6061, Stainless Steel 303, and Brass C360. Machinists use aluminum 6061 the most due to its blend of economical price and good machinability. Stainless Steel 303 and Brass C360 offer a higher degree of machinability and cost more as a result. You can use our quoting platform to know more about how we factor material costs into your CNC costs.

– Plastics
Plastics are cheaper to use for CNC machining due to the lower average price for the bulk materials and the shorter machining times due to their lower hardness. Plastics like ABS, Nylon 6, and POM (Delrin) have approximately the same bulk costs as Aluminium 6061, although they might cost a little higher per block. Plastics like PEEK are really expensive and should only be used when absolutely necessary.

2. Machining Cost
The machining cost depends on the type of machine. The two main types of machines used in CNC machining are mainly: 3-axis machines and multi-axis machines. In Europe, the 3-axis machines cost around $35-$40 per hour while the multi-axis machines cost around $75-$120 per hour. 

Machining costs also depend on two factors: the price of the machine and the number of hours the machine is expected to operate in a year (which is 5000 hours on average). The machinists divide the machine’s price by the number of hours it will operate in a year to determine their machine shop rates (also known as the machining cost per hour).

Some clients also use machining cost estimator apps to estimate the cost for their projects. At Rs Electro, we have an instant quoting platform which has this function. With our machining quote calculator, you can get your quotation in a few minutes.

3. Labor
Due to a large amount of automation involved in the CNC machining process, you do not have to pay for a large number of staff members. The main labor costs are for design and digitalization. The labor costs for CNC manufacturing processes are mainly divided into three:

– Programming
This part of the labor costs is the most expensive because it involves design and digitalization costs. You need to outsource your product for a designer to make into a CAD file. You can bypass this by doing it yourself. Next is the manufacturing engineer who checks your design for reproducibility and gives suggestions on making it better. The last person is the programmer who converts the CAD file into a CAM file to help the CNC machine understand the design. All this expertise will come at a price.

– Set up
This part involves the machine operator. He spends time setting up the machine for a custom CNC job and making sure that everything is performed in a manner that results in a great result. The cost of setup depends on the quantity of the parts to be produced. For bulk parts production, the cost per part is lower as it spreads over the larger number of parts.

– Post-processing
After production, your production will require some assembly and transportation to your desired location. These processes will involve some manual labor which incurs additional costs.

4. Others
Some other additional costs involved in CNC machining include:

– Tooling
Some custom CNC fabrications might require the machine shop to purchase special tools bits for its production. Although the tool bits will stay in the machine shop after production, you might have to pay a part of the machine costs. This is because the tool could wear during production, especially if the raw material has a high level of hardness.

– Surface Finish
Surface finishes improve the appearance and resistance of CNC machined parts to harsh environments. Although they are advantageous, they increase the machining costs.

All these factors are considered when processing CNC machine cost calculations. To know how you can further reduce these costs, you should see the next section.

You can watch this video to learn some tips to reduce CNC machining costs:

How to Reduce CNC Machining Cost
Most times, after estimating CNC machining cost calculations, CNC machining could cost clients a little bit on the high side, especially if they do not make huge quantities of products. Here are a few ways you can adjust CNC machining costs to fit your budget:

1. Reconsider Material
The material you’ll use for your product is a huge determinant in CNC machining costs. You should consider the price of the material before choosing it for the production process. Also, the machinability of the material is very important. This determines the machining time, which in turn, affects the CNC machine shop hourly rates for your production process.

 2. Optimize Design
The design for the manufacturing process is also a very important factor in CNC machining cost calculation. The complexity of your design determines the length of the machining times, which, in turn, affects the costs. To minimize the complexity of your design, you can consider the following questions before sending the design for quoting:

Is my part optimized using the Designing for Machinability guidelines?

Are all features in my model necessary? Can I remove or simplify any of them and still retain the full functionality of my part?

Can my design be split into multiple parts that are easier to CNC machine and then assembled?

Is there a way to modify my design to eliminate the need for multiple machine setups or special tooling?

Is there a less expensive or easier-to-machine material that can fulfill my design requirements?

If you want to get professional design recommendations, Rs Electro is your choice. We have a team of 150 engineers ready to help with any part of your production process. Feel free to contact us.

3. Outsource Your Need
Outsourcing your project is another great way you can get to minimize your CNC machining costs. However, outsourcing projects to CNC machining companies in developed countries is extremely expensive. Companies in China, on the other hand, offer quite cheaper prices with just the same level of quality. We compiled a range of prices in the two regions below:

–      Price in Developed Countries
European CNC machining prices are generally higher due to the higher standards of living in these parts. Their prices generally range from $35 – $40 per hour for 3-axis machines while multi-axis machines cost $75 – $120 per hour.