CNC Machining Cost:Comprehensive Guidelines

High-precision CNC milling machine in operation, machining a workpiece

CNC machining is an important tool in modern manufacturing. It is controlled by CNC to make parts with high accuracy and efficiency. This is vital for companies wishing to remain competitive and profitable.

But what are the factors that affect the cost of CNC machining? How can we effectively reduce costs and achieve more economically efficient production activities? This is a concern for many companies. In the pages that follow, Yonglihao Machinery will take you through these questions and help you make more economical CNC machining decisions.

Table of Contents

Understanding CNC Machining Costs

Labour Costs

Labour costs are key in CNC machining. They directly affect manufacturing costs. This includes the wages of CNC engineers and operators. It is worthwhile because their expertise in programming, setting up, and running CNC machines is critical to efficient production. For specific projects, part machining is complex and accurate. This complexity raises labor costs. It takes more time and expertise to do the task well. Therefore, when performing CNC machining, the balance between labour and cost-effectiveness needs to be fully considered.

CNC lathe machining of metal cylinders with complex patterns, which increases the cost of machining

Overhead and operating costs

Indirect and operational costs play a vital role in determining the pricing of CNC machining services. These costs include many expenses beyond direct labor. They include facility maintenance, utilities, and administration. They also include quality control and inspection processes. Managing and optimising these indirect costs is critical to maintaining a competitive edge. Efficient operations that minimise unnecessary expenses help reduce the overall cost burden, resulting in more competitive pricing for CNC machining services while maintaining quality and profitability. If you have questions about this area, please consult a professional engineer for the best advice.

Scrap and rework

CNC machining, as a common material reduction process, often results in material waste and other issues during production. This is accompanied by problems such as machining errors and deviations from specifications. Indirectly, this leads to higher overall costs. Significantly affect the production schedule and resource utilisation. So, to avoid these problems, we must minimize the scrap rate. We can do this with strict quality control, precise processing, and thorough inspection. This reduces costs effectively.

CNC milling machine drilling of metal parts in the presence of injected coolant, a kind of college economic processing method

Factors affecting the cost of CNC machining

Machine tool and equipment costs

The cost of CNC machine tools greatly affects the overall cost of production. CNC equipment comes in many types, including mills, lathes, routers, plasma cutters, and laser cutters. They have different prices. For example, a basic CNC milling machine can cost $10,000 to $60,000. More advanced five-axis CNC machines can cost $75,000 to $250,000. The initial investment in CNC machines is an important part of any manufacturing equipment capital expenditure. Although a CNC machine is costly at first. Picking the right one can directly impact throughput, efficiency, and product quality. Operating costs, including maintenance, tooling and energy, also vary depending on the type of machine and must therefore be factored into the total cost of ownership. Investing in better machines will cost more at first. But, they are more efficient and accurate when making high volume parts. It can effectively reduce the overall cost.

CNC milling machine head above the clamped workpiece ready for machining

Material Selection and Cost

Material selection is another key factor that affects the cost of CNC machining. For example, the choice of metals and plastics can have different impacts on costs. This is due to differences in material prices and machinability. People use metals like stainless steel and aluminum for their strength and durability. But, they can be pricier than plastics (like HDPE or ABS). Plastics are easier to machine and have a lower material cost. However, we recommend that the required mechanical properties, durability, and intended use of the finished part are also considered when making a final decision. For example, aerospace components may require high-strength alloys for safety reasons, while consumer products may prioritise plastics for cost savings. Balancing performance and budget is key to material selection. It optimizes cost without hurting product quality.

CNC milling machine head above the clamped workpiece ready for machining

Design and Complexity

The design and complexity of a part plays a major role in determining the cost of CNC machining. Complex designs require intricate detailing, tight tolerances and multiple clamping or tool changes as well as more complex tooling, which can significantly increase machining time and labour costs. Therefore effectively simplifying part geometries, reducing the number of operations and designing with manufacturability in mind can help reduce costs. For example, minimising the number of undercuts, deep cavities or tight tolerances. That’s why engineers and CNC technicians should talk early in the design process. They should do so to find cost-saving chances without sacrificing the final product’s function or looks.

CNC lathe turret equipped with various cutting and shaping tools

Strategies to Reduce CNC Machining Costs

Optimise Design for Manufacturing

Optimising part design to improve manufacturability is the key to reducing CNC machining costs. Here are some tips Yonglihao Machinery suggests for achieving cost-effective designs:

Simplify Geometry: Minimise the complexity of the part design. Simple shapes are faster and easier to machine, which can lead to significant cost reductions.

Minimise tight tolerances: Specify tight tolerances only on critical parts. Tighter tolerances require more precise machining, which adds time and cost.

Avoid unnecessary features: Every feature on a part adds machining time and complexity. Eliminate features that are not important to the functionality of the part or to the assembly.

Tool Access Design: Ensure that all features are easily accessible through standard cutting tools. Complex tool paths increase machining time and cost.

Metal parts on a CNC milling machine table - complex machining capabilities come with high machining costs.

Efficient material use and machine selection

Choosing the right materials and machines for your project can lead to significant cost savings:

Choose cost-effective materials: Choose materials that are easy to machine. They must meet the part’s needs without being too costly.

Use standard material sizes: Design parts to fit standard material sizes to minimise waste and reduce material costs.

Choose the right machine: Use the CNC machine that is best suited for the job. For example, for parts that don’t require complex features or 5-axis machining, a simpler 3-axis machine may be sufficient.

Volume production and supplier collaboration

Increasing throughput and working closely with suppliers can also help to reduce costs:

Take advantage of economies of scale: Make more efficient use of materials and machine set-up time to produce parts in large volumes to reduce unit costs.

Negotiate with suppliers: Build strong relationships with material suppliers and CNC machine service providers. Suppliers can offer discounts for volume purchases or repeat business.

Collaborate for design feedback: Work with a dedicated machining partner, such as Yonglihao Machinery, to get feedback on how to make your design more manufacturable. We have expert insights that can lead to cost savings.

Implementing these strategies requires a balanced approach. It must consider the trade-offs between cost, quality, and performance. However, by focusing on design optimisation, efficient material use and effective supplier collaboration, manufacturers can significantly reduce CNC machining costs while still meeting their production goals.

Various precision CNC machined metal parts


Understanding and managing CNC machining costs is critical to optimising productivity and profitability. This paper has highlighted the importance of considering many factors in CNC machining costing. These include labor, equipment, material choice, and design complexity. Costs can be significantly reduced using strategies such as design optimisation, efficient material use and volume production. If you have questions on this topic, you can ask a CNC machining service provider like Yonglihao Machinery. We can give you high-quality CNC parts machining services. We can also provide expert metal machining cost solutions. These will meet your budget and keep your business competitive!


The price of a CNC machine varies greatly, depending on its type and features. A basic CNC milling machine can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000, while an advanced 5-axis machine can cost between $75,000 and $250,000.

Several factors affect CNC machining costs, including labour costs, machine and equipment costs, material selection, design complexity, and operating expenses.

Yes, design complexity can significantly impact machining costs. Simplified designs with minimum tight tolerances and unnecessary features can reduce costs.

Cost reduction strategies include optimising part design to improve manufacturability, choosing cost-effective materials, using the most appropriate machine and ordering parts in large quantities.

Generally speaking, plastics are cheaper to machine than metals due to lower raw material costs and easier machining processes. However, the choice should also take into account the application requirements of the part.

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