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November 01, 2019

5 ways to reduce costs in CNC production

By scribe

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Famed for his ingenuity and prudent nature, Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.” Of course, our Founding Father wasn’t trying to teach us proper ship building techniques, but rather reinforce the hard-learned lesson that the little costs can add up fast. This is especially true in CNC production, where precision and process are the names of the game.

Whether you own your own machine or are looking to send your design to a specialty manufacturer, it pays to plan ahead in order to avoid unnecessary costs. If you’re looking to cut costs without cutting corners, then read on to learn our top five methods for reducing the costs associated with CNC machining.

  1. Buy the right CNC machine the first time

A lot of hobbyists and shop owners waste money by buying a CNC machine that isn’t properly suited for their specific needs. Or worse yet, they get skittish when they see the price tag on a quality machine and choose to go with a cheaper import or a kit instead. What they don’t realize is that these cheaper alternatives bring with them more repair and replacement costs that will end up costing them far more in the end.

A CNC machine should be an investment for your business, which is why at ShopSabre, we tell our customers to buy their second machine first and save themselves the hassle, headache, and hidden costs found with lower build quality or non-American made equipment. Reach out to one of our consultants today and we will help you find the perfect machine for your unique applications, so you don’t get stuck with something you don’t need. Our lineup of ShopSabre CNC routers and plasmas are the best quality at the best value and will end up saving you a lot more time and money down the road.

  1. Choose more cost-effective materials

Before you make any piece, you’re going to need to decide on what material to make it from. This is one of the first (and easiest) ways to reduce your overall cost. You can save a lot of money by being smart with your material selection while not sacrificing quality. When choosing which material to use, there are a few things to consider:

  • General availability: This is usually the main determinant for a material’s cost. If it’s more rare or difficult to produce, it will cost you more. Also, if it isn’t being made anywhere near your location, it may not be worth the price to ship it.
  • Material requirements: Are you designing a simple prototype? You will most likely be fine using a cheaper material such as foam or PVC plastic. If you’re designing a crucial aerospace part on the other hand, you may have no choice but to use more expensive options such as aluminum or polycarbonate.
  • Machinability: Some materials, like wood or polyurethane foam, are much easier for CNC machines to work with. Some metals and plastics require the machine to cut slower to avoid damage to the material or the machine itself, which will end up costing you more.
  1. Simplify the setup process

Now that you’ve reduced your material costs, it’s time to consider how to save in the setup and design stage. Remember, only one side of your part can be cut by the machine at a time, which means it may need to be flipped and reset multiple times. Each time this happens it requires a new setup, loading and unloading, tool swaps, etc. which all takes time. If you can find a way to not have to alter even one or two sides, you can drastically speed up the process.

Another good solution is to consider purchasing an axis attachment or an auto tool changer system which will help take care of some of these steps for you. You can find a great selection of these and much more on our ShopSabre website. By reducing the number of operations, you will cut down on the overall machining time and therefore save yourself money.

  1. Eliminate tricky features

This is where it gets a little complicated. When designing your part, it’s important to consider the capabilities and drawbacks of the CNC process. While many design elements may be functionally necessary and unavoidable, you may find that slight alterations to your part can save you a ton of machining time and money. Here are a few things to look for:

  • Internal corners: When designing your part, the larger the internal radius of its corners the better. Tighter corners may require specialty tools and take more time to cut, resulting in higher costs.
  • Complex parts: If your piece has a section or two with deep pockets or especially intricate cuts, it may be more cost effective to machine them separately and then adhere them together later.
  • Hole size and depth: Small, deep holes require more fine, fragile bits. These bits bring with them a higher risk of tool breakage however, so try to avoid using them if at all possible.
  • Finishes: If you can get away with a standard or uniform finish, that’s going to help you save money. Any smoothing or appearance-altering finishes will cost you extra, so only do so if it’s absolutely necessary. Just keep in mind there are always finishing limitations to take into consideration depending on your machine’s capabilities.
  1. Produce larger quantities

By making multiples of the same part, you can further save on each of the previous three steps. First, buying raw materials in bulk is cheaper, and often you can cut several parts from the same stock piece, a process known as nesting. Second, you’ve already designed your piece, so you won’t need to invest any further money in that department. And third, the cost of complicated features can also be minimized with multiple orders. The use of specialty tools will be more justified, and like with any kind of production, the more you do the same process over and over the faster it goes.

But that’s not to say you can’t still produce cost-efficient results when performing one-off projects. CNC routers and plasmas are incredibly versatile machines. Even if you’re making a single one-of-a-kind prototype, they are a very cost-effective alternative to commercial production. You don’t have to produce 10,000 of something to save money, as just one or two more pieces can help lower your per unit cost.

It’s time to start producing with ShopSabre

You now know how to save money on producing your parts—so why stop there? Save money on the machine itself by choosing an industry-leading CNC router or plasma from ShopSabre. We offer the best machines at the best value. Even better than that, all of our products are proudly made in the U.S.A. and built with top-rated technology that won’t let you down. Talk to one of our expert consultants today to see how you can start saving time and money on your next project.

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