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Engineering design tips to reduce CNC machining costs

How to Reduce the Cost of Your
CNC Machining Project

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CNC machining is widely employed across various industries for its high accuracy, precision, speed, and efficiency. However, it can be a more costly option when you compare it to manufacturing technologies like 3D printing.

This article highlights several tips which you can use to significantly lower the cost of your CNC machined parts. Before we begin, it’s worth keeping these points unique to the CNC process in mind:


  • Machining time: the longer it takes to machine a part, the more expensive it is.
  • Material cost: machinability and price of the bulk material can greatly affect overall costs in CNC.
  • Other manufacturing costs: the different tools required or additional services can drive up costs.

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Now that you understand what drives costs up in CNC machining, here are several tips on how to tweak or revise your CNC designs to make it more compatible with the CNC machining process and overall, minimize the costs.


Six Ways to Reduce CNC Machining Costs

1. Eliminate deep pockets

Deep pockets designs involve the removal of more material, which translates to additional time and higher costs. Special tools may also be used to reach the specific depth you require. So, limit the depth of the pockets in the design to four times the length.

To minimize cost:

  • As much as possible, eliminate deep pockets
  • Limit the depth of pockets by four times the length


2. Round the Internal Corners

Bear in mind that the machines will stop when working on sharp 90-degree corners because the part must be rotated before continuing. This “stop-and-go” process can take time. In comparison, with rounded corner parts, the machine can keep running without stopping.

To minimize cost:

  • Round the internal corners of your design
  • Ensure the radius of the internal corners is around 1/3 the depth of the cavity

How To Reduce CNC Machining Costs 2


3. Use Less Expensive Materials

Although this tip seems pretty straightforward, it’s worth noting that softer metals are less expensive to machine because: (a) softer materials such as aluminium (e.g., 6061 and 7075) cuts more easily which saves machining time; (b) harder materials require more expensive tools which can add to the project’s cost.

To minimize cost:

  • Use softer and more ductile metal alloys that are easily machinable when possible
  • Always consider alternative materials


4. Avoid Multiple Finishes

CNC projects tend to have multiple finishes – a first finish is used to remove the CNC markings and a second, to apply a coating. Every additional finish pushes up the cost further. If your sole goal is to save every penny possible, consider choosing the “as-machined” finish – no finish at all.

To minimize cost:

  • Stick to as-machined finish
  • Unless necessary, avoid multiple finishes


CNC machine part with lots of finishes - brushing, painting and smoothing


5. Remove All Text and Lettering

Adding text on the surface means additional machining steps which means extra machining time and overall, higher costs. If text or logos are an essential part to your design, consider silk screening or painting, which are more cost-effective ways of adding text to CNC parts. If not, avoid any form of text at all.

To minimize cost:

  • Remove all text and lettering
  • Choose engraved over embossed lettering


6. Limit Tight Tolerances

Simply put, the tighter the tolerance, the higher the cost. This is because it will require manual inspections and additional machining time.

  • Specify only the critical surfaces with numerical tolerances
  • Leave the rest of the model within a standard tolerance range


Start your free CNC project review

There are many more ways to reduce the costs of your CNC projects. It’s always a great idea to get your CNC parts made from a company that reviews your design and gives suggestions on how you can optimize your parts and save costs. Send us your CAD drawings to start a free project review and get a quote.

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