It may surprise you to find out that the first-ever CNC machine was invented way back in the 17th century! However, it wasn’t until the 1940s that engineers started looking at using CNC more widely.
Now it is a globally used tool for product creation in a wide number of industries. It allows precision cutting like never before and means you can create multiple identical products at once. Sounds great right?
Well, before you start using CNC to create your products there are a few questions you need answering. How much does CNC machining cost? And what can affect this cost?
In that case, you’re in the right place! Read on to find out everything you need to know about CNC machine pricing.
What is CNC?
CNC or computer numerical control is a method of digitally designing a product and using this design to cut out the product parts.
You can create this design by inputting it manually into a computer. Or you can save time by using a CAM program to scan a prototype and create a design from this.
Whichever method you design with, the computer then uses this design to cut parts for your product out of a range of materials. Depending on your part design and on which material you’re using, you may need a different machine. For example, CNC plastic machining basically uses milling and turning machines whereas sheet metal uses metal cutting and stamping machines.
This creates parts for your products that you can then package or construct before packaging. It saves you a lot of time if you want to create multiple identical products.
This also reduces the risk of human error during the manufacturing process. As long as you have accurate dimensions in your original design you simply have to set the machine going to create perfect products every time. You can even save your design for future use in case you need to make more orders in the future.
Uses of CNC
CNC machinery is useful for a huge number of industries. From intricate parts to large products, it can help speed up almost any manufacturing process.
Using CNC is a great way to create multiple copies of the same product. This is why it’s often a popular choice for engine or machinery manufacturing. Creating parts for gears, shafts, and brakes is all in a day’s work for a CNC machine.
It’s also really useful for creating intricate systems, such as firearms. These are made up of many tiny complex parts. These are much easier to design and cut using CNC technology rather than cutting them by hand.
CNC is also used a lot in the aerospace industry as it offers brilliant precision, which is important in aerospace technology. In fact, margins on aerospace products are often as tight as 0.00004 inches making manual production impossible.
Other industries that use CNC include:
- the medical industry
- the oil and gas industries
- the transportation industry
- the electronics industry
- the marine industry
Nowadays, 3D technology has become a competitor for CNC machinery, however, CNC still holds the upper hand on certain products. 3D printing is great if you’re working in plastic and need a lower-quality product. It’s also good if you have a quick turn around time.
However, when it comes to precision cutting or high volumes of orders CNC machinery is your best option. This also offers you a wider choice of materials to use for your projects.
But how much does this brilliant technology cost to use? Let’s take a look.
How Much Does CNC Machining Cost?
The CNC machine cost can vary a lot depending on what you’re using it for. It’s worth looking at the overall budget for your project before putting an order in.
There are several facets of CNC pricing you need to think about. For example, project planning means that you’re spending money on the project before it’s even begun. And the basic cost of materials that you use also needs to be in your budget.
You also need to think about:
- The specific costs of your order
- The cost of using different types of machines
- Labor costs
- Any additional completion costs
It’s also important to take into account the machine shop rate set by the company you use for your CNC. In order to do this, it’s worth getting a quote from a few different companies.
To understand more, let’s take a look at each of the things that affect CNC machine pricing.
The Specifics of Your Order
Several aspects of your design can have an effect on how much it costs to produce.
The complexity of your design will have an effect on this. More complex and intricate designs will take longer to program. This will bump up the price of your order.
A complex design may involve a few very intricate pieces. Or it could involve a large number of pieces that take a long time to design. A CNC company will also charge you for the time spent on digitalizing your design.
If you’re just starting out then you could save a lot of money by creating a simpler product or revising your product design. For more help designing your product, check out these three things that you should keep in mind!
The volume of your order will also affect how much a CNC company charges you. It’s worth thinking about value for money when you put your order in.
A small order will be cheaper than a big order. However, a bigger order lowers the cost per individual item.
For example, say you want to order 25 units. A company might price this at $3.99 per unit, meaning you’ll pay $99.75 overall. However, if you placed a bigger order they might charge less per unit.
So let’s say you ordered 100 units, they might charge $1.11 for each one. This is significantly cheaper than the smaller order, meaning you’ll pay $111 overall. Yes, you’ll pay around $12 more but relatively you’ll get a lot more for your money – 75 units to be precise!
