CNC machining can be costly, with the average machine shop in America charging between $75 and $125 per hour. Those figures reflect the many years of experience that machinists must have before they can complete precision projects or provide accurate quotes. However, there are several other factors that can affect the price as well.
Price breakdown for CNC machining services
Most CNC machining services are offered based on foundational criteria – certifications, training, equipment, etc. The more expertise a shop has, the more services it can provide to different clients and industries. In general, the simpler and faster projects cost a lot less than the larger and more complex undertakings.
For example, CNC turning is typically priced below multi-axis CNC machining because of the differences in materials, machines, and skills required. The total cost of a client’s service is, therefore, contingent upon project specifics. So, how does the rapid quoting process work when there are so many variables?
It’s simple. Irrespective of your project type, there will always be at least 8 factors that can make or break your budget. So, here’s a quick breakdown of what’s most impactful:
#1. The Materials
The types of materials used for your machined components can alter the price of your project significantly. In fact, materials affect costs in two different ways:
- Raw material sourcing costs
- Material machinability prices
Certain materials cost more to the machine, while some raw materials can be difficult to find. Prices are also subject to change based on hazardous conditions and/or additional safety precautions required. Put simply, the cost of production can increase when materials and machining processes impact overhead.
#2. Order Quantity
The number of parts in each order can also influence the final price of CNC machining. That’s because bulk orders generally cost more to make. However, higher parts quantities often mean lower costs for additional units. In turn, larger orders may drive up the cost of production but can decrease the client’s cost-per-part ratio on the back-end. Meanwhile, small orders are relatively inexpensive upfront but may cost the client more money over time.
#3. The Geometry
Component dimensions, or geometry, can affect the price of CNC machining as well. For example, sizeable parts often require more material to make. Thus, the cost of fabrication may increase as a result. Furthermore, complex geometries need highly skilled machinists and (sometimes) special certifications to complete accurately, safely, and efficiently. In some cases, multiple processes may even be needed to machine complicated or intricate parts regardless of their size.
#4. Tolerance Tightness
In CNC machining, the term “tolerances” refers to accuracy. So, a shop that offers extremely tight tolerances is one that can fabricate physical parts that are almost identical to the original design. However, precision comes at a price because manufacturing tight tolerances requires complex machinery and years of skill. However, most CNC machine shops will reserve extreme tolerances for interfacing components and regulated industry projects. Typical tolerances range from +/- 0.02mm to 0.1 mm, depending on geometry.
#5. Labor Costs
The machinists working on your project deserve to be paid for their labor and expertise. That’s especially true when a part is complex or difficult to make, or when the production of it is unsafe. The more caution and resources required, the higher the price will be. In fact, most labor-intensive projects charge a premium for the extra effort provided on behalf of the client because that’s how the economy thrives.
#6. Equipment Used
CNC machining equipment isn’t cheap, but a legitimate shop can’t operate without more than one machine. Plus, many projects require numerous processes to complete, meaning several different pieces of equipment end up being used. Meanwhile, the difference between single-axis and multi-axis machining is significant, thus so is the price of service. Then, there’s the cost of operation. Running large machines can get expensive, and clients incur some of those charges on their bills.
#7. Finishing Processes
The price of your project will go up if your parts require additional treatments or finishing. That’s because specific techniques and materials must be used to adhere to safety and industry regulations. Finishing treatments for machines parts fabrication generally include the following procedures:
- Heat treating
- Specialty machining
- Chrome sputtering
- Water transferring
Since this step isn’t always necessary, talk to your machinist for more information about whether or not to include it in your manufacturing blueprints.
#8. Lead Times
The turnaround time for parts manufacturing can vary depending on several factors. For instance, components that need to be shipped within weeks generally cost less than those that need to be shipped within days. Each CNC machine shop will offer different lead times and pricing based on supply and demand. However, most in-demand shops are able to supply high-quality parts on tight schedules regardless of their order volume.
Other factors that might affect the total price of your CNC machining include:
- The type of CAD/CAM software used
- Any inspection or certification standards
- Your machinist’s experience level
To find the most affordable services, gather quotes and ask lots of questions before submitting your order.
Generally speaking, CNC machinists spend a lot of time learning and perfecting their craft. They can work on several different machines and fabricate parts using a wide variety of materials and techniques. Their flexibility is what helps the manufacturing industry thrive, yet that same flexibility can make it hard to calculate prices.
That’s why it’s important to understand the eight factors that can increase or decrease your costs. Incorrect information on models can result in parts being fabricated more than once, so consult with a team of experts before settling on a final design. You may be able to save some money by adding or subtracting processes along the way.
For more information on your project possibilities or to get help with your machining budget, contact one of the experts at Pioneer Cuts today.