Ways To Reduce The Costs Of CNC Machining And 3D Printing

Image Source: Daniel Smyth 

CNC machining and 3D printing have become integral parts of companies and industries worldwide. The evolution and development of the industry have significantly changed the way companies manage their manufacturing and production lines. 

CNC milling significantly reduces the amount of manual work in the manufacturing and production cycles. By automating these processes, factories are able to save time and costs in the production cycle and ensure that deadlines are met, and production as a whole is improved significantly. Human error is greatly reduced, and attention to detail and accuracy is improved. 

The problem, however, with CNC machining and 3D printing is that it can get quite costly for production. Depending on the size and make-up of the product being created, the process can take a large chunk out of your budget. 

We took a look at the ways that you can significantly reduce the costs of CNC machining and work within a set budget.

Pick Your Materials Wisely

The first thing you need to take a look at when starting your CNC milling process is what materials you are using and find out if you can find alternatives for it. Remember that you are using precise machinery to produce a design, so you will need the right materials. 

Aluminum, for example, is cheaper than stainless steel and can serve a similar purpose as steel. The cost of aluminum aside, steel is also harder to machine and will put the machine under more pressure than aluminum. 

Do some research prior to picking out your materials and conduct smaller tests to ascertain what works better. In some cases, the cheaper, raw materials could actually be harder to machine and will end up costing more in the long run. The rule of thumb is to look for softer materials that need more affordable tools to cut. Try and also stay away from hazardous materials if you can, as this will simply add costs to your production cycle. 

Choose A Simple Design

With the current software and technology available, creating a design that can be produced repeatedly is simple and to the point. However, spending some time simplifying that design and working out the trickier aspects of it can save you a lot of time and money. 

Look at rounding off sharp edges, for example. The sharper, 90-degree angles need the machine to be stopped, the part rotated and the process continued. This can increase the costs of the cycle significantly. Rather, try to adjust the design to a rounded edge which will allow the machine to run continuously. If you want to decrease your bottom line even further, go further and ensure that the radius of your internal corners is at least 1/3 the depth of the cavity.

You can also reduce and refine the number of complex, geometric parts. While larger parts need more material, smaller, highly detailed parts need more tools, may need multiple machines, and require additional programming, fixturing, and setup costs. 

3D Printing

Image Source: Zmorph All In One 

Avoid Thin Walls And Deep Pockets 

Overly thin walls, usually classified as thinner than 0.794mm (1/32 in.), are not a great option as they take a long time to manufacture as they are so fragile. Not only do they take more time to process to ensure that they are done properly, but they have several faults. Thin walls are machined through multiple passes with low setting depths to improve their quality. 

However, thin walls can cause distortion which makes it difficult to maintain tolerances. They can also cause chatter which, in turn, slows down the machine’s speed. This will lead to increased costs for both machine and operator. 

Creating deep pockets means the removal of a lot of material. Not only is this time-consuming, but you will most likely need a specific tool to do so, hence increasing costs. You will also find that you will be sitting with a lot of wasted material, and the tools to create these pockets can break very easily. A great rule of thumb is to ensure that a part length is kept to a maximum of four times the part’s depth.

Stay Away From Multiple Finishes 

Once you have completed your project, choose your finishing wisely. Try and opt out of multiple finishes, as they tend to increase your costs considerably. Heat treatments, specialized coatings, and anodizing simply add costs to the full production lifecycle and impact your bottom line. Although these finishes protect against harsh environments and protect the quality of the product, they simply add costs to the full cycle. 

Consider choosing materials that are durable and ready to be used. Alternatively, choose the as-machined finish for the entire piece and give it a simple, yet effective finish. 

Last Thoughts

To keep the design and manufacture of parts and products as low as possible it is important to keep it as simple as possible. Intricate, complex parts and designs simply drive costs up, and smaller features require smaller, more expensive parts and tools to make. 

A simple well-created design from the beginning will reduce the time spent making the parts and will eliminate any errors that come with creating something. Lastly, keep everything as standard as you can to avoid the cost of bringing in new, expensive tools to create it.

Nathaniel Villa
Nathaniel Villa