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Design Tips for saving costs for CNC machining

Jun 06,2023 | Views: 828


The design of the component can have an enormous effect on the cost of manufacturing.


1.  Material Types

The most easily machined types of metals include aluminum, brass, and softer metals. As materials get harder, denser and stronger, such as steel, stainless steel, and exotic alloys, they become much harder to machine and take much longer, thus being less manufacturable. Most types of plastic are easy to machine, although additions of fiberglass or carbon fiber can reduce the machinability. Plastics that are particularly soft and gummy may have machinability problems of their own.


2. Material Forms

Metals come in all forms. In the case of aluminum as an example, bar stock and plate are the two most common forms from which machined parts are made. The size and shape of the component may determine which form of material must be used. It is common for engineering drawing so specify one form over the other. Bar stock is generally close to ½ of the cost of plate on a per pound basis. So, although the material form isn’t directly related to the geometry of the component, cost can be removed at the design stage by specifying the least expensive form of the material.


3. Dimensional Tolerances

A significant contributing factor to the cost of a machined component is the geometric tolerance to which the features must be made. The higher the tolerance required, the more expensive the component will be to machine. When designing, specify the lowest tolerance that will serve the function for the component. Tolerance must be specified on a feature-by-feature basis. There are creative ways to engineer components with lower tolerances that still perform as well as ones with higher tolerance.


4. Design and Shape

As machining is a subtractive process, the time to remove the material is a major factor in determining the machining cost. The volume and shape of the material to be removed as well as how fast the tools can be fed will determine the machining time. When using milling cutters, the strength and stiffness of the tool which is determining in part by the length to diameter ratio of the tool will play the largest role in determining that speed. The shorter the tool is relative to its diameter the faster it can be fed through the material. A ratio of 3:1 (L:D) or under is optimum. If that ratio cannot be achieved, a solution like this depicted here can be used. For holes, the length to diameter ratio of the tools is less critical but should still be kept under 10:1.

There are many other types of features which are more or less expensive to machine. Generally, chamfers cost less to machine than radii on outer horizontal edges. Undercuts are more expensive to machine. Features that require smaller tools, regardless of L:D ratio, are more expensive.

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