The reasoning behind this is simple. Once a design has been digitalized the company can reuse it as many times as they like at no extra cost. So they’ll charge less for each product that they make.
3 Axis Machining Vs. Multi-Axis Machining
There are several different types of CNC machines that you can hire for your project. Which one you choose could affect how much your job costs.
A company will set the cost of machine hire at an hourly rate. The company figures this out using the price of buying the machine and how long the machine should operate for each year in hours. This usually works out as the price of the machine divided by 5000.
There are two main types of CNC machines: 3-axis machines and multi-axis machines.
3-axis machines including CNC milling machines, which cost around $40 per hour to run, and CNC turning machines, which cost about $35 per hour to run. The price for CNC milling machines often increases to accommodate the operator’s salary as well.
Multi-axis machines are more expensive to run so will cost more. They come in at between $75 and $120 per hour. Some may be even more expensive than this so it’s worth asking about your machine options when getting a quote.
The Cost of Your Materials
Depending on what your product is you may want your design cut into plastic or metal. Which CNC material you use will have an impact on how much you pay.
On the whole, plastic will be cheaper than metal because it is less durable and cheaper to produce.
The cost of your material is often given per 6″x6″x1″ sheet. The cost of some popular plastics per sheet are:
The cost of some popular metals for CNC machined parts are:
- Aluminum 6061 costs $25 per block
- Aluminum 7075 costs $80 per block
- Stainless steel 304 costs $90 per block
It’s important to keep in mind that you will be charged for the use of a whole block. Where possible try to make as many parts of your design fit onto one block as you can. This will mean you have fewer blocks to use overall and save you some money in the long-run.
Choosing a Finish
For each of your products, you may be able to order a specific finish. This is a great way to create the product of your dreams, however, adding a finish to your products will often cost you more.
Some finishes, such as high polishing, are all about getting rid of any sign of the machining process. A high-polish finish means that your product will be sanded and smoothed before packing.
Other finishes serve a more aesthetic or tactical purpose. For example:
- A gloss finishes create a reflective surface.
- Matt finishing or sandblasting gets rid of reflections.
- Mirror polishing on transparent plastics makes them look like glass.
- Paint finishes and dying let you change the color of your products.
- Laser engraving lets you decorate your products.
- Tampography lets you stamp letters or designs onto your products once they’re finished.
- A soft-touch finish involves applying a soft rubber-like layer to your product.
A few finishes actually play an important role in making your products more durable. These include galvanization, anodization, and brushing.
Some companies may let you combine different finishes on your products. For example, you may be able to get a laser engraved, gloss-polish finish although this could cost you more.
It’s always worth asking about these options before you place an order.
Thinking About Labor Costs
One of the big benefits of using CNC machining is that it eliminates the need for lots of staff and additional labor costs. However, it’s important not to overlook the ones that you will have to cover.
The biggest labor cost you’ll come across within CNC machining is the up-front cost of design and digitalization. This uses computer software however it also requires the help of a design expert.
This can add up to a large sum, especially if you have a complicated design. However, regardless of your order size, the labor cost for your design will remain the same. This means that if you put in a large order then your labor costs break down to a much less per unit.
Additional labor costs include covering machine operators’ salaries during production. This will obviously be lower if your production window is short. The post-processing, finishing or assembly of your parts would also require some additional manual work which will increase this labor costs. That’s why it is could be cheaper for some projects to outsource the fabrication in countries like China.
In this way, you really have to weigh up your labor costs. A large order makes the design cost-per-unit lower but will take longer to manufacture. As a result, you will have to pay more in machine operation fees.
Additional Completion Costs
Finally, you need to pay to get your hands on the final product so you should budget for this cost.
Most CNC machining companies will offer a few different shipping options depending on your deadlines. If you need a fast turn around then you can expect to pay more for shipping. So keep this in mind when scheduling your production.
Bear in mind that the material you use will have an impact on your shipping costs, as these are calculated based on weight. For example, aluminum is a much lighter metal than stainless steel so will be cheaper to ship.
Time to Get Designing!
As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to costing your CNC machining project. Make sure you keep each of these in mind when drawing up your budget.
And if you’re still wondering ‘how much does CNC machining cost?’ then its time to get in touch with the professionals. Speak to an expert today to discuss your needs and get a quote for your project